GBTB - DFY Caroline Duble | Abortion In Texas

Can You Get An Abortion In Texas? Are We Even Allowed To Talk About This? Avow Gives Us the Latest

 

Caroline Duble and Nneka Iheanacho of Avow, an unapologetic abortion advocacy organization, speak to us about the state of abortion care. In Texas, abortion is completely banned with the exception of a life or death scenario with the pregnant person and there is no rape or incest exception. To be clear, providers are criminalized, and the charge could be a first-degree felony. Beyond these concerns, there are also the less obvious effects of increased surveillance and the general fear created by the current laws.

A reminder: an abortion is a procedure you can have when you no longer want to be pregnant and there are two kinds: medication and procedural.

Good bills: HB12 which extends Medicaid to one-year post pregnancy and HB300 which removed sales tax on menstrual care items and adult diapers.

Nneka gives a great rundown of the empowered work happening on the local level to support vulnerable communities.

Bad bills: Came in the form of budget items. For instance, an increase was given to crisis pregnancy centers that are fake clinics and this funding now stands at $140 million of our state budget. SB24 codifies alternatives to abortion, and it’s now called Texas Thriving Families. HB17 reduces the local control of district attorneys. HB1575 establishes a screening process for collecting data from pregnant people. Finally, all the anti-LGBTQ legislation was bad and more can be heard in an earlier episode from Ricardo Martinez of Equality Texas.

If you’re wondering how to help, plug into local groups. It can be as simple as signing up for updates so you are aware of what’s happening.

 

Resource:

https://needabortion.org/

Watch the episode here

 

Listen to the podcast here

 

Can You Get An Abortion In Texas? Are We Even Allowed To Talk About This? Avow Gives Us the Latest

We are so thankful that you’re here with us, whether you are a regular reader or a new reader. We talk about Texas politics. If you want to find out more, read the past shows and sign up for our newsletter at our website. We give great recaps of the show in our weekly newsletters and on our website. In this show, we’re going to be talking about the 88th Legislative Session, specifically abortion rights, abortion healthcare, and what happened this past session but also looking back a few years beyond that because a lot has happened in the last couple of years regarding abortion care. We want to know more. We have two amazing guests here with us, Caroline and Nneka. We want to kick off by saying hello. How are you?

I am good. I’m Caroline Duble. I use she/her pronouns. I’m excited to be here. Thanks for having us.

I’m excited to be here. I’m Nneka. I use she/her pronouns. I’m also excited and ready to dig into these questions. There are some good ones. I’m excited about it.

Thank you. We’re excited to learn more. This is an area where people have assumptions, but they don’t know the full story. We’re excited to give that to folks because we ourselves in this very show have had experiences where we’re like, “That’s the law?” We might have some of those moments for ourselves and our audiences. We are glad to have you here because you’re the pros, and you can set the record straight. Let’s start by talking about Avow. What is Avow? Why was it created?

I can kick us off. Avow has been around for over 40 years. We started as a state affiliate of NARAL Pro-Choice America, which is a national abortion rights organization, but when it was clear that we needed to take a bolder approach to address the unique needs of Texans, we decided to form our organization called Avow in January 2021. We chose that name because to avow means to declare openly, bluntly, and without shame. We are a political advocacy org that exists to destigmatize abortion and ensure unrestricted and free abortion access for all Texans for any reason they may have. We do narrative change work, state and local policy work, electoral work, and community education. We engage with the state legislature.

Let’s get basic. What is the current law in Texas regarding abortion?

You would be surprised how many people do not know this, but abortion is completely banned at any stage of pregnancy, and it is also criminalized with no exceptions for rape or incest. The only exception is a life-or-death scenario for the pregnant person, but even that is unclear when a doctor can invoke that exception. How we got here was that in September 2021, Texas was the first state living in a post-war world when the six-week ban and the bounty hunter law went into effect.

That law stopped nearly all of our legal in-clinic abortions in the state because most people don’t even realize they’re pregnant at six weeks, but then soon after in June 2022, the Dobbs decision came down, and that allowed states to ban and restrict abortion. That’s when our trigger law went into effect, which was also passed in 2021. It says, “In the event that Roe versus Wade falls, this law is triggered to go into effect,” which is exactly what happened. It not only bans but criminalizes providing abortions at any stage of pregnancy. There are no legal in-clinic abortions happening in the state. That is where we are.

Can we talk about what criminalizing looks like?

That looks like any other thing that’s criminalized. Police can arrest doctors who provide abortions. It’s a first-degree felony in Texas. You can go to jail for many years if you are found guilty of violating this law, which would mean providing an abortion. To be clear, the law criminalizes providers. That means the doctors and anyone who helps someone access an abortion. It does not criminalize the patient themselves. That doesn’t mean that people who are accessing abortion are not facing more surveillance, criminalization, and fear than they were before this law.

GBTB - DFY Caroline Duble | Abortion In Texas
Abortion In Texas: Abortion laws in Texas do not criminalize the patients themselves. But that doesn’t mean that people who are accessing abortion are not facing more surveillance, criminalization, and fear than they were before this law.

 

I’m thinking too we should maybe take one more step back before we get into this. Can you define what an abortion is?

I’ll talk about it as if I were talking to my nieces and nephews when they ask me what I do. Abortion is simple. It’s a procedure that you can have when you no longer want to be pregnant or when you’re pregnant, and you don’t want to be. There are medication abortions where you use two pills, Mifepristone and Misoprostol, to induce a miscarriage. There’s also a procedural abortion where you visit a doctor. There are several different methods of procedural abortion.

How is this playing out? It sounds like you cannot get an abortion in Texas with the exception of the health of the mother or the life of the mother. What’s this looking like? There are some lawsuits because there are a lot of gray zones. What do you hear from Texans regarding this issue?

An article came out. It reported that there were 10,000 additional births that were unwanted pregnancies where people wanted to access abortion and were not able to in the state. When you think about that number, that is 10,000 people or families who are in a different situation than they wanted to be in and who weren’t able to access the care that they needed. There are still people accessing abortion in the state. There are people traveling to go to Colorado or New Mexico or to visit family in California or New York to access abortion care in-clinic. There are also tons of people safely self-managing their abortion with pills that they access online. There are also people who are being forced to carry these pregnancies to term.

Let’s talk a little bit about the legislative session that ended in May 2023. What was the conversation around reproductive rights during this past session? Were any bills passed? I don’t feel like I heard a lot about this specific topic. What was the conversation?

It was a quiet session when you think about all the media that happened a couple of years ago when we saw SB 8 come to fruition. In comparison, 2023 was quiet. Even for people that are doing work in this space, it felt quiet. There were a couple of good bills that passed this past session. It wasn’t a complete waste of time. There were a couple of good things that came out of it. One of those bills is HB 12, which is House Bill 12, which expanded Medicaid coverage to one year postpartum. It’s extending that coverage to people who have recently given birth. Medicaid is now being extended to a full year.

HB 300, which is House Bill 300, removed the sales tax on menstrual products, diapers for adults and children, as well as baby wipes, breast milk pumping products, baby bottles, and maternity clothes. All of those had removals. We saw the removal of sales tax on those items. Those were some of the good things that came out of this past session.

Thanks for mentioning those. I forgot about the period tax and how we don’t have to pay tax on these necessary products anymore, which is great. Why did that take so long? That’s okay. We’re moving forward. Can you help us understand why it was so important to extend that coverage from six months to one year for others?

When you think about the people who are going to be most impacted and the people who are in need of certain services, extending any lifeline to those groups is going to be impactful and necessary. When you look at the demographic of people who are being covered by Medicaid, Medicaid already has a tight group of people that can access it because there are so many restrictions in place of who can get Medicaid and what’s covered and what’s not covered.

Extending that even for additional six months is life-changing for a lot of people who are in need of care because six months after giving birth, you’re not completely free from everything and you’re good to go, especially when we’re looking at maternal health of Black women as well. Some things can happen outside of those six months. Complications can arise after six months. They can happen within a year.

What does coverage look like for people who can’t access that care but are still in need of it, and the six-month mark has already passed? It gives people who are already having so many other ways in which their lives are being pushed, pulled, politicized, and attacked more breathing room to be able to access the care they need without thinking about that ticking clock of six months being the thing that can stop them from getting the help that they need.

We are also very happy that this extension happened. There are a lot of groups that were behind that push. It’s progress.

It reminds me of the SNAP benefits conversation that we had with every Texan about how restrictive and how difficult it is to access these resources. It’s wild to me.

The legislature is statewide, but can we talk about the local level and how local communities are supporting pregnant people?

This is my favorite thing to talk about. It’s probably because I’m biased as an organizer, but I love talking about what we’re doing on a local level because it takes things out of the big picture of national. What are things that can happen within your community and neighborhood? I’m not just talking about people who work in repro but people who have had to depend on community support and community building. A lot of us are doing what our people have always historically had to do when a state does what it does, which is enact violence and also harm people with the laws and policies that they’re passing.

We are taking that responsibility for each other. We are ensuring that the needs of our community are being met outside what the state is deeming that we need or is deeming that we should be able to have. One of the ways in which that is showing up for people who need to access an abortion is through the many amazing practical support orgs that we have in the state of Texas. Practical support orgs are organizations that assist with all the other things that go with having an abortion outside of the actual cost of the procedure.

This can be transportation because we live in Texas. You can’t get an abortion here in Texas. We’re helping to pay for flights to go out of the state. This can be covering hotel costs because now that you’re leaving the state, you need somewhere to stay. Sometimes you can’t fly back immediately after having a procedure. You’re going to have to stay overnight. They cover the hotel costs. Most of the people who are having an abortion already have a kid or a child. We’re helping to cover childcare.

We’re thinking about the loss of wages. When we think about the people who are going to be most impacted, it’s going to be people who are also low-income. It’s not enough to pay for someone to travel somewhere or take care of their housing, but they’re also missing out on a full day’s worth of wages or two days’ worth of wages. How can we help ease some of those things, not necessarily saying it’s a burden, and some of the obstacles to receiving care?

They’re providing a multitude of things, including repro kits that can include contraception and then also some of the other items like childcare, covering lost wages, and things of that nature. As far as the local policy level, we’re working with our community, partners, and other issue orgs. Sometimes when it comes to social justice issues, it’s wanting to treat it as a silo, “This is happening in this one group, not to the other,” but we are all connected.

Martin Luther King Jr said it best, “Our destinies are intertwined. We can’t do one without the other.” It has been a lot of organizing within other issue areas to bring light to the intersection of what’s going on and how the hate and attacks we’re seeing on trans kids are as related to abortion and the bans on abortion as we’re seeing with climate change and mass incarceration. All of those things are connected.

The hate and attacks on trans kids are just as related to bans on abortion, climate change, and mass incarceration. Share on X

We are calling on our local elected officials to be accountable for the promises they made on their campaign trails. We’re calling them to do what they said they were going to do. We’re not asking for more. We’re saying, “Do what you were supposed to do. Serve the people you’re supposed to represent while also being proactive with pushing our pro-abortion policy.” We’re not waiting on elected officials to see us but making sure that our voices are heard regardless of what they’re going to do. Those are some of the things that are coming to mind.

That’s so great. I’m having a question bubble up regarding the new laws, which are confusing. It is legal for Avow to help people get an abortion even though you can’t get one in Texas. There’s a lot of confusion about providing information to people. We can do that.

Avow is a political advocacy organization. We don’t do any direct service at all, regardless of what the law is. We are out here advocating and doing lobbying work, policy change, and things like that. It is still legal to have an abortion somewhere that’s not in Texas. Practical support organizations can support people who are accessing care out of Texas. It is illegal to help someone access an abortion in the state of Texas.

GBTB - DFY Caroline Duble | Abortion In Texas
Abortion In Texas: Practical support organizations can help people who want to access abortion outside Texas.

 

Thank you. That cleared it up.

There’s such a climate around all of these issues of confusion. It often seems like the confusion is the point so that there’s this chilling effect so that nobody tries because you’re so scared of the repercussions. That clarifies and helps. I had another thing that was bubbling up for me. In the beginning in the way that you were framing everything, I realized something. I’m wondering if other people are having the same little tug. Abortion is often presented to us in such a moralistic way that I wasn’t hearing that in your language. I was a little like, “I’m not sure what to ask.” I’m guessing your approach is medical. This is a healthcare issue. This isn’t a moral issue. I’m still catching up in terms of that framework.

That’s an interesting point. I do think it’s often presented to us as something that’s emotionally charged, a difficult decision, and morally complicated. When you look at people who are having abortions, that’s not usually the reality. Many people have abortions. It’s so common. Every single person in Texas knows and loves someone who’s had an abortion. If 1 in 4 people who can get pregnant are having them, then whether you know it or not, you’re surrounded by people who are having abortions. For me at least, I always think of this as a reality of our reproductive lives. It is not complicated. Some people need colonoscopies. Some people don’t until they’re a certain age.

It’s a regular part of life. It’s something that we need to take our judgment out of because we don’t know what people are going through. If someone has a moral belief around abortion, I fully support them to exercise their moral beliefs on their body, but when we are exercising our moral beliefs on other people’s bodies, we’re moving out of this empathetic state policy. We’re moving out of a country and a state that supports people and moving into a judgmental, religious, and fascist theocracy, which I don’t want to live in. That’s why I am cut and dry. I’m also on the political side of things. In general, I speak like that, but that was an interesting point. Thank you.

Thanks, Nichole, for taking us down that road because abortion is an interesting thing. It’s so loaded. It’s interesting to sort through the different approaches to it.

It feels like an important unpacking, honestly. It makes way for different conversations that are not charged. As we watch these cultural wars being waged, it feels like such an unburdening and a relief, honestly, to remove that part because it isn’t restrictive. Anybody can still have their beliefs, morals, thoughts, and values around these things. This is about putting those on others. That is the issue.

As we have learned, our legislature likes to mix in religion sometimes. With that, let’s segue into the bad and the 88th Legislative Session. Any updates on bad bills that were passed?

Lots of bad bills were passed. Unfortunately, an every-two-year routine that we do as a state is to pass a lot of bad bills. Some of the worst, I’ll pull out. One is around the Alternatives to Abortion program. In the past, it has been a budget item. This is something that’s debated in the budget process early on in session, not a bill that’s passed later, but there was an increase in funding for that program. There are $140 million of our tax dollars going toward this program. This program funds fake clinics, often called crisis pregnancy centers. These “crisis pregnancy centers” are often when you see the billboard that’s like, “Pregnant? Need help?”

If you’ve ever gone to Planned Parenthood here in Houston or any Planned Parenthood in the state, there’s usually a bus or a little shopping center placed across the street that is a fake abortion clinic that will offer you free ultrasounds, but when you go in there, you will not receive medical care. There will be people in scrubs. They will not be trained medical professionals. They will proselytize you and often manipulate even lie to patients about where they’re at in their pregnancy or whether or not they can access abortion to try to stop them from having abortions.

GBTB - DFY Caroline Duble | Abortion In Texas
Abortion In Texas: Crisis pregnancy centers will proselytize, manipulate, and lie to patients about where they are at in their pregnancy or whether they can access abortion.

 

There are a lot of brave storytellers with our partners that we testify who have told stories about some of the literal trauma they have experienced in those fake clinics. Texas is now funding them at $140 million every two years for the biennium. We have increased that program steadily over the last decade. It’s a huge part of our budget. Another bill related to that is SB 24. That codified the Alternatives to Abortion program and changed the name to Thriving Texas Families. They’re trying to do a rebrand on Alternatives to Abortion. It’s something to watch out for. Thriving Texas Families is not a safe space.

Thank you. This is my money and Nichole’s money.

It’s the conversations we have been having about education.

Imagine what Houston ISD could do with $140 million instead of having this random person state-appointed coming in, taking over, and taking away our vote. There are a few other bad bills.

This is good to know.

I’m the depressing one. Nneka has all the hope and the power around community organizing. I’m like, “There’s all this sad stuff.” HB 17, which is another House Bill, allows for a district attorney’s decision not to pursue the criminalization of abortion cases to qualify as official misconduct. After the trigger ban went into effect, providing abortions became a crime in Texas. A lot of district attorneys, as they have on many issues, said, “We’re not going to prioritize this.”

The Travis County District Attorney and the Dallas County District Attorney said, “We’re not going to be pursuing abortion-related crimes. That’s not our priority. We’re trying to keep people safe.” This bill will now allow the state to qualify those DAs as official misconduct. That can create a path for removal from office for district attorneys who do not enforce this law, which is frustrating.

This is an important moment to bring up how much we have to learn from people who have been fighting surveillance and criminalization for decades, specifically Black women and the Black Lives Matter movement, on a number of issues around marijuana, simply walking down the street, and being Black. They have created so much language for us to talk about how to fight criminalization and surveillance. This is also being applied to pregnant people. We have a lot to learn. It’s important we follow their lead because they have been working on this for a long time.

There is so much to learn from the Black Lives Matter movement which has been fighting surveillance and criminalization for decades. Share on X

There are two other quick bills I’ll talk about. HB 1575 establishes a screening process that requires those “crisis pregnancy centers” to question pregnant folks and collect their data. That’s a surveillance data security issue that I have concerns about. There’s all of the anti-trans stuff that happened this session. You had Ricardo from Equality Texas on who probably dug deep into that, but it has been awful to see. There was a ban on gender-reforming healthcare for young people in our state, which is a tragedy.

We have also heard a lot of our guests in this series talk about local control being pulled back by the state legislature. That rang a bell for me when you were talking about the district attorneys who we elect. That power is being pulled back from the people.

The levels of hypocrisy are pretty outrageous. The small government side of things is not for a small government. There’s so much government overreach. I’m speechless. The idea that they’re chipping away at local control, not even in little bits but in huge bits, is outrageous.

We’re going to forge ahead. This is our catchall, “This is what they talked about,” because we like to remind folks that our legislature does not meet very often. It’s every other year for 140 days to get everything done for Texans’ current needs, although we have been having a lot of special sessions. That’s that. Were there any moments that Avow was like, “What?” I’m sure there were many that come to mind.

There were many for sure. It’s one of those things where it’s an emoji more than an actual label. Pretty much all the anti-trans legislation is like, “Can we have a society collectively agree to leave the kids alone? Can we do that? Can we all agree that the kids should be left alone?” One of the more meh things that happened this past session was the exemption bill. That was passed by Representative Ann Johnson. It mostly relates to ectopic pregnancies and previable water breaks, but to be honest, the bill did not give what was needed.

She was trying to expand the definition of a medical emergency. Thus, abortion access was supposed to be expanded as well, but honestly, the whole bill was kept hush-hush and on a need-to-know basis. There were not a lot of public conversations about it. Even we in the repro community didn’t know about it until after it had passed. It showed us that their goal was never to push back and challenge extremism but instead to do the bare minimum and pretend that alleviated harm from the ban.

There are going to be people who might benefit from this exception, but the very few of us that know about it are not the exception to the ban. These exceptions are not solving the problem. They are still holding the ban. There is going to be an obscure section of the population that’s going to benefit from it, but the ban is still in place. The majority of people are still going to suffer at the hands of the ban. I hope that is a bit clearer. It was passed, but in reality, it still upholds the ban. At the end of the day, the ban causes harm. It’s a myth.

Confession. I didn’t know what an ectopic pregnancy was until I was 25. Can you tell us what that is and the other one you mentioned for anyone who might not know?

I probably couldn’t give a good medical answer on what an ectopic pregnancy is, but it’s a non-viable pregnancy.

Isn’t the egg implanted in the fallopian tubes? It hasn’t moved down.

The pregnancy is not in the uterus. The only thing I know about it is in the context of an abortion. To someone who takes medication or abortion pills and who has an ectopic pregnancy, nothing will happen. That’s a sign that it could be ectopic, and you need to go to the ER. I’m super not a doctor.

I mentioned that because wasn’t there a lawmaker or someone who was like, “Ectopic pregnancies can be viable.” They can’t.

They cannot. You can even visualize the body parts and know that’s not possible.

We can all agree that we have a lot of ignorance when it comes to reproductive health. I’m trying to get better at it myself. It leads to bad policies, sadly, when we don’t understand our bodies and how things work.

I highly recommend that you have a Texas doctor. There are two that come to mind, Dr. Kumar and Dr. Moayedi, who are both badass Texas abortion doctors who are no longer able to provide the best quality of care to their patients. They have been super involved with the organizations on the ground and connecting with us and helping us understand what we need to understand. She’s even come and did years ago an Abortion 101, “Here are the tools I use when I do an abortion.” There’s a lot of good knowledge in the community. I’m probably not the best person to answer that question.

Thank you. That is helpful. It’s anything we can do on the show to demystify these things. They feel less scary. Whatever is coming up in your head is this horrible thing. You take a pill and then another pill, and it’s done. We’re going to find them. Thank you for those recommendations. What is coming up next? How can Texans get involved in the abortion rights fight? It sounds like we’re pretty much at the bottom. We can only go up from here. What do we do to turn things around?

I like that. We should only go up from here. I’m going to use that. Some of the things that are coming to mind are plugging into local organizations that do advocacy around abortion, plugging into local abortion funds, and donating to local abortion funds. Around the time that SB 8 passed, and then we saw the Dobbs versus JWHO, which was a fifteen-week ban coming out of Mississippi, there was this influx of money toward Texas to meet the needs of what was going on. It was a reactive time.

People were like, “We want to donate,” but then as time passes, and we’re seeing that abortion is no longer an option in Texas, people are taking the money out of Texas even though people in Texas are still needing abortions. People are still getting abortions. Those things have not changed. It’s illegal in Texas. It did not stop people from needing to access an abortion.

I want to encourage people to fund their local abortion funds and also fund local practical support orgs. When I say orgs, I mean organizations. I keep forgetting to explain the shortened version of things. Fund those organizations. There is a phrase that was coined by the organization called Black Feminist Future. It’s called Being an Abortion Plug. What that means is that in your community within the people that you’re around, you can be the person that people can come to for resources.

GBTB - DFY Caroline Duble | Abortion In Texas
Abortion In Texas: Everyone should help fund their local abortion organizations and local practical support groups.

 

Someone is like, “I’m in Texas. I want to get an abortion. What do I do?” You can tell them about sites like NeedAbortion.org. That has a list of verified clinics that are outside of the state of Texas. That would be a better option for people who need to access care or if people are looking, “What’s a real clinic? How do I tell?” There are already some there. You can look at that list, and you will know, “These are trusted.”

There’s a section for the actual abortion fund, “I need to pay for it. How can I get help with that?” There’s a list of resources also. There’s legal help there. There are hotlines if you need to talk to someone or counseling. There are a lot of resources available on that site. You can do that yourself within your community. You don’t have to necessarily spend any money. If you’re not able or have the ability to offer physical services, that’s something that you can do also. You can be that person for people to come to. Tell them about Plan C pills and how to get medication for abortion. You can be that person to tell them about INeedAnA.com, which is great for people who do not live in the state of Texas.

That’s something you can do within your community. That doesn’t cost you anything. You would probably be surprised at how much of a help that can be for people who don’t know where to go or turn to because all the laws and language are so confusing. It’s done on purpose like that to keep us confused and keep us on defense and not thinking about proactive work.

Being a volunteer can be a bit tricky for some orgs. Even signing up for listservs and text messages is so helpful because you can get connected when actual action items come up. When it’s time to get out there, call a legislator, and participate in a rally or speak at a commissioner’s court, you can be updated on that through text messages and listservs. Mutual aid is where we all take responsibility for the people in our community. It’s more of a reciprocal thing, “I help you with your needs. You help me with my needs.” That’s how the community works.

There’s community organizing and education. We offer training, “Let’s talk about abortion. How do I talk about abortion in a way that’s not stigmatizing? How do I talk to my family about abortion? How do we start having those conversations?” Saying abortion out loud is one of the biggest things. Say abortion. Those who are opposed to abortion will say the word four times more than us. When I say us, I mean people who are in favor of abortion, which means that they control the narrative. They’re the ones controlling the narrative around abortion.

Those who oppose abortion say the world four times more than the people who support it. Therefore, they control the narrative around it. Share on X

When someone is picking up a newspaper, reading an article online, or watching TV, they’re four times more likely to hear someone who’s opposed to abortion saying the word abortion. For a lot of folks, that’s their first time interacting with even talking about abortion. It’s now on us as people who support abortion and are in favor of abortion to take back control of that narrative and the word abortion. Say abortion out loud. If you mean abortion, say abortion. Those are some things that you can do for sure.

That’s fantastic. There are so many things.

Do you want to be thinking about democracy? What are you thinking, Claire?

I’m thinking about democracy. I’m thinking about it a lot. I’m thinking about this moment in time. Let’s go to democracy. Before we get to what you think about democracy and how you would define it for yourselves, what do you think people can do who feel like giving up and who feel like the battle has been lost? You shared all those great resources, but beyond providing for this issue, what’s one thing someone can do to feel like they’re changing the narrative in Texas and moving us toward a more inclusive state?

First, breathe. When we’re looking at all the negative and messed up things that are constantly happening, we feel the need to constantly and rapidly respond and defend. We get stuck in that cycle. Exhaustion is what it leads to. The first thing is to breathe. Things that we’re seeing now did not happen overnight. They didn’t happen with one session. It was years of bad policy and no protection that led us to this point. First, take a breath. Let’s collect ourselves. Let’s not exhaust ourselves in this work because this work is not going to solve itself within a day or even within a year. It’s going to take time.

The main thing I like to tell people other than the ways in which you can get involved is that whatever you do does not have to be big. I am quoting Agents of SHIELD, the Marvel show, “The steps do not have to be big. They just have to move you in the right direction.” I tell people, “Don’t be overwhelmed. Don’t get yourself exhausted. Don’t feel like because horrible things are happening, you have to constantly respond and defend your right to live or exist in this world. Take a breath, regroup with your community, and go from there.”

That’s the biggest thing I tell people because this is long-term work. Cultural change work, narrative shift, and changing the way in which we even look at these issues outside of abortion, but all the issues that intersect and connect us are issues that this country has had since its inception. The idea that in a year or two they’re going to magically be solved is not realistic and not true. I always tell people, “Take a breath, regroup with the community, and then go from there.”

Figure out a place to start. It doesn’t matter where. It doesn’t matter how small that starting point is. Pick a spot, start there, and go from there. Include rest, laughter, joy, and love because I feel like sometimes those things are left out or not as appreciated as they should be. Rest, love yourself, provide empathy, and take your time with it. Do what makes the most sense for you and your community. Show up in a way that you and your community need you to show up and go from there.

Thank you, Nneka. As you’re saying that, I’m like, “Breathe. What’s that?”

That’s a beautiful response. I like to uplift that sentiment. I love the way that Nneka put that. It can be so small. It can be just asking your neighbor how they’re doing if they need any support. There are so many state-manufactured crises that we’re living under. You remember the freeze. You remember these hurricanes in Houston and these huge crises. That can create trauma. When it’s that bad, you can’t respond every time you see a call script on Instagram or when a bad thing is happening in the news. You alone can’t address every single issue that’s going to come up in the news.

One of the most powerful things that you can do is know the people around you and be willing to stick your neck out for them even if you don’t agree on every political issue. I’ve got neighbors who are not on the same side of this abortion issue as me, but when their daughter needed some Plan B, I helped them access it. You have to be there for people. I was specifically talking about Plan B, the emergency contraception.

That’s so great. As we wrap up, we like to think about democracy, which we love because we always try to give our audiences tools to utilize the power that’s on the table. A lot of times, we take it for granted. Can you share with us what democracy means to you when you hear this word?

For me, this is a tough one. Personally, it feels like true democracy has never been actualized in this country. There has never been equitable and easy access to voting. There have always been historic and massive systems of oppression that hinder people’s ability to get involved and have an impact in their community, especially young people, queer people, Black people, other people of color, indigenous folks, undocumented people who live here, pay taxes, breathe here, work here, and don’t have any say, and then people who don’t have access to funding.

The only people who have had democracy are wealthy White men for a lengthy amount of time. I want to reclaim that individual and collective power by being embedded in my community, knowing who my neighbors are, showing up for people whenever I can, moving closer to empathy than judgment, and allowing myself to be held accountable for my missteps without defensiveness.

Reclaim the individual and collective power by being embedded in your community. Know who your neighbors are, show up for people whenever you can, and move closer to empathy than judgment. Share on X

We are in such a mucky time. We’re all going to make so many mistakes, say the wrong thing, and not be aware that abortion is criminalized. There’s so much going on. It’s impossible to know everything, be perfect, and say everything right. Allow yourself to be in the community, be held accountable, fail forward, and say, “Now, I know. What can we do? I’m here to help.” Constantly have that energy and not get stuck up in shaming people.

You hear those talking points, “If you don’t vote, you don’t get a say.” What about all the people who can’t vote, or whom no one has ever talked to them about voting? Voting is not even possible because they’re existing under such trauma and poverty that the idea of reading the news, knowing when an election is, and showing up to vote feels like an impossible hill to climb. Moving out of some of the shaming stuff, getting honest, and being in the community with people is what it means to me.

Thanks, Caroline. How about you, Nneka?

I’m agreeing and echoing what everything Caroline is saying. I’m like, “Yes to everything.” What democracy means versus what I would like to see or what it would look like for me are also two different things that are going through my head. For me, how democracy would work and what it means would be what the definition you would say it is of a government that works for the people by the people, but for the reasons that Caroline listed, that’s not true. That’s not what our government looks like. It has never been reflective of the people that it’s supposed to serve and, to be honest, even with elections. I don’t feel like the elections are always representative of the majority of people and our values.

For me, what it would look like to have a true democracy would be within that definition to truly actualize the definition that we have not ever had the opportunity to do in this country. That’s to have a government where it works for us. I don’t want to go back and forth with the government. I don’t want to fight them. I don’t want to have to constantly call them out. I want both of us to call each other up. I want them to support us. That’s what I would love. For me, it’s not about a bigger government, a smaller government, or a government that looks like one party or the other. It’s one that works for the best interest of the people. That’s what it would mean to me to have a real democracy.

That’s great. Nichole, wrap it up for us.

How do we conclude this great conversation? I echo my definition. I’ve given it before. It’s a government of the people by the people. That sums it up. What an amazing thing it is to imagine that maybe out there, that can exist at some point. That’s why we’re here. That’s why we’re doing this. I love that both of you mentioned the community, especially at this time when we see so many efforts toward privatization and thinking about individual rights and freedoms. The antidote to that is valuing the community. That was awesome to hear both of you highlight that.

Thank you so much. Thank you for educating us. I learned something new as I suspected I would. Hopefully, our audiences did too. We appreciate it. Are there any shout-outs you want to do, “Follow us here.”

We’re on all the socials. We’re hip. We’re young. We’re on TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and Threads. I learned what that was. It’s all @AvowTexas. You can follow us everywhere. If there’s a social media site, we’re more than likely on it.

I did not know that we had Threads. I also don’t know what that is. I’m impressed. I need to know these things.

We all have a research project after this.

Thank you again, Nneka and Caroline. We appreciate it. We will be back with another show.

 

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