Next Generation Fellow Spotlight: Cathryn Torres

By Cathryn Torres, 2018 Next Generation Fellow 

I’m Cathryn Torres and I’m a 22 year old Tejana and sociology student at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. I’ve been involved with several organizations on and off campus that focus on reproductive rights, justice, and health. Being part of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas has always been a dream of mine because I sincerely admire the work that NPCT does to ensure Texans have access to the reproductive health services they need and make sure their reproductive rights aren’t stepped on.

I consider myself an advocate for reproductive rights, health, and justice. I remember entering college with this dream of becoming a college activist because I knew something had to give, and through experiences like what NARAL has provided me, I see myself pursuing activism well into my adult life. I won’t stop until there is true change. This fire within me is ignited by the powerful people that surround me in the RGV. I’ve grown to honor and respect the work the people around me have done and I want to continue to lift the voices of those who need it most.

Joining Next Generation was so exciting! It was so powerful seeing all the work these dynamic young leaders did during past legislative sessions, and their unapologetic grace is so inspiring. It’s so thrilling to be a Next Gen fellow sharing spaces with 35 amazing people with such strong hearts. I’ve been so engaged with the reproductive rights movement and being a fellow has really gotten me to pumped to keep going.

Texas is my home – born and raised. I hold this state so close to me and it breaks my heart that we are forced to live our lives based off bogus, anti-choice rules dictated by white, cis-heterosexual men. Time and time again we often feel overwhelmed and like we can only do so much, but our big Texas virtues keeps us fighting for what is right.

Next Generation Fellow Spotlight: Quinn Becker

By Quinn Becker, 2018 Next Generation Fellow 

Eleven years ago in a galaxy far, far away known as Connecticut, I witnessed anti-choice protesters outside an abortion clinic for the first time. I was in high school, and until that day, I didn’t know what an abortion was, let alone why anyone might be protesting it. Something special happened that day, though: there were also pro-choice folks supporting the clinic and patients and making their voices heard. I knew I should get educated on the issue. So, educated I became.

Later, throughout my time in college and beyond, I became heavily involved in pro-choice activism. I was living in Iowa at the time, leading the reproductive justice organization at my university, volunteering my time at the local Planned Parenthood affiliate and lobbying at the Capitol building when politicians would attack reproductive rights. It was a good six years in the Hawkeye state!

In July of 2017, I found myself packing up my bags and moving to a state that is the poster-child for what not to do to people’s reproductive rights. That’s right: I moved to Texas. Real talk: I was scared. Iowa was becoming more hostile as I was leaving, but everyone always talked about Texas being the state you do not want to be like in regards to reproductive rights. And I was choosing to live there.

As I began carving out my place in my new state, I knew I needed to find my people. My pro-choice, abortion access supporting people. And part of that process was finding NARAL Pro-Choice Texas and the Next Generation program. It was important to me that I learned about the reproductive rights issues that are specific to folks here in Texas so that I can be a better activist and advocate. Next Gen has been helpful in learning about the reproductive justice issues that are plaguing Texans.

At the end of the day, abortion saves lives. It is a necessary medical procedure that I am so thankful for. Fighting for abortion access isn’t an easy fight. But, I’m thankful for my NARAL Pro-Choice Texas family here fighting the good fight with me.

 

Next Generation Fellow Spotlight: Eric Shi

By Eric Shi, 2018 Next Generation Fellow 

Growing up, I always thought that I would become a doctor—I wanted to go into medicine in order to benefit those who needed help. As I grew up, I realized that a career in the medical field wasn’t something I necessarily wanted anymore. However, I still carry with me a deep interest in public health. This passion combined with my interest in social justice led me to NARAL Pro-Choice Texas as a Next Generation fellow.

Prior to entering college, I had little to no involvement with anything related to policy and politics and was relatively uneducated when it came to most social issues. In the limited time that I’ve been at Rice University, I’ve had many different experiences that have expanded my understanding of what it means to be civically engaged. When it came to reproductive rights and justice, I aimed to learn more about the scope of issues that they encompass by participating in an Alternative Spring Break trip to Washington, D.C. I was able to meet with many different organizations that are fighting for gender equity and equal access to reproductive healthcare. This experience helped me see that I could combine my interests in health and justice, and it drove me to join NARAL in order to gain a more in-depth understanding of the problems in Texas. I think that activism in Texas is extremely crucial because there is a lack of accessibility and protection here that is afforded to people in some other states, and that makes it even more important to fight for change here.

As a cisgender man, I understand the privilege I hold when talking about reproductive justice. To be the best ally possible, I seek out opportunities like Next Generation so that I can continue to learn and grow and be able to educate others. I look forward to using what I’ve learned through Next Gen and teaching others around me about reproductive rights.

Next Generation Fellow Spotlight: Devin Mendelson

By Devin Mendelson, 2018 Next Generation Fellow

My name is Devin Mendelson and I live in San Antonio. Being part of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas’ Next Generation program has helped me grow as an activist. As a trans man, there are very limited resources when it comes to finding the right place to get HRT, surgeries, and accessible care altogether. Trans men have little visibility in the reproductive rights movement from being denied healthcare coverage, to having high costs for medications, and that is what has drawn me closer to fighting the system for those rights.

What most people don’t know is how expensive top surgery can be—on average a transgender male will spend $7,000 of out of pocket money for this procedure because insurance either does not cover it, or are more expensive to proceed with insurance. I recently found that through my personal insurance, it would cost $9,200 to have surgery. That is with insurance. And that’s on top of monthly payments for medication and potential travel to other cities if your own community doesn’t offer affordable options for care.

I learned about NARAL Pro-Choice Texas through a former supervisor who also participated in Next Gen.  Because of what she told me about the reproductive justice fight within our legislative system, I decided I wanted to join. I want to be a voice for trans men not just in San Antonio, but across Texas, and to spread the word about the real injustice we all face without proper health care coverage for our individual needs.

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.