Next Generation Fellow Highlight: Sherida Hibbard

Sherida Hibbard, 2017 Next Generation Fellow

In Lubbock, abortion is as close to a curse word as you can get without actually using profanity.  When I mention abortion, people either accuse me of being a criminal or assume that I am a liberal and hope that I’ll grow out of it.  People don’t take the time to listen to my story or find out why it is something I am so passionate about.  I grew up in a small town in north Texas where family planning was something that only “unsavory” women elected to do and raised to be conservative, proper, and “pro-life” at all costs.

I never thought I would support reproductive healthcare as a right until I found myself in need of services.  After my experience, which was awful at best, for the first time I had to examine my beliefs based not on what others told me to feel, but solely on my experience and conviction.  Prior to this point, I perpetuated the opinions I’d heard growing up and thought of it as someone else’s problem. I learned the hard way that the crisis facing reproductive healthcare is my problem.  It is the problem of anyone who has a mother, daughter, sister, or female friend, but it doesn’t stop at gender lines. I knew that something needed to happen, but I didn’t feel confident or capable.

I realized that if someone were to ask me why I feel so strongly, rather than an eloquent summary of my experience, the experience of countless women across the state, or well-thought out talking points on the state of reproductive healthcare in Texas, I would likely stare at them blankly and be unable to fully describe what I think, feel, and know.  My year as a NARAL Pro-Choice Texas Next Gen Fellow helped me not only to be more confident in my speech, but also to have the facts and information to support my feelings with data.  They equipped me and encouraged me to speak the truth that I already knew but couldn’t put in words.   My experiences with Next Generation created a feeling of sisterhood, humanity, and shared responsibility that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Click here to apply to be part of the 2018 class of Next Generation fellows!

Mary Tuma sets the standard for reproductive health, rights and justice journalism

Reporting on reproductive rights and abortion in Texas requires a blend of compassion, commitment to people’s personal experiences while also respecting their privacy, and the guts to call out when politics are trumping public health and human rights. The Austin community and state of Texas is lucky to have all of this in reporter Mary Tuma, who we’re excited to honor at our 2017 Fall Celebration.

A graduate of the University of Texas and student reporter, Mary began her professional journalism career at the Texas Independent, and has since covered the intersection of Texas politics and abortion rights for multiple alternative media outlets. Her byline is well known currently at the Austin Chronicle, for which she covers the Texas Legislature, reproductive rights, immigration and LGBT issues.  Mary’s stories illuminate the danger of Texas’ attacks on human rights, including abortion care. She has consistently held our politicians accountable for their misplaced political priorities and has demonstrated a commitment to elevating the voices of Texans most affected by our restrictive policies. In doing so, she’s busting abortion stigma every day and normalizing the conversation in our local community.

I have been fortunate to call Mary not only a colleague but a friend since we first met in 2011 covering our first legislative sessions. While other reporters and media outlets were chasing the clickbait-y headline of the day, Mary was focused on true investigative journalism. She’s dug deep into crisis pregnancy centers to help expose their shady practices. She’s covered every twist and turn of legal challenges to Texas’ abortion laws and spent time in the most affected communities. Her approach to journalism sets the standard for abortion reporting in our state, and I hope you’ll join me in honoring her this week at our Fall Celebration. Click here for tickets.

—Alexa Garcia-Ditta

 

Yamani Hernandez brings the voices of people who have had abortions front and center.

“NNAF members center people who have abortions and organize at the intersections of racial, economic, and reproductive justice, talking with people every day who feel a range of emotions, not the least of which is stress about the expense of their abortions…we want to address the deeper systemic issues while centering the voices of people who have abortions.”  — Yamani Hernandez in Rewire

Abortion funds across our country—including several in Texas—have grown in number and power thanks in part to the leadership of Yamani Hernandez, who serves as executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF). NNAF is leading a national grassroots movement to fight back against barriers to abortion access by building power with individual members and 70 grassroots member organizations in 38 states to help remove financial and logistical barriers. We are thrilled to welcome her at our 2017 Fall Celebration.

Texas is home to eight NNAF member funds that provide financial assistance, transportation, lodging and other support for people seeking abortion. These funds, with the support of NNAF, are transforming the dialogue, building grassroots power and busting through abortion stigma statewide.

Before becoming NNAF executive director in 2015, Yamani served as Executive Director and spokesperson for the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health (ICAH), which educates, organizes, and advocates on behalf of the sexual health, rights, and identities of young people aged 12-24. Under Yamani’s leadership, ICAH fought equally for access to comprehensive sex-education, to reduce shame of young parents and to lift the barrier of parental notification of abortion, thereby elevating the issues of youth in the reproductive justice movement. While at ICAH, she told her abortion story as a part of the 1 in 3 campaign. She was awarded the 2012 Margaret Carr Wiley Bright Horizons Award by Planned Parenthood of Illinois, honored with an AmeriCorps Alum National Leadership Award for her work with Public Allies Chicago, and presented with the Visionary Leader Award in 2012 by her staff.

Yamani is a Ford Foundation Public Voices Fellow and a writer for Echoing Ida, a program of Forward Together that supports leadership and amplifies the voices of Black women. She has written and been quoted extensively in outlets such as RH Reality CheckProgress IllinoisThe Reader, EBONY, The Nation, and has appeared on MSNBC. 

Yamani will be sharing the stage with Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas—executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health—for a panel discussion on how our movement has evolved and grown. Click here to buy your tickets today!

#Roses4Rosie

October 3 marks 40 years since Rosie Jimenez—a Texan, mother and college student from the South Texas town of McAllen—died from an infection following an unsafe abortion. The federal Hyde Amendment—first passed in 1976 and each year since—prohibited Rosie’s Medicaid insurance from paying for her abortion, so instead Rosie sought out the only procedure she could afford–and it led to her death just days later. She left behind a 4-year-old daughter and was studying to be a teacher.

Rosie wanted a better future for herself and her daughter. So committed was she to their future that a $700 scholarship check was found in her purse when she died. She could have used her college money for safe abortion care at a clinic, but she was saving it for her education—her way of escaping poverty.

Rosie was the first known person to die after the Hyde Amendment took effect in 1977, and since then Hyde has denied abortion coverage for people enrolled in Medicaid as well as federal employees, women in the military, Peace Corps volunteers, disabled women, residents of Washington D.C., Native women who use the Indian Health Service, and women held in federal prisons and immigration detention centers. More than 30 states have enacted their own versions of Hyde, and 10, including Texas, go as far as to ban private insurance coverage as well. Women should not be forced to choose between covering basic expenses such as rent or child care and accessing the health care that they need and deserve.

Rosie’s memory lives on 40 years later in the tireless work of abortion funds and reproductive justice groups across the country, who fight daily for abortion access for all in their communities. In Rosie’s hometown of McAllen, South Texans for Reproductive Justice organizes clinic escorts so that patients can safely access the care they need without harassment from malicious anti-abortion protesters. This week, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas was honored to join STRJ in remembering Rosie at her gravesite in McAllen, followed by a dinner reception with the fierce Rio Grande Valley activists leading the reproductive justice movement in the region.

It’s long past time for the Hyde Amendment to be stripped from the books for good, as well as state laws that restrict coverage for abortion care. As we remember Rosie and honor her memory, join us mobilizing in your community and striving for BOLD action to end abortion coverage bans.

Jessica González-Rojas is not backing down.

“We know that Latinas are the leaders in their communities. We just provide information, education and awareness about how they can create change…We believe that those most impacted will be the agents of change.”

Jessica González-Rojas speaking to Latino Virtual Summit 8/16

We could not be more thrilled to welcome National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) executive director Jessica González-Rojas to our 2017 Fall Celebration for a conversation with Yamani Hernandez and Mary Tuma. This year, Texas has seen an unprecedented attack on immigrant communities with the passage of Senate Bill 4 creating additional barriers to reproductive healthcare access. As NLIRH documented in Nuestro Texas, a joint report with the Center for Reproductive Rights, the Latinx community has disproportionately suffered from the Texas Legislature’s dismantling of the family planning system. With immigration raids happening regularly, many communities in the state are living in fear, unable to access the health care they need.

But under Jessica’s leadership, NLIRH is not backing down from the challenge and is transforming communities in the Rio Grande Valley and across Texas, building power among the Latinx community, lead by their community organizers, the fierce Poderosas.

Jessica leads the only national reproductive justice organization that specifically works to advance reproductive health and rights for Latinas. She is a strong voice for Latinas and a regular presence in national and local media outlets.  She was honored by El Diario/La Prensa, the nation’s oldest and largest Spanish-language newspaper in the United States, as one of 2009’s “Mujeres Destacadas” (Women of Honor).  She is a regular contributor to El Diario/La Prensa and Huffington Post Latino Voices on pressing reproductive health issues in the Latina community, as well as a regular media voice in local and national outlets such as National Public Radio, the Brian Lehrer Show (WNYC-FM), the Bill Moyers Show, the Boston Globe and The New York Times.  Jessica was featured in Latina Magazine’s “Making Us Proud” series, has been named one of “13 Women of Color to Watch in 2013” by the Center for American Progress and was honored as a “Champion for Choice” by the National Council of Jewish Women.

Join us on Thursday, October 19 for our Fall Celebration and meet Jessica in person!