My name is Skye Adams and I am a Next Generation fellow with NARAL Pro-Choice Texas from El Paso. In March, I was one of 17 new fellows who went to Austin for the 2017 Next Generation Summit, where we received trainings on abortion policy and messaging, toured the state Capitol, and received training on how to be better activists and advocates. Applying to Next Generation has been one of the best decisions I have ever made, and I know the knowledge and experience I have gained from volunteering with this organization will make me better for my future career.
Early last month, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas took several fellows to New Orleans for the SisterSong Let’s Talk About Sex conference. It was the experience of a lifetime seeing queer women/people of color sharing stories, sharing the struggles for reproductive justice in their communities and us learning how to be better. I would have never gotten the chance to see or attend this conference if it wasn’t for Next Generation.
In between the two trips, our El Paso Next Generation cohort has attended and held events for our community to learn more about reproductive justice, abortion, and build their advocacy and activism skills. NARAL is devoted to educating and fighting for reproductive justice, and I cannot think of many organizations that are so dedicated in this way. Being a part of Next Generation is a privilege, and I am so grateful to be part of such an impactful organization.
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.
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.
“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 Check, Progress Illinois, The 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!