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How a teenager used her internet trolls to raise $2 million for abortion access

It all began with a tweet. 

“Welcome to Texas! Where the government regulates our bodies more than our electrical grid,” 19-year-old Olivia Julianna wrote in early July. 

The Houston-based teen was referring to the state’s abortion ban after the reversal of Roe v. Wade, simply considered one of many younger individuals to converse out in regards to the laws.

But Olivia obtained a biting response from a standard account: “Feel free to f— off to anywhere else!” 

She says the reply opened the floodgates of on-line trolls, who made fatphobic digs at her physique. 

“Hate comments do not bother me whatsoever,” Olivia informed Fortune. “I just really couldn’t care less.” She pledged to donate $1 to an abortion fund within the title of each one that despatched a remark, tweeting: “Thanks for hating, it helps the movement.” Beyond giving out $350 herself, Olivia urged others to match her with their very own contributions, elevating $1,500 in complete for abortion access causes. 

But the expertise gave her an vital perception: She might flip social media vitriol into cash for the causes that had been vital to her. So a few weeks later, when Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz focused Olivia on Twitter after saying that abortion activists had been chubby and unattractive, she was prepared. 

Without ever having led an official fundraiser, Olivia mobilized his insults and the rising social media consideration into $2 million to assist 50 abortion funds throughout the nation in lower than a week. That quantity has now climbed even increased. 

“I don’t think he could have picked a worse person to pick on than me,” Olivia mentioned. 

The path to $2 million 

Olivia acquired concerned in politics at 17 and constructed a regular social media following of 1000’s over the previous few years by encouraging younger individuals to vote in Texas elections. 

She works at Gen-Z for Change, an activist collective, and has lengthy believed that abortion access was one of many points that will ship individuals to the poll field, suspecting early on that Roe would fall. 

“It’s not a matter of if Roe v. Wade will be overturned. It’s a matter of when Roe v. Wade will be overturned,” she informed a movie crew hours earlier than Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion was leaked to Politico.   

Since Roe was dismantled in June, not less than 10 states have banned abortion. Clinics and abortion funds, which assist cowl the logistical prices of the process, have relied on donations greater than ever as pregnant individuals in search of abortions flood into states the place the process continues to be authorized, usually racking up appreciable prices to achieve this.

That’s why in mid-June, Olivia determined to fundraise to help these teams by way of Gen-Z for Change. They selected 50 abortion funds in states gearing up to obtain a large inflow of sufferers from locations the place abortion was banned or restricted. Donations reached $26,000 shortly after the fundraiser launched. 

But it was over a month later, when Olivia acquired singled out by Gaetz, that the fundraiser actually began taking off. 

The congressman shared a picture of Olivia to his followers on Twitter with the caption “Dander raised.” It referenced a NewsMax headline that claimed Gaetz’s speech—the place he implied abortion activists had been all “5-2, 350 pound” ladies that “nobody wanted to impregnate”—was “sure to raise dander of his political opponents.”

“In honor of Matt Gaetz publicly body shaming me, I’ll be fundraising for the @genzforchange abortion fund,” Olivia tweeted on July 25.

“Nobody should be tolerating a sitting Congressman bullying a teenager regardless of your opinions on abortion,” Olivia mentioned.  

A spokesperson for Gaetz informed Fortune: “With Roe v. Wade overturned, America is now a pro-life nation. No amount of solicitations will change that.” His workplace denied Olivia’s characterization that Gaetz’s remarks had been physique shaming. “Congressman Gaetz never mentioned the adult’s weight. Leftist media did.”

Within 24 hours of sending the tweet, Olivia achieved the preliminary fundraising purpose of $50,000. She credit her background in organizing for serving to her consider inventive methods to proceed the momentum and blow up the fundraiser. She made positive eyes stayed glued to her feed with fixed replace posts on TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter. She says she noticed essentially the most success by far on Twitter, the place she has gained 162 million impressions up to now month by way of addressing sassy thanks playing cards to Gaetz, providing to ship flowers, and urging her followers to donate extra.

“My job is political strategy,” she mentioned. “It’s knowing how to capitalize on political moments to get the outcome I want.”

Other Gen-Z for Change workers persistently up to date the fundraiser, first rising the purpose for each $50,000 obtained and later each $250,000. The massive greenback quantities additionally caught the eye of abortion fund recipients; some requested Olivia to relay messages on how the cash will make a distinction. 

“The money y’all have raised for us & our sibling funds is nothing short of life-changing,” wrote the Abortion Fund of Ohio. “Thousands of people will now be able to access care—whether in their home state or outside it—because of your work.”

‘Ready to capitalize, and ready to raise money’

The fundraiser is presently inching towards its newest purpose, $2.5 million {dollars}. Olivia hesitated when requested if the goal will go up once more if that’s reached. 

“Honestly, at this point, I’m just taking it day by day,” she mentioned. 

Her life has seen a dramatic change up to now week and a half. Each day has turn out to be a nonstop blur of occasions, TV appearances, and photographs—she says she’s taken round 400 up to now week. She’s additionally fielding “insane” job gives, and proposals to pay for her school tuition—a stark change from her circumstances simply a few months in the past. 

“When you’re a young woman of color, let alone a young plus size, queer, disabled woman of color, you’ve got to claw and scratch to get opportunities because they are so short and limited,” she mentioned. “It’s just really surreal.”

But there’s extra to come as Olivia plans upcoming journeys to Philadelphia, Austin, and Nashville to converse at occasions about abortion rights and advocacy. 

While numbers can really feel theoretical on-line, it’s these in-person encounters that Olivia says present her the affect she’s making. At occasions, she mentioned sexual assault survivors—one of many teams most impacted by the Roe overturn—have shared how her content material has helped them. People say her stance towards physique shaming and openness about her consuming dysfunction historical past allowed them to grapple with their very own self-image points. She says the youngest to ask for a picture was 13, and the oldest, a 93-year-old girl.

“It makes me speechless,” she mentioned. “I knew that we would be helping people get access to abortion, but I didn’t realize that this would be emotionally impacting people in the way that it has.”

What’s subsequent? “More fundraisers are definitely coming,” she mentioned. She’ll keep in Texas when beginning school as a political science main within the spring.

As for Gaetz, Olivia has a message: maintain speaking. 

“I’ll be there ready to capitalize, and ready to raise money,” she mentioned. 

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