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: 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.

“Applying to Next Generation has been one of the best decisions I have ever made.”

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.

Click here to apply to be a 2018 Next Generation fellow!

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!

“The opportunities to learn and be open without judgment were the most valuable parts of Next Generation.”

We are currently accepting applications for our 2017 Next Generation program. Read about one participant’s experience below, and apply today!

My name is Drew Jones, and I participated in Next Generation Pro-Choice Texas program. I’m a native Houstonian who has seen the city change a lot over my lifetime. I’m currently enrolled at the University of Houston, studying journalism and politics. I’m really passionate about exploring the intersections of government and culture and highlighting the voices and experiences of people who are too often unrepresented. I’m an advocate for reproductive justice because I believe that the health care decisions people of reproductive age make should be fully under their control, with the advice of their medical provider. Access to safe and legal abortion is necessary to ensure the freedoms and equal participation in society, and that constitutional right needs to be defended and protected at all levels.

How did you find out about the Next Generation program and why did you decide to apply?

I found out about the Next Gen program after a training provided by Emily Martin and Natalie San Luis, and was encouraged to apply. I applied because I wanted to immerse myself in the community of reproductive rights activists, and gain a better perspective about the ins and outs of organizing and coalition building.

What was your favorite part about participating in Next Gen?

My favorite part about participating in the program was getting the chance to meet wonderful people from all over the state, and forming bonds with like-minded individuals. The conferences, trainings, and events we attended were eye opening and gave me a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for the folks that do reproductive work day in and day out.

What about the program was most valuable to you?

The opportunities to learn and be open without judgment were the most valuable parts of Next Gen. A lot of people who are interested in this work have questions and/or misconceptions, and having those issues addressed by the most kind and knowledgeable people really built a supportive and trusting environment for all of us new activists.

Why should other young Texans apply?

I would encourage those interested in organizing or building relationships with other progressives to join the program and get the most out of it that you can. The wonderful part of the Next Gen structure is that it meets everyone where they are, so you don’t have to feel intimidated. If you’re just curious about the legislative side of the reproductive justice fight, or if you’re ready to delve into nuanced and engaging conversations surrounding the movement, you’ll find yourself intrigued, encouraged, and surrounded by amazingly supportive and empowering individuals.