Sunday, February 26, 2012

Empowerment Week, Student Day at the Legislature, Volunteering with Planned Parenthood, UT Spring Break Kits, Project 2012, and Friends from Dallas

Empowerment Week/Meeting with James from Resist Attack

This year, Social Work Council will be hosting Empowerment Week: Safety. The three tenets are: Personal Safety, Sexual Safety, and Alcohol Safety.

This week I officially reserved Gregory Plaza for April 3rd and 4th from 10am-2pm. Come join us for lots of free goodies!

For Personal Safety, we are teaming up with Resist Attack to hand out free pepper spray. I met with the owner, James Shaw, on Friday to collaborate on how to hand out as many free pepper sprays as possible. He agreed to table with us, so you will have the opportunity to speak with him and learn more about Resist Attack's mission.
Here is the free pepper spray James gave me, and what we will be giving away in April!

For Sexual Safety, Voices for Reproductive Justice ("Like" our Facebook page!) will be handing out free condom goodie bags. More information to come!

For Alcohol Safety, I am still waiting to hear back from HealthyHorns, but I am hoping they will table with us. More information to come on this one, too!

Student Day at the Legislature

On Wednesday, I met with the planning committee to discuss Social Work's Student Day at the Legislature on March 6. Attending students are meeting this Friday, March 2, at 3pm in the School of Social Work's Utopia Theatre to group into caucuses (meetings have already been scheduled with several committees and representatives) to discuss what issues we want to address. To sign up, please e-mail

Volunteering with Planned Parenthood

Thursday was a pretty exciting day volunteering at Planned Parenthood. I took notes on a national Planned Parenthood conference call, and then I dropped off letters at the state capitol. (No big deal, just walking through the Texas House and Senate floors! [It really isn't a big deal, but it was pretty exciting for me]). Unfortunately, the letters were in regards to Texas defunding health care for 130,000 women.

UT Spring Break Kits

University Health Services will be handing out THREE THOUSAND free Spring Break kits this week on the West Mall. On Friday, a few fellow HSPEs and myself helped package them.

You get this sweet water bottle,

and all of these goodies: 6 resource cards (oops, one is a double in this pic), a bookmark, sunscreen, an energy bar, condoms, and lube!

I think they were about half done on Friday.

Project 2012

Project is UT's largest day of service, so of course Social Work Council was there. We teamed up at River City Youth Foundation.

We had to be there at 7:30am, so Gwen brought us homemade breakfast tacos. She is an awesome cook. Thanks, Gwen!

I didn't have a great vision of what we were doing as we started, so this is kind of a "middle" stage picture. We raked up a trail (this picture is a very SMALL portion of what we actually did).

Here is the finished product (again, a very small portion)!

Augie and Krista


More teamwork!

Gwen and Melissa worked in the garden.

Hook 'em! We had a great time.

Before You Go:

Did you see Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers "Really?!?" last week on Saturday Night Live talking about birth control? Really with Seth and Amy. "DON'T TELL ME WHAT TO DO!!"

Saturday, February 18, 2012

IBP, Nicholas Kristof, Valentine's Day, and UT Planned Parenthood Rally

Sunday- Volunteering at Inside Books Project

I saw this van about a year ago at my friend Cullen's apartment. Something made me look this place up, and I had been eager to check it out in person.

Inside Books Project is an all volunteer, non-profit org that sends free books and educational materials to people in prison in the state of Texas. It is the only org in Texas offering this resource. 

Social Work Council needed a service project, and a few people were interested in going with me.

Volunteering at IBP consists of reading letters, finding books to meet prisoners' requests, writing letters back to prisoners, and packaging up books.

Social Work Council in front of the library.

The letters we were filling were all the way from September. This place needs more volunteers! Here is one of my letters.

IBP said they've never filled so many requests on a Sunday! They invited us to come back, and I'm sure we will be.

I want to mention how great this experience made me feel. Reading letters from prisoners... some are brief but some explain why they are in jail or how much of their sentence they've served and have left. Picking out books that will hopefully in someway rehabilitate this person... it just feels good. Let's go back together!

Monday- Nicholas Kristof Lecture

Nicholas Kristof spoke at the LBJ Library and Museum on Monday night. 

It was a little disappointing only because he spoke about stories from his book Half the Sky which I've already read. Additionally, the questions the audience asked were a let down (but who am I to complain since I didn't stand in line to ask one). 

At least I got good seats thanks to my lovely friends Lynde, Gwen, and Barbara!

Taking questions

Tuesday- Condom Distribution/ Meetings with Senate Candidates

Tuesday, Valentine's Day, was the first time I've gotten to do condom distribution with the Healthy Sexuality Peer Educators!

In the UHS Health Hut, with condoms and buttons lining the table.

I didn't stay in the hut the whole time, I also handed them out in the middle of West Mall. Some of the responses I got were interesting. I tried to ask everyone who walked by if they wanted free condoms. I saw a mom, a dad, and a toddler and I still asked them. The mom pointed to her toddler and said, "We don't need condoms." I kind of felt like an asshole, but I was trying not to judge who does and does not need condoms. Later though, she came by the Health Hut and picked up a few condoms. (I think taking condoms out of someone's hands is more intimidating than picking it up off the table). The other response I got was from my friend Ginger. When I asked her she said, "Nope, still a lesbian." (Also felt like an asshole. Can't we hand out dental dams?! [Haha]).

Liz and Megan tabling for VRJ! Check out that sweet new banner!

VRJ also tabled on the West Mall for Valentine's Day, passing out the Planned Parenthood bags we all made together. I didn't get to table with them since I was tabling with HSPEs, but they handed out all of their loot before I got off my HSPE shift anyway! (HSPE and VRJ are in NO WAY affiliated).

On Tuesday I also met with three of the candidates for Senate Exec Board: Kendra Loftice, Hannah Tucker, and Bala Varadhan. All were great conversations, but especially with Bala! Our conversation kind of drifted off topic... we started talking about private and public sector work, how we see our futures, and he also shared some of his stories of traveling to India with me. He ended up sending me 3 presentations from one of his classes about Health and Education. Unfortunately, due to studying, I haven't had a chance to review them, but still appreciated!  Thanks, Bala!

Friday- Austin Housing Authority/Planned Parenthood Rally

Before the rally, I had an interview with Louise Sawaki from the Austin Housing Authority. It started off a little rough when she was uncomfortable with a question I asked. The question was, "what do you think causes low-income single mothers?" Her response was along the lines of, "You want me to tell you why poverty exists in our county? Did you write that question? That question doesn't even make sense. Who is to say that without a mother and a father that the child lives in a broken home? What about anonymous sperm donors or surrogate mothers?" Well, we ended up discussing institutionalized and systemic poverty, but whoa! I think that question needs to be rephrased at least. (I guess I was expecting something like: lack of access to birth control and irresponsible fathers, but I suppose that's a little close minded as well). 

Then I was off to the Planned Parenthood rally!

Dru Tigner is the Planned Parenthood Community Outreach Specialist who miraculously put this thing together.

Megan and I helped with voter registration.

We also passed out these awesome chocolate birth controls. (You can't really see it, but they even have the days under each of the "pills").

This is on the back of the chocolates. 



Dude with awesome sign/some of the crowd

Some pro lifers joined us as well. There were about a dozen of them.

Dyana Limon-Mercado is Planned Parenthood's Statewide Public Affairs Coordinator. She is who I am volunteering under!

Dru asked me to do two interviews for the rally. 
(Photo Courtesy of UT University Democrats)

The first one was awful. I was so nervous my legs were shaking under me and that's all I could think about. The second one was way better, but I can't find it! Here is my five seconds of fame. KVUE News Clip and Article About UT PP Rally

This is a more comprehensive review of the rally that I suggest over the KVUE clip: Texas Tribune Video about UT PP Rally. It includes some of the rally speeches, but also protester opinions. Can I make clear that birth control prevents the fertilized egg from implanting? They are not abortifacients (and neither is Plan B). Also, NO ONE WANTS TO HAVE AN ABORTION!!! People do not have sex to have an abortion. Birth control helps prevent that need. And you are able to become pregnant after you stop using contraceptives.

Oh yeah, one last thing.

Follow me on Twitter!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Valentine's Day with Planned Parenthood, VRJ Update, First Op-Ed Attempt, and Upcoming Events

Planned Parenthood Valentine's Day Prep Night

On Tuesday night, I went to the Planned Parenthood Office to help make FIFTEEN HUNDRED Valentine's Day bags.
We needed a lot of condoms.

We got into an assembly line and started packing! I helped with ribbon duty.

Here is part of the finished product. All of the bags have six condoms and some candy.

Liz and me after stuffing Vday bags for 4 hours.

I met the President of the Texas State Vox group, Feminists United, at this event, too! We really look forward to collaborating with her because.... UT'S VOICES FOR REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE JUST GOT APPROVED AS A REGISTERED STUDENT ORGANIZATION!

Coming back to help finish the Valentine's Day Bags/ Opportunity to work with Dyana

While we finished stuffing all of the bags Tuesday, we did not finish tying all of them. I went back to volunteer on Thursday.

This + a gigantic trash bag needed to be completed.

But we finished in about 2.5 hours! 

The PP Volunteer Coordinator, Dru, introduced me to Dyana Limon-Mercado while I was there. Dyana is the Planned Parenthood Statewide Public Affairs Coordinator. Her job is to figure out what new Texas legislation means for the clinics, and also to research legislative districts. She asked me to send her my resume, and I am really looking forward to volunteering under her! As a Social Work major, it would be a great opportunity, and sounds really fun. 

Tabling at Planned Parenthood

I tabled for the first time at the North Austin clinic this week. It wasn't quite what I expected. I think a lot of the patients there thought we were patients. We didn't have Planned Parenthood shirts on, and the table wasn't placed where we could sit behind it (so we sat next to it). Next time, I'll try to get the morning shift so I can help organize how the table is set up, and I need to get my hands on a shirt.

Aren't these Proper Attire condom wrappers the bomb?

First Stab at an Op-Ed

I was required to write an Op-Ed for my Social Justice class. I've never written anything like this, but here is my first try. I wrote about the Texas' new sonogram law.

Texas Further Complicates Abortion With A New Sonogram Law
The new sonogram law that requires women to listen to the fetal heartbeat and a description of the fetus by their doctor is shaming, demeaning, and most importantly, medically unnecessary.
Texas House Bill Number 325 was written to interfere with a woman’s decision to terminate her pregnancy, while lengthening the process. (And it is a process due to the new 2-day waiting period that was enforced starting October 1, 2011.)
Doctors (not ultra sound technicians) must now verbally explain ultrasound images: the dimensions of the fetus, if it has arms, legs, or internal organs, and must describe heartbeats if audible. But don’t worry, the woman can “choose to look away from the images.” Directions were not explicit on if she could plug her ears, too.
An exclusion offered in the bill states that if the fetus has an irreversible medical condition, or in cases of rape or incest, that women can opt out of the fetal images and their descriptions.
When the Center for Reproductive Rights challenged the sonogram law on the basis that it infringed on doctors’ free speech rights, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the temporary order against enforcing the law. Chief Judge Edith Jones wrote in her statement, “The point of informed consent laws is to allow the patient to evaluate her condition and render he best decision under difficult circumstances. Denying her up-to-date medical information is more of an abuse to her ability to decide than providing the information.”
Then why the exclusion for certain cases? While I’m glad that victims may opt-out, the exclusion is a contradiction to the reasoning of upholding this law that assumes women don’t understand what being pregnant means, and that there is a good chance it will change her mind. (Although it may be too early to tell, Amy Hagstrom Miller, the owner of five Whole Woman’s Health clinics, has confirmed that the same percentage of women come back after their sonogram since the enforcement of this law.)
Advocates against abortion claim that women believe that their fetus is just a “blob of cells,” and that hearing and seeing the fetus will be so dramatic that she will actually reverse her decision to terminate her pregnancy. 65% of women who have abortions already have at least one child. They know a fetus is not a “blob of cells.”
That opinion is condescending of women’s mental capabilities. As Hagstrom Miller puts it, “We haven’t had a woman say, ‘Oh, my goodness, I didn’t expect to see a fetus,’ and then change her mind. She knows she’s pregnant.”
Imagine if restrictions of this sort were passed for different services. Let’s take getting your driver’s license for example.
Cars are death machines on wheels. In 1998, nearly 42,000 people were killed in traffic crashes, and another 3.2 million were injured, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Now imagine you have to make two trips to the DMV. (Waiting times at abortion clinics are much longer and obviously more traumatic than waiting at the DMV, but many Americans can relate to the dread they feel at even the mention of the DMV.) You wait and you wait and you wait, just to get to the front desk, and the friendly DMV associate tells you, “here’s some information about driving a motor vehicle, now wait 24 hours and come back.”
America would have a fit. But since this law only causes undue burden on pregnant women (not men, the second party involved in unwanted pregnancies), it’s okay.
Let me be clear. Women don’t waltz into abortion clinics. Women don’t come to an abortion clinic before they have heavily considered all of their options. Abortion isn’t fun. Women don’t become pregnant just so they can have an abortion. No one expects or wants to have an abortion.
Women will wait for 24 hours after their sonogram to have an abortion. They will sign extra forms, even listen to belittling details of the fetus they carry. This unnecessary medical information was passed to deter women from pregnancy, but it’s not the right tactic.
Passing legislation that addresses outcomes of an undesirable behavior is not the way to resolve the behavior. The right tactic is trying to reduce unintended pregnancies before they happen. But even if every sexually active woman has access to birth control, and used it consistently and correctly (assuming that’s the route you would take to prevent unintended pregnancies) the need for safe abortion will never be eliminated.
Adding petty restrictions such as medically unnecessary information and waiting periods is a disgrace to women’s intelligence, their will, and their ability to make choices for their family. 

Volunteer at Inside Books Project

Don't forget to come volunteer with Social Work Council tonight at Inside Books Project! Contact me at for more info, or if you would like to carpool with us!

Nicholas Kristof Lecture

Nicholas Kristof, one of the authors of Half the Sky, will be speaking tomorrow evening at the LBJ Library.

Cecile Richards Speaking at Planned Parenthood Rally Friday

Just a heads up! Cecile Richards, the President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, will be speaking on the LBJ Lawn at 2pm on Friday. Here is a short blurb about the event:

Birth control opponents in Congress are trying to take health care benefits away from working women and students. Come stand up for women’s health-- show Congress that birth control matters to you!
Virtually all women use birth control.  It’s preventive health care, as well as an economic issue, helping women plan and space their families.
Join us on Friday, February 17th from 2 to 3 pm for a rally in support of making birth control affordable -- All women deserve access to contraception, without a co-pay, and no matter where they work. Birth control is the single most common prescription that young and middle-age women require. Birth control use is nearly universal in the United States with nearly Ninety-nine percent of women using birth control at some point in their lives.
Stand up for women’s health! Join St. Edward’s Student Activist Shelby Alexander and special guest, Planned Parenthood Federation of America CEO Cecile Richards at 2pm on the LBJ Lawn to let our elected officials know that birth control matters to us!

Here is a link to the event on Facebook. 

Follow me on Twitter!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

SWC News, Thoughts on Komen, and Being a Healthy Sexuality Peer Educator


Denise helped me start t-shirt sales this week for Social Work Council. So far, so good! You can still pick one up Monday-Thursday from 9am-11am for 12 bucks in the School of Social Work.

Monday night we had a Social Work Council meeting, and I registered a whopping 10 people to  vote. I need to reevaluate my plan so that I can help more people register!

We also discussed Project 2012. Social Work Council will be volunteering at Project 2012 February 25 at River City Youth Foundation during the morning shift. If you want to be grouped with us, put UTSWC in the organization column when you sign up.

In the meantime, think about volunteering at Inside Books Project with me next Sunday! I changed the date because everyone wanted to watch the Super Bowl.

I also left Whole Woman's Health on Monday after I found out my beloved boss would no longer be there. Since my "internship" was over, I was no longer allowed to observe counseling. I was still allowed to audit, but there wasn't much room to grow until I complete my degree. Plus, working at an abortion clinic wasn't as empowering as I had imagined. I would rather be doing something to prevent unintended pregnancies. Don't get me wrong, I still believe safe abortion should be accessible; I just think I would be happier if I could do more to prevent someone having to make/go through with that decision. So now I will be volunteering on Fridays with Planned Parenthood instead.


I had another meeting with the girls from Voices for Reproductive Justice. They have a lot of great ideas, and I'm excited to be a part of it.

I look forward to some of the guest speakers they want to have, including Sharmila Rudrappa and Sarah Weddington

Liz also had an idea for our shirts: she's going to make our logo a Longhorn that looks like a uterus, reminding me of this great passage in Tina Fey's Bossypants.


Anyway, January 31 was also the day that Susan G. Komen decided to pull grant funding from Planned Parenthood. What a public relations disaster... turning breast cancer into a partisan issue over abortion.

Komen created a new rule that prohibits funding an organization that is under formal investigation by the government. Planned Parenthood was the only group out of over 2,000 that fell into this category. Creating rules like this is dangerous, as it gives government officials the opportunity to open investigations against organizations they don't agree with.

Several board members of SGK resigned after they learned of the rule in December, most notably Mollie Williams, their top public-health official.

Karen Handel, SGK's new Vice President for Public Policy, is a former Georgia gubernatorial candidate who has said she is "pro-life and does not support the mission of Planned Parenthood."

Anti-choice organizations celebrated this pulled funding, donating $1,000,000 to Komen after the news broke. 

Planned Parenthood also raised money. According to CBS, they have raised $3,000,000 between Tuesday and Friday.

On Friday, facing public scrutiny, SGK reversed it's decision, and announced they would reconsider funding grants for Planned Parenthood. Nancy Brinker, Komen's founder said that SGK wanted to provide grants to groups that provide mammograms. Planned Parenthood conducts breast screenings and mammogram referrals.

At first, Komen lost Planned Parenthood supporters, but by reversing their decision (well, now they will "consider" grants to PP), have they lost Right to Life supporters? What about all of those anti-choicers that donated A MILLION dollars after announcing they were defunding Planned Parenthood cancer screenings?

Oh yeah, and then there is this, just in the nick of time: 


I have two classes that I have to do community action projects for. In my Communities class, we were assigned groups: I was assigned to "poverty." It felt too broad and overwhelming, but we decided to focus on low-income single mothers. In my Social Justice class we got to pick our groups, so my group will be researching unintended pregnancies (exciting for me, since that is what I'm really interested in).


I taught my second MOC! And I got more pictures!

These are the visual aids we use. FUN.

These are the topics we cover when you come to an MOC!

I felt more comfortable teaching this one since I had been through the process before. Excited to do this for another year!

Afterwords, I called to schedule interviews with someone from: Section 8 housingTrinity Center, and MAP for my low-income single mothers CAP. Pretty anxious to hear back from each of them...I hope I don't blow my interviews with them. Any (serious) tips for interviewing besides researching the org/person before you meet?

Then it was time for Senate appropriations. Senate appropriates money to student organizations twice a semester to fund academic endeavors. It's really long, but as a Financial Director you get to learn about a lot of events and even student orgs you didn't know about. Then you get to help decide how much funding each of those orgs gets.

There is another round coming up on February 16 if you are part of a student org that needs monetary help with an event.

Well, I think that's it. Check out this link if you are a SW student and need a laugh.

Follow me on Twitter!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Voter Registration, Being a Healthy Sexuality Peer Educator, and Speaking at City Hall


At our first Social Work Council meeting of the semester, I received a great response when I proposed to do a voter registration at our next meeting (this Monday, January 30). So I had a reason to go down to the County Tax Office to pick up my first batch of voter registration cards!

You can see here that I also picked up some walk away cards, so if you can't attend the meeting you can still register.

At this meeting we talked about the need for more Service Projects. I contacted Inside Books Project, and I am inviting people to volunteer Sunday, February 5th from 8pm-11pm with me. Please think about volunteering 3 measly hours of your time for a great cause!

One last SWC pitch... we will start t-shirt sales Monday-Thursday from 9am-11am. They are $12 each, payable by cash or check. The shirts are burnt orange and say "Texas Social Work" on the front and have a large Longhorn on the back. HELP OUT SWC and buy a shirt!


I taught my firstMethods of Contraception class. Only two girls came, but it was still an interesting experience. Ladies have to take this class in order to be prescribed birth control at the University Health Clinic (males are still welcome). One of the girls was on her phone the whole time, and did not accept the free condom packs we hand out at the end. It was such a novel experience for me, this whole not being excited about free condoms. After spending a whole semester with peer educators thrilled about sex it was just really interesting. There is a stigma in America that carrying condoms makes you a whore instead of an educated, prepared young adult. (Really, I can't speak for why she wasn't interested. I'm just saying, she was in an MOC; I presume she is sexually active if she wants birth control from our clinic.) Here are some of the posters we use. I hope next time I teach one I can get a picture of all the cool models of vaginas and contraceptives we get to use.


I was the final signature for getting the UT Student Organization "Voices for Reproductive Justice" off the ground. My new friend from voter registration, Liz, who started the VRJ idea, asked me if I was going to Austin City Council to speak out against Crisis Pregnancy Centers.

I had been getting tons of e-mails ALL week from Planned Parenthood and NARAL about coming to City Council to speak out against CPCs. The community outreach coordinator from PP, Dru, sent me a personal e-mail asking. I HATE public speaking as many people do. I sent back an e-mail with something along the lines of, "I've never done this it's scary are they going to talk back to me waaaaahhhhh." She assured me that I would only have to speak for a few minutes and that would be that. I didn't respond.

Instead, I waited until I got home to call my mom. I told her I don't agree with CPCs, but that I was scared to speak! She inquired about what the issue with CPCs is and as I told her I felt more confident. I mean really CPCs are a big waste of public money, funding a fear mongering ideology. After this my mom's response was the best and I will never forget it. She said, "If you believe in what you're saying, you're going to fucking blow them away." THANKS MOM!

But then I didn't want to go again. It's easier to SAY you're going to do something, but actually doing it is quite a bit different. Then Liz asked me on the spot on Thursday... I said I wasn't sure. She called me again and said I should come. So I did!

I wrote out a speech in my car and drove my ass down to Austin City Hall.

When I got there, I saw Dru. The first thing she said was, "We have enough speakers, but still sign in." I said, "Whoa you asked me to speak and now I want to!" (Surprising to me that I felt that way.)

The video isn't on YouTube so I can't upload it here, but here is the link. 

I think the whole dialogue is really interesting, but I start speaking at 26:48 if you don't have an hour.

There is a nervous laugh, and maybe not the strongest use of pauses, but it was my first time speaking politically! I did it! Woo! Thanks Dru, Liz, and especially to my beautiful mother. I got a lot of compliments just getting back to my seat. Afterwords, Dru and the rep from Jane's Due Process congratulated me, and that felt awesome.
These are the girls from VRJ, Megan and Liz from left to right. Look at me, smiling like a goofball.

All in all it was a great experience, and I expect myself to do it again. 

Before You Leave: 

I want to direct you to my friend's son's first activism project. Check out the link for more information about how you can help people in Haiti, and encourage this caring young kid's advocacy. 

Follow me on Twitter!