Next Generation Fellow Spotlight: Bridget Schilling

By Bridget Schilling, 2018 Next Generation Fellow 

My name is Bridget Schilling and I am a 2018 Next Generation fellow with NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, based in Houston. Admittedly, when I moved to Texas for college, I expected the worst in terms of the socio-political and policy landscape and did not foresee getting involved in social activism or any sort of organizing. What I’ve found, though, is a huge community of passionate people who are dedicated to making Texas a more equitable place. I have cared about general equality and rights for as long as I can remember, but did not truly understand how inequity stems from systemic issues before I started getting involved in issues of reproductive and sexual health. My understanding of reproductive justice and the reach of oppression is still growing, but it inspired me to get more involved in doing the work in Texas and I’m so glad that I applied to be a Next Generation Fellow.

I have loved being a part of this cohort of fellows so far. I am heavily motivated by other activists and the energy that they bring to movements. Being a Next Generation fellow has meant getting to know other people who are passionate about reproductive justice and hearing their approaches to advocacy and organizing in their own communities. This year’s cohort is 35 members strong and being exposed to people with so many different backgrounds and experiences has been truly inspiring and impactful. I am confident that the Houston cohort and the projects which we are working on will be able to have a tangible impact. My Houston group has a number of events in the works and I love the way that we have been able to put an LGBTQIA+ spin on the event plans and receive the support of NARAL’s staff throughout.

Being a Next Generation fellow has helped me practice talking about abortion and being a better advocate for an issue that is important to me and so many others. In addition to my own responsibilities as a fellow, I have been lucky to see some of the on-the-ground work that NARAL does in Texas and felt even more inspired to pursue activism and advocacy in my daily life and career aspirations.

Next Generation Fellow Spotlight: Eleanor Grano

By Eleanor Grano, 2018 Next Generation Fellow 

As a transplant from southern California to Texas, I joined NARAL Pro-Choice Texas’ Next Generation program as a way to better understand Texas’ unremitting war against reproductive health care and to find solidarity in a state with some of the most hostile laws against abortion.

Texas can be disorienting if you’re not accustomed to constantly having to advocate for yourself with an insurance provider about covering your preferred method of birth control and navigating against oppressive systems to access your right to sexual and reproductive health care. Since joining Next Generation, I have found camaraderie, bonded with others in my cohort, discussed the nightmare of accessing abortion services as a woman of color, and shared strategies about talking about being pro-choice in immigrant communities.

The most beneficial aspect of this program for me was learning how to find my voice and reframe the way that abortion is discussed within the Latinx community. I have used the skills that I have learned in our communications training to become a contributing writer to Fierce by Mitu, a Latinx media company where I now cover topics about sexual and reproductive health. Additionally, I have been able to able to participate in a social justice translation training to learn best practices when interpreting for immigrants with limited English proficiency.

From my experience in the program, I have found that NARAL Pro-Choice Texas is committed to building the next group of leaders in the reproductive health care community. Additionally, the Next Generation fellowship is a meaningful way to gain coalition building experience, develop meaningful friendships, professional advancement, as well as an opportunity to learn more about reproductive health care in the great state of Texas.

Next Generation Fellow Spotlight: Brittany Schall

By Brittany Schall, 2018 Next Generation Fellow 

My name is Brittany Schall and I am a third year medical student in San Antonio, Texas. I became a Next Generation Fellow with NARAL Pro Choice Texas toward the end of my second year, and it was the perfect transition from my role as co-president of our campus’ Medical Students For Choice organization. This was another way for me to still be actively involved in the reproductive justice movement.

As a future OBGYN and abortion provider, I am learning through the Next Generation program how to advocate on behalf of my future patients. Currently, I will be required by state law to lie to any patient seeking an abortion via the “A Woman’s Right To Know” pamphlet mandated by the state. Instead of discussing their wants and needs and realities of the procedure, I will be forced to tell them lies like “abortion can cause breast cancer,” “many women report feeling suicidal or having post-traumatic stress following the procedure,” and “having an abortion may cause future infertility,” when in fact science and medicine know these to not be true. I will also be forced to impose a 24-hour waiting period on my patients, ultimately because Texas wants to coerce women into carrying unwanted pregnancies to term. All of this is to say that legislators should not have a place in the patient-physician relationship, especially since they are not using evidence based medicine to back their policymaking.

During our Next Generation convening in February, we learned how to foster dialogue when faced with anti-choice rhetoric, how to speak eloquently and succinctly of our passions and purpose, and we also fostered a community of Texans that are fighting every day for reproductive justice, which restored my faith in humanity a tad bit. My hope is that we can force a change in the legislation to end the unjust burden placed on persons seeking an abortion and end the stigma surrounding this common medical procedure.

STATEMENT: New Report Prevents Accurate Measurement of Controversial Women’s Health Programs

STATEMENT: New Report Prevents Accurate Measurement of Controversial Women’s Health Programs

For Release: 4-27-2018

Contact: Alexa Garcia-Ditta, [email protected]

 

AUSTIN, TX — Yesterday, the Texas Health and Human Services released a report on the state’s women’s health programs, which includes Healthy Texas Women and the Family Planning Program. While the report shows that the programs served more women in state fiscal year 2017 than it did in FY 2016, the state’s reporting methodology makes it impossible to know if as many Texans are receiving care as they did before the programs were cut in 2011.

The inclusion of providers with no reproductive health care experience like The Heidi Group resulted in only achieving the national average of 8 percent long-acting, reversible contraception (LARC) usage, likely due to the unfamiliarity of providers with LARC methods and unavailability of these methods in their offices, and only 2 percent of the program’s patients were teens.

Blake Rocap, interim executive director at NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, released the following statement on the report —

“Lawmakers required this report from the Health and Human Services Commission so they could evaluate the policy and funding changes they made to these programs. Unfortunately, this report does not  demonstrate the state’s programs are successful; key data required by the Legislature to make that conclusion is missing. Without information on how many clients each provider served, it is impossible to know which contractors met their goals and which are spending tax dollars most efficiently. Refusing to release the required data frustrates the intent of the report, and does not allow the Legislature to provide appropriate contract compliance oversight to an agency that obviously needs it.

“The number of total providers is not indicative of actual program capacity, almost half did not provide any care; the number of total enrollees is not indicative of patient access, almost half did not receive care. Texas is failing by not accurately tracking how its programs work therefore denying lawmakers the opportunity to make sound public policy.

“If the agency is going to ignore budget rider directives from lawmakers, we suggest they restore the ability of patients to see any qualified provider of their choice, take the nine to one  federal matching dollars and return the program to the success it enjoyed before anti-abortion politicians destroyed it in 2011.

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Texas is lying to pregnant minors about their options.

Alexa Garcia-DittaLast week, the Department of State Health Services closed the public comment period for the latest revisions to a booklet titled “So You’re Pregnant, Now What?” This booklet, which the state of Texas requires pregnant minors to read, contains gross misinformation about the possible risks of abortion such as breast cancer, depression and future infertility. Even though these claims have all been debunked by various medical organizations, DSHS decided to include them in the latest revision of the booklet.

The state has no business interfering in the doctor-patient relationship by providing lies and misinformation to pregnant minors considering their options. NARAL Pro-Choice Texas submitted public comments on the booklet revisions to the Department of State Health Services. The full comments are available below.

 

April 11, 2018
Department of State Health Services
Austin, TX

Sent via email to [email protected]

To Whom It May Concern,

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the revisions to the “So You’re Pregnant, Now What?” booklet.

NARAL Pro-Choice Texas opposes state interference with the doctor-patient relationship and in a minor’s decision about her pregnancy. In publishing lies about abortion and using inflammatory language, this latest version of the “So You’re Pregnant, Now What?” booklet shames and stigmatizes abortion care and provides scientifically inaccurate information designed to mislead pregnant minors.

The booklet shows extreme bias against abortion when covering the risks of abortion vs. the risks of carrying a pregnancy to term. The health risks of carrying a pregnancy to term far outweigh those of elective abortion. And death is listed at the top of the list of risks, although abortion is one of the safest outpatient procedures and far safer than childbirth, which carries a risk of death 14 times higher than abortion.[1]

Much like the error-riddled “A Woman’ Right to Know” pamphlet, this booklet refers to a pregnancy at any stage as “your baby” throughout, even though it disclaims this language by noting that the correct term at certain stages of development is embryo and fetus.  In fact researchers have found that more than one third of the statements about embryonic development are inaccurate.[2]

Further, the revisions to the booklet include strong links between abortion and breast cancer, a claim that has been thoroughly debunked by major medical organizations.[3] And the emotional effects of abortion are skewed toward the negative, although other studies[4] have concluded most women feel abortion was the right decision for them and negative feelings are more accurately associated with shame and stigma, which, ironically, this booklet appears to perpetuate. As peer-reviewed studies have determined, the so-called research from those such as the repeatedly discredited Vincent Rue is not replicable and this “post-abortion syndrome” has been debunked and discredited.[5]

Moreover, the revised booklet goes on to list physical risks, mental health risks and future infertility as risks of abortion. Recent nonpartisan research has debunked these claims and found that abortion has no impact on a minor’s future fertility or likelihood to experience mental health disorders. The research also found that it is medically unnecessary anti-abortion regulations that put patient health and safety at risk.[6]

Informed consent is a vital component of ethical healthcare, but this booklet does not contribute to a patient centered decision making process.  It is misinformation intended to coerce minors and perpetuate fear and stigma. This booklet has been influenced and driven by political ideology, not medicine or science, and we believe that pregnant minors deserve better than this.

Informing pregnant minors in a pamphlet published by the state about risks that are not scientifically supported and are in fact invalidated by scientific research violates the public trust. Texas and the Department of State Health Services should not produce pamphlets with inaccurate information for distribution to Texans, no matter their age. Pregnant people deserve unbiased, medically accurate information so that they can make decisions about their health and their lives free from coercion, fear or shame.

We respectfully ask that you revise it to be an objective, unbiased resource that does not attempt to unduly influence patients. All information contained therein should be supported by the National Institute of Health and mainstream medical and psychological groups, such as the American Medical Association, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Psychological Association.

Signed,

Alexa Garcia-Ditta
Communications and Policy Initiatives Director
NARAL Pro-Choice Texas

 

[1]  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22270271

[2] http://informedconsentproject.com/states/texas/

[3]  http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancer/moreinformation/is-abortion-linked-to-breast-cancer

[4]  http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0128832#sec013

[5] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S027795361000729X

[6] https://www.nap.edu/read/24950/chapter/1