Constant dollars

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

It all started with a tweet.

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

The Houston-based teenager was referring to the state’s abortion ban after the cancellation of Roe vs. Wadejust one of many young people to speak out on the legislation.

But Olivia received a biting response from a popular account: “Feel free to go anywhere else!”

She says the response opened the floodgates for online trolls, who made fatphobic searches of her body.

“Hateful comments don’t bother me at all,” Olivia said. Fortune. “I really don’t care.” She pledged to donate $1 to an abortion fund on behalf of every person who sent in a comment, tweeting, “Thanks for hating, it helps the movement.” In addition to donating $350 herself, Olivia urged others to match it with their own contributions, raising $1,500 in total for abortion access causes.

But the experience gave her important insight: She could turn social media vitriol into money for the causes she cares about. So, a few weeks later, when Florida Republican Representative Matt Gaetz target Olivia on Twitter after saying abortion activists were overweight and unattractive, she was ready.

Without ever having led an official fundraiser, Olivia mobilized her insults and growing social media attention to $2 million to support 50 abortion funds across the country in less than a week. That number has now climbed even higher.

“I don’t think he could have picked a worse person than me,” Olivia said.

The path to $2 million

Olivia got involved in politics at age 17 and has built up thousands on social media over the past few years by encouraging young people to vote in elections in Texas.

She works at Gen-Z for Change, an activist collective, and has long believed access to abortion was one of the issues that would send people to the polls, suspecting early on that deer would fall.

“It’s not a question of whether Roe vs. Wade will be overthrown. It’s a question of when Roe vs. Wade will be overturned,” she told a camera crew hours before Judge Samuel Alito’s draft opinion was leaked to Policy.

Since deer was dismantled in June, at least 10 states have banned abortion. Abortion clinics and funds, which help cover the logistical costs of the procedure, are relying on donations more than ever as pregnant women seeking abortions flock to states where the procedure is still legal, often racking up costs considerable to do so.

That’s why in mid-June, Olivia decided to raise funds to help these groups through Gen-Z for Change. They chose 50 abortion funds in states preparing to receive a massive influx of patients from places where abortion was banned or restricted. Donations reached $26,000 shortly after the fundraiser launched.

But it was more than a month later, when Olivia was cast by Gaetz, that the fundraising really started to take off.

The congressman shared a photo of Olivia with her Twitter followers with the caption, “Raised dander.” He was referring to a NewsMax headline that claimed Gaetz’s speech — where he implied abortion activists were all ‘5-2, 350 pound’ women who ‘nobody wanted to impregnate’ — was ‘sure to raise the dander of his opponents policies”.

“In honor of Matt Gaetz publicly shaming me, I will be raising money for the @genzforchange abortion fund,” Olivia tweeted July 25.

“No one should tolerate a congressman bullying a teenager, no matter what your opinion on abortion is,” Olivia said.

A Gaetz spokesperson said Fortune: “With Roe v. Wade reversed, America is now a pro-life nation. No amount of stress will change that. Her office denied Olivia’s characterization that Gaetz’s remarks were body shaming. “MP Gaetz never mentioned adult weight. The left-leaning media did.

Within 24 hours of sending the tweet, Olivia reached the original fundraising goal of $50,000. She credits her organizational background for helping her find creative ways to build momentum and skyrocket fundraising. She made sure eyes stayed on her feed with constant update posts on TikTok, Instagram and Twitter. She says she has had by far the most success on Twitter, where she has gained 162 million impressions in the past month by addressing sassy thank you cards to Gaetz, offering to send flowers and urging his followers to donate more.

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

Other Gen-Z for Change staff members constantly updated fundraising, first increasing the goal for every $50,000 received, then for every $250,000. The high dollar amounts also caught the attention of abortion fund recipients; some asked Olivia to relay messages about how the money will make a difference.

“The money you all raised for us and our sibling fund is life changing,” wrote the Ohio Abortion Fund. “Thousands of people will now be able to access care, whether in their home country or outside, thanks to your work.”

“Ready to capitalize and ready to raise funds”

The fundraiser is currently approaching its latest goal, $2.5 million. Olivia hesitated when asked if the goal would go up if achieved.

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

Her life has undergone a drastic change over the past week and a half. Each day has become an unbroken blur of events, TV appearances and photos – she says she took around 400 in the past week. She is also offering “insane” job offers and proposals to pay her school fees – a dramatic change from where she was just a few months ago.

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

But there’s more to come as Olivia plans upcoming trips to Philadelphia, Austin and Nashville to speak at abortion rights and advocacy events.

While the numbers may seem theoretical online, it’s these face-to-face encounters that Olivia says show her the impact she’s having. At events, she said survivors of sexual assault, one of the groups most affected by the deer reversal – shared how its content helped them. People say his stance against body shaming and opening about her history of eating disorders allowed them to deal with their own self-image issues. She says the youngest to request a photo was 13 and the oldest a 93-year-old woman.

“It leaves me speechless,” she said. “I knew we would help people access abortion, but I didn’t know it would have an emotional impact on people the way it did.”

And after? “More fundraisers are definitely coming,” she said. She will stay in Texas when she enters college as a political science major in the spring.

As for Gaetz, Olivia has a message: keep talking.

“I will be there ready to capitalize and ready to fundraise,” she said.

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