A runway in Jackson with a view of the Teton Mountains
(Adam Fagen/Flickr)

Adrian’s mother was raped at 13 and became pregnant with him and his twin brother. Without access to abortion, he said, she gave birth at 14.

“When she gave birth, she wasn’t even in the statistics of teenage pregnancy, because she was under the [age] threshold that they used for counting,” he said. 

Adrian is only sharing his first name to shield his family. He’s a military veteran and a pilot. 

His childhood was hard, as he dealt with things like food scarcity and others’ addictions. He wants people to have an abortion option so they aren’t forced into parenthood, he said.

“I grew up in an environment which reproductive health care would have prevented. And no, I’m not saying ‘Oh, I wish I was dead,’” he said. “What I’m trying to say is, it doesn’t matter if I’m happy with my life or not, my mom should have been given the option.”

That’s one reason the Wisconsin-based pilot decided to help out a new nonprofit Elevated Access, which links volunteer pilots with people seeking abortions, as well as gender-affirming care

“I was astonished when I went through the pilot list … It’d have Wisconsin and Washington. And I’m like wait, wait, where’s Wyoming?”

Fiona Delta, Elevated Access volunteer

Elevated Access formed in April 2022, according to the nonprofit’s “Director of Kindness” Fiona Delta.

Delta is not her real last name. 

“All of us use aliases. So our last names are aviation puns,” she said. 

She noted some of the dangers for those helping provide abortions in the U.S. An arsonist set fire to an abortion clinic in Casper in May, and many religious organizations view abortion as murder. 

Delta said her nonprofit’s founder was having trouble getting volunteers early on, and the organization sought out Adrian to help spread the word because of his successful TikTok account, cheesepilot

Adrian made a video for Elevated Access at 4 a.m. while on “ready reserve” for an airline, he said, waiting at the airport in case a pilot calls in sick. 

Thousands of people watched the video, and “by the end of the day, there were people hounding me going, ‘Where do I donate?’” 

The video resulted in a slew of donations as well as dozens of volunteer pilots signing up. 

Nearly a year after its creation, Elevated Access now has more than 1,000 volunteer pilots. Neither TikTok nor Elevated Access’ media attention has attracted any volunteer pilots from Wyoming, though. 

“I was astonished when I went through the pilot list,” Delta said. “It’d have Wisconsin and Washington. And I’m like, wait, wait, where’s Wyoming?”

Delta said it’s the only state in the continental U.S. where no one has volunteered.

Why not Wyoming?

Volunteering for Elevated Access isn’t necessarily cheap, according to Adrian — who bought a plane to start flying for the organization after lending his help on TikTok. 

“We’re not charging people,” he said. “A lot of the pilots that are volunteering to do these missions, it’s out of their own pocket for gas, for airplane maintenance, for tie-down fees, for parking fees.”

Including maintenance costs, Adrian said it costs an average of $180 an hour to fly his private plane. While there are some avenues to get federal reimbursement for working with a nonprofit, he says they can be hard to qualify for. 

It’s also possible Wyoming pilots might not know about Elevated Access, Adrian said, noting that TikTok is relatively new. 

“It may just be lack of access to internet that’s preventing us from getting to the pilots in Wyoming,” he said. 

Adrian stands with his plane, Ruth Bader Wingsburg. (@cheesepilot/TikTok)

Another potential reason is that abortion is still technically legal in Wyoming, according to Christine Lichtenfels, who works with abortion access organization Chelsea’s Fund.  

Lichtenfels also suggested that Wyoming residents are accustomed to traveling by car, and currently have neighbors like Montana and Colorado where abortion is accessible.

“Wyomingites drive a lot,” she said.

Chelsea’s Fund is willing to partner with organizations like Elevated Access, Lichtenfels said. 

While most abortions are still legal in Wyoming, a 2022 law banning them is currently tangled up in court. Lawmakers have also proposed bills at the Legislature to restrict abortion access, including one to ban using medications to induce abortion — which passed 4-1 out of committee — and another that would ban the procedure without exemptions for rape or incest. 

For legal reasons, Delta said, the people Elevated Access transports don’t share their names. Volunteer pilots aren’t told who they’re flying or why they’re flying that person.

Even with the possible legal ramifications, like charges for aiding and abetting abortions, Delta says many of the pilots lean into the freedom that comes with flying planes in the U.S.

“We’ve always had a bit of a cowboy culture when it comes to aviation,” she said, noting that more than 90% of licensed pilots are men. 

“Our pilots can get up in the air anytime they want [relatively],” Delta said. “In other countries, that’s not the case. And so it’s much more regulated and people know where you’re going, why you’re going. They’re in your business. Whereas here, they have incredible freedom.”

There are Wyoming pilots who volunteer for other organizations, like Dog is My CoPilot, which transports “at-risk” animals from overcrowded shelters to adoption facilities where people will adopt them. 

Adrian said that’s typical: many pilots will volunteer for several organizations, hoping to help wherever they can.

“They’re not just volunteering for Elevated Access, they’re already amazing people,” he said. 

The issue of abortion is divisive in Wyoming. A recent University of Wyoming survey found about 36% of respondents felt abortion should be a personal choice and 36% accept abortion in cases of rape, incest or risk to a mother’s life. Another 19% “favor abortion if other reasons are clearly established,” while 7% prefer a total abortion ban. 

For those looking to contact Elevated Access for transportation, Delta said the nonprofit operates through partner organizations like Planned Parenthood and other clinics, which then refer people to the nonprofit.

Madelyn Beck reports from Laramie on health and public safety. Before working with WyoFile, she was a public radio journalist reporting for NPR stations across the Mountain West, covering regional issues...

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  1. That is a very moving and sad story and it is unfortunately not uncommon. However, I cannot make the connection with abortion as a remedy for this type of abuse. How would the termination of any of the pregnancies mentioned changed this man’s behavior? If anything, these abusers are empowered to abuse women and girls and then use contraception and abortion to cover their tracks.

    1. It wouldn’t change the man, it would change (improve) the life of the woman. hat’s the important thing.I would say controlling women is like kidnapping.

  2. Great program to help women of all ages. It’s amazing that only 7% of the state favor a total abortion bad and that the mostly men elected to our legislature will probably represent that small minority over the wishes of the other 93%. I hope that doesn’t happen, but I have little hope with the minority far right GOP in Wyoming wielding an undo amount of power.

  3. When I was just shy of 16 years old, I met an older man (age 22) who invited me to a party at his home. He provided alcohol and marijuana to all the people attending, the majority of which were minors. As the night wore on, we had intercourse, and I got pregnant. He married me and we had a son. Within a year I was pregnant again. At the first doctor appointment I told the doctor that I already had a 1 year old, and was trying to finish high school. I told him I did not want a 2nd child right now. The doctor looked at my husband and asked if he felt the same way. My then-husband said, “Heck no, I want a little girl too!” That said, the doctor slapped my husband on the back, exclaiming, “congratulations Daddy!” ( Ironically, with no words of encouragement for me). That 3 minute conversation took away my right to choose. Because I was still only 17, I was not allowed to sign legal documents, making my husband basically my guardian and me his favorite baby making machine. No matter what I wanted, I had no choice. We lived in a big city, and used the bus for our only transportation. I had to get up at 6a.m., try not to get sick daily with the new pregnancy, dress my son and myself, pack a diaper bag and a school bag, and head off to a teenaged parents high school. It took 90 minutes each way. Then when I got home I was required to cook, clean, and do all the household chores. I never had any money of my own. I looked forward to laundry day, because if I was careful with the laundry money, I could go next door and buy myself a sandwich. Years later I discovered why my husband wanted a girl. He had a history of physical and sexual abuse. One laundry evening I left him home with the kids. When I got back I could not get our daughter to stop crying. Long story short, learned many years later, he was mad because the baby didnt like whatever he was doing to her and she cried and screamed, making him angry, so he threw her into her crib, causing a skull fracture. I did not learn his history until many years passed. So when we divorced, each of us took 1 child. Its still the biggest regret of my life! He seemed more bonded with our daughter, and I with our son, so we each got custody of 1 child. About 8 or 9 months later I drove the 50 miles to pick up our daughter for our weekend visit. The apartment was empty. His mom later told me he moved out of state. I tried several times to find them, only seeing our daughter once, before she turned 9. His mom and sister called when our baby was 9. They told me he was in jail for molesting a friend of our daughter, and they believed he had done the same before and with our daughter. I hurriedly scraped together some money and picked her up in another state, taking her home with me. But to this day she has PTSD because of what he did to her. I was forced to give birth a 2nd time at age 17. My parents had to sign for me so I could divorce him. I let him have custody thinking he was more connected and loving toward our girl. What an idiot I was to believe one thing he ever said. During our 3 yr marriage, he would lose his job for stealing, then on payday lie to the church claiming he’d been mugged at the ATM, and they paid our rent. I was the one at home when the sherrif arrived with an eviction notice one time, because he didn’t pay the rent either. After we divorced, I worked in fast food for years moving up to night manager. Eventually I got a 2 yr degree at community college, and became a case manager for disabled adults. I worked sometimes 3 jobs at a time to see the kids have a nice Christmas, and keep a roof over our heads. I was a single mom until I was 25, married again for just 3 yrs. Then I was single mom again until the kids were grown and moved out. It would have been nice to do things along a different timeline, so we had more income, and there was a good father in our home where the kids grew up. I had considered abortion, briefly, but I had no resources, no advocate, no idea where to look to make the changes I needed in my life. I think its absurd to tell a 16 and 17 year old child, that she will be having 2 babies before she can legally drink a beer or sign a contract. It’s a very personal experience for each woman to make that choice. But how can it be right that a kid has to have another baby when shes already living the life of a 30 yr old woman? I’ve still not forgiven myself for letting him have custody of our daughter, and therefore allowing him do what he did. My daughter has forgiven me recently, she said it was never my fault her father did what he did… It does help a little. But my heart still aches for her lost innocence and all its consequences. I remain pro-choice to this day!

    1. My heart is with you and your children. None of that should have ever happened to any of you. There was a time when this type of behavior was swept under the rug, but I’m glad it’s acceptable to talk about it now. There are a lot more of these stories than you think.

      The people who want women to have children they’re not able to take care of are the same ones who will vote down any form of assistance for these mothers and their kids. They usually go to church and call themselves Christians. Hmpf!

      The last of the dinosaurs will die off and maybe there will be hope for this country. Wyoming is always far behind, but if more of the youth would get involved, they might make some sense of it all, if they’re not brainwashed by the parents.

      Best wishes to you, Dorothy.

    2. Dorothy, Your story is heart-wrenching, troublesome and sadly, all too familiar. You are a brave, resourceful and good person. Thank you for sharing this.
      Women are usually the ones left to figure it all out. Despite being knocked down nearly every step, you got up and kept improving your life and those of your children. That’s a herculean feat! I’m very proud of you.
      Wyoming continues to punish women at almost every turn. Lower wages than men, fewer high paying jobs, fewer housing options, little or no day care or help for single moms, few if any school lunches subsidies for food insecure households, especially in our small rural towns, no Medicaid expansion for proper medical care for themselves or their families and the list goes on.
      Women and especially underage girls must be able to make their own medical choices with their physician and certainly not by legislators-(mostly grandpa-aged men in WY) who have no idea what it’s like being a single, young and financially insecure mother. Most of them don’t understand the human reproduction process or developmental stages of a fetus. Most lack the understanding of maternal risk factors and necessary medical intervention strategies for a pregnant woman and seem to ignore medical facts. Few, if any, can tell you the name of any supportive resources to help a woman. (federal, state or local)
      Let’s hope more enlightened youth rise up to replace these stodgy, poorly informed and out-dated “legislative antiques.” It’s going to be a tough ride for the next few years.