Wednesday, November 7, 2012

2012 Election Photo Recap

According to the Sunlight Foundation, Planned Parenthood's advocacy arm and super PAC saw returns on their investments in the election at around 98%. This means that the time and money we put behind certain politicians was overwhelmingly effective. The runner up was Majority PAC at just under 89%. 

From August to November, Planned Parenthood in Austin registered over 750 community members to vote, and collected almost 3,000 pledge to votes. Pledge to vote cards were returned to empower pledgers with information about when and where to vote, and where to find a nonpartisan ballot builder. Here is a recap of what my election season looked like!

First block walk of my life in Pasadena, Texas with Planned Parenthood's Youth Organizing and Policy Institute. We collected pledge to votes in this community.

Block walk #2 in Austin, Texas, registering voters, collecting pledge to votes, and letting the community know about our local health center.

Block Walk #2

Block Walk #3 in Austin, Texas collecting pledge to votes and to tell the community about the local health center.

Texas Roller Derby Championship collecting pledge to votes.

Phone banking for Texas Freedom Network in Kathy Miller's office- super boss! I also won "Most Enthusiastic Phone Banker." Thanks, TFN!

Tabling at UT to collect pledge to votes from students with Voices for Reproductive Justice.

Block walk in Waco, Texas with Planned Parenthood staff members to collect pledge to vote cards and let the community know about their local health center.

Women Take Texas Rally in Austin, Texas

My second C4 phone bank for State Representative Donna Howard, who was reelected!

Importantly, reelecting Barack Obama means that women's health is safe for another four years. The Affordable Care Act will remain in place. Women with health insurance will receive many preventative services such as well woman exams, breast and cervical cancer screenings, birth control, and STI testing with no co-pays or deductibles. Our Congress is the most diverse in history, with 24 female representatives and the first bisexual representative, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

(Courtesy of Think Progress)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Why Bother? Engaging Texas in Democracy Now

I just got back from the taping of Why Bother? Engaging Texas in Democracy Now hosted by The Annette Strauss Institute, KUT 90.5FM, and KLRU. Why Bother? is a "news and public dialogue series intended to provoke a conversation among regular people about why Texas has one of the lowest rates of civic engagement in the world, and what we can do about it."

Thanks, Kenzie, for the pic!

I wanted to tell this studio audience and also the viewers at home on Thursday evening and Sunday afternoon a few things:

  • Millennials (those currently aged about 13-30) have not only the largest voting block in America right now, but according to Pew Research Center we are also the most ethnically diverse and politically progressive in our nation's history!
  • 46 million millennials are eligible to vote in 2012- that's a lot of power!
  • This election is important to me because reproductive rights are under attack, and this not only affects me, but it affects ALL of our mothers, sisters, daughters, and wives ability to contribute to our society economically.
  • Your vote matters- get to the polls! 
(Check out League of Women Voters for nonpartisan information about the elections and for voter guides. Here is a link to the League of Women Voters of Texas with the Voter Guide right on the homepage!)

Now I'm inviting you to watch the television broadcast on KLRU on Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 8:00pm or on Sunday, October 7, 2012 at 1:30pm to see what young people in Austin think about our state and nation's political climate. 

You can tweet about the event with the hashtag #whybothertexas or share it on Facebook at

Edit: Here is a link to the entire show

Friday, September 7, 2012

Crisis Pregnancy Center Investigation by The Crisis Project

Ah ha, so pro-choicers finally decide to give anti-choicers a taste of their own medicine. According to The Crisis Project website, they are "a youth led movement that is committed to advancing social justice by exposing threats to human rights. By utilizing new media and investigative journalism we illuminate an invisible crisis in this country -- Americans are systematically denied access to both their legal rights and to accurate information because of the coercive and manipulative nature of regressive political and social ideologies." To The Crisis Project I say, "BRAVO!" (Like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter.)

The Crisis Project must be a response to LiveAction, an anti-choice group that often releases undercover videos in Planned Parenthood clinics.You may remember LiveAction releasing a video about sex selective abortion counseling in a Planned Parenthood clinic in May. Check out my blog post here about that particular video.

Last legislative session in Texas, the family planning budget was reduced from $111 million down to just $38 million. Some of this funding was diverted to crisis pregnancy centers that provide pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, diapers, clothing, and counseling on parenting and personal finance. They are not required to have medical staff, however obstetricians and nurses donate their time to offer ultrasounds. 

Let's be clear that this funding was diverted from women's annual exams, STI testing, birth control, and other preventative care to religiously backed crisis pregnancy centers that refer out for the aforementioned services. 

As a future social worker, I am appalled that state funding would promote judgmental and directive counseling. I am ethically bound to promote social justice, integrity, and competence. My field respects the client's own interests and their own self determination. I am responsible to help them review ALL OF THEIR CHOICES and help identify and clarify their goals. 

If you care about women's health and respect a woman's ability to make a choice about what's right for her own family, you can donate to Planned Parenthood here. Or if you want to support equal access to abortion you can donate to the Lilith Fund here.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Night with Mary Tuma on KOOP 91.7

Last night I was invited back to KOOP 91.7 to discuss UT's Voices for Reproductive Justice,  upcoming reproductive rights events, dismantling of the Women's Health Program in Texas, the GOP's position on abortion, and rape culture.

You can check out the program here if you missed it last night. The pledge drive has been edited out for brevity, but please make a donation to KOOP. KOOP gives people like me a place to discuss issues that affect our community.

If you would like to sign the petition to demand the Department of State Health Services set a date for the hearing on dismantling of the Women's Health Program click here.

Facts on Induced Abortion in the US (About 61%* of abortions in the US are obtained by women who have one or more children)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Planned Parenthood's Youth Organizing and Policy Institute: Gulf Coast

Over the weekend I attended Planned Parenthood's Youth Organizing and Policy Institute (YOPI) in Houston, Texas. The mission of YOPI is to train young activists between the ages of 18-24 to mobilize their communities around reproductive justice and sexual health. Millennials (those currently aged about 13-30) have not only the largest voting block in America right now, but according to Pew Research Center are also the most ethnically diverse and the most politically progressive in our nation's history. YOPI engaged participants through workshops and small group break outs that ultimately led to an advocacy effort at the end of the training. Planned Parenthood is bringing YOPI all across the nation to about 1,000 young activists through 8 regional conferences.

Each conference discusses challenges unique to each region. I've written a few blog posts regarding Texas' issues such as the dismantling of the Women's Health Program and mandatory waiting periods and ultrasounds.

After an enjoyable 3 hour bus ride over to Houston, some Austin area folks and myself arrived to the smoothest check-in ever. We received our guides, our name tags, and this sweet V-neck Planned Parenthood t-shirt. I requested to be a small group facilitator, so I got an extra fancy tag.

Liz and me representing Voices for Reproductive Justice and being super stoked when we arrived

The first night was extremely inspirational as we broke out into small group and learned about what called each individual to action in our story of self. This was something I struggled with because 1. I suck at telling stories and 2. I love nitty gritty facts and struggle with personal anecdotes (which one do I choose?!). One of my favorite parts of this night though was hearing my mentors' stories from my local Planned Parenthood affiliate. How had I never asked them before?! 

We got back to our hotel at a decent time, but I was so excited that I literally could not fall asleep until about 2am. Then it was back up super early for a meeting at 7:45. Here is a picture I got of my small group on the second day.

From left to right: Caroline and Kathy from UT, Sarah and Molly from Texas State, and me

The second day was a lot different. This was the day we were to come up with our Vox Chapter's purpose, and over the course of the 13 hour day (on about 5 hours of sleep for me), an extremely detailed strategic plan of how we were going to fulfill our purpose. Initially I felt overwhelmed at our region's mission to register 1,000 voters and get 2,000 voter pledge cards by October 9th, of which a large part is to come from VRJ since we are at UT. Luckily I have the most amazing boss ever who pulled me aside and calmed my concerns. Thank you Miss. Brittany Yelverton (seriously though, I was a mess)! I didn't get many pictures from this day because it was literally back to back meetings for me.
Dyana, me, and Brittany after a 13 hour day.

The last day was much less stressful as we reconvened in small groups to come up with a story of our community and rehearsed our call to action. We even got to take some pictures before we left.

My fellow peer educators at the conference. Thank you Tiffany Vo for the picture!

Then, depending on travel plans, we split up to either block walk or phone bank. My group was assigned to block walk getting pledge to vote cards. I've got to be honest, I loathed the idea of block walking. It made me extremely nervous and I just didn't want to do it. I hate when people I don't know knock on my door, so I didn't want to knock on anyone else's door. Here was my breakout group for block walking before we went out.

Some VRJ gals! me, Liz, Caroline, and Kathy

We broke out into teams of 2 and a few teams of 3. We were given 40 addresses and 2 hours to get as many pledge to votes as possible. Y'all, block walking is SO FUN. My team got 11 cards out of 40 addresses. I'm pretty happy with that 1:4 ratio! We also met some really friendly people who were happy to take a minute or two out of their day to help our cause. Lavern was my favorite. Lavern is an  80 year old woman who, after mentioning her children and grandchildren, asked us if $5 would be enough- before we could get to our pledge to vote pitch. Hilariously awesome. When all of the 8 or 9 teams got back we had collected 50 cards (that 1:5 ratio sounds good too!)! 

My team from left to right: Kathy, Sarah, and me (GO TEAM!)

Oh the other awesome part of this was the lemonade Dyana had for us when we got back from block walking. This little girl had a lemonade stand to raise money for new shoes for school. Dyana bought all of the lemonade and a team even got a pledge to vote from her mom. GIRL POWER!

So basically, YOPI was a huge learning experience for me: I learned how to organize and strategize, but most importantly I made so many friends. This picture below is all of the Austin folks that I can't wait to work with. Thank you all for being so amazing and let's get together for some one-on-ones!

photobomb FTW

Thanks to Tiffany Vo for the picture of all conference attendees!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Thoughts on LiveAction's Newest Sting on Planned Parenthood

The first thing I saw when I went online this morning was a sting video from LiveAction on Planned Parenthood. I knew this video was coming for about a month.

The only word I can think of to describe how I felt after I watched video is "icky," and that is for two reasons: this was recorded at the Planned Parenthood I volunteer with, and the "promotion of gendercide." Luckily I had a meeting with Voices for Reproductive Justice where I knew I had a safe place to discuss my thoughts.

So gendercide.... I thought that was an issue in Southeast Asia- China specifically. How could my beloved Planned Parenthood promote gendercide? But after a little discussion and critical watching of this video, this counselor was only nonjudgmental of her client. As a future social worker, I know that as a counselor you are ethically bound to not judge a client who is capable of their own self determination.

Let's start from the beginning. "Planned Parenthood advises waiting until the unborn child is 4-5 months old to detect if it's a girl for a late-term abortion." Actually, that's just how long you have to wait to determine the sex of the baby. The counselor tells the woman she has until her 23rd week of pregnancy to terminate, and then explains "regular doctors have told women you can't terminate after 16 weeks." That's true, because some clinics are legally only allowed to terminate up to 15 weeks 6 days. Later term abortions must be performed at surgical centers per Texas law. (Texas allows termination until the third trimester.) And it's true that some abortion doctors will not terminate pregnancies after a certain gestational age because of their own preference. And that's okay!

Sure, the counselor's personal information was unnecessary, but this video really is not that shocking. Abortion is a decision between a woman and her DOCTOR. And that cleverly repeated bit of the counselor saying, "I hope you get your boy!" wasn't "I hope you terminate your pregnancy if it's a girl!"

I'm a promoter of safe abortion on demand. No woman's abortion is more right or more wrong than another woman's abortion- EVER. Sex selective abortion happens. Maybe we should be focusing more on the patriarchal society we live in that would prompt a family to prefer a male child over a female child rather than clinics protecting a woman's right and ability to plan her family.

Planned Parenthood's Statement

"The world’s leading women’s health and rights organizations, including the World Health Organization, do not believe that curtailing access to abortion services is a legitimate means of addressing sex selection, and have made clear that gender bias can only be resolved by addressing the underlying conditions that lead to it. And we agree. We support efforts that ensure girls and women have access to economic opportunity, including fair wages, basic health care, political participation, education, and a life free of violence and discrimination. Planned Parenthood works to ensure women and their families have access to high-quality nonjudgmental health services free of coercion, supported by information and counseling."

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Annie's List Luncheon with Planned Parenthood

A few days ago, I was invited by Dyana and Dru to attend an Annie's List luncheon where Annie's List was presenting their Woman Warrior Award in memory of Bettie Naylor.

At the event, Sissy Farenthold and Wendy Davis gave short speeches, and Donna Howard closed the event. Sissy Farenthold urged the crowd to become aware of and fight against ALEC. Wendy Davis encouraged us to continue fighting for women's rights and supporting Annie's List endorsed candidates, like she herself once was.

me, Mackenzie, and Seetha 
Mackenzie is the president of UT's Student Chapter of Texas Freedom Network.

Dyana, me, and Dru
HUGE thanks to Dyana,  Dru, and Planned Parenthood for the invitation!

Before You Go:


Saturday, April 28, 2012

War on Women Rally April 28, 2012 Austin, TX

Today was the War on Women Rally. Jessica made a good point that it was a little anti-climactic. Unfortunately I too have been to a lot of these rallies and I had urges to leave early several times at this event. It was great to see SO MANY people out and from so many parts of Texas, but when you live in Austin and go to these rallies all the time it is kind of... same ol' same ol'. (I'm THRILLED so many people got involved. I can only hope that they will trek to the polls to make their voices heard where it REALLY COUNTS!) Anyway, there are ALWAYS great signs to be had, I got a picture with Dawnna Dukes, I signed some people up for Planned Parenthood's mailing list, did some voter registration, and signed a petition against new outrageous abortion reporting in Texas, so I'd still say it was a success!

Kathy Miller, president of Texas Freedom Network

Dawnna Dukes! She gave a shorter rendition of the speech below- truly inspiring.

Representative Dukes and me... SHERO