Austin Women's Health Center Blog&Inspiration

The Power of Stories: The Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity’s Reproductive Justice Awards 2019

November 5, 2019
lililth fund

Join Lilith Fund and other Reproductive Justice advocates in Austin on October 25th, as they celebrate the Power of Stories at their annual Reproductive Justice Awards! Tickets can be purchased here with various sponsorships available— and only $25 if you self-identify as a student, young professional, or activist!

This year, Lilith Fund will be honoring The Afiya Center — the only Black-led reproductive justice organization in North Texas — for their work in uplifting Black voices. Representative Sheryl Cole D-Austin is also being honored for sponsoring Rosie’s Law this past legislative session (a bill which would have expanded Medicaid coverage to include abortion in Texas.) Renee Bracey Sherman — the Senior Public Affairs Manager at the National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF) — was instrumental in developing We Testify, the abortion storytelling leadership program of NNAF, and will be sharing her insight and expertise as Keynote Speaker!

What Is Reproductive Justice?

The term “Reproductive Justice” (RJ) was invented in 1994, after a group of Black women “recognized that the women’s rights movement, led by and representing the middle class and wealthy white women, could not defend the needs of women of color and other marginalized women and trans* people.” Formed just a few years later in 1997, SisterSong — a women-of-color led RJ organization that focuses on improving policies, and dismantling oppressive systems that affect marginalized communities on an institutional level — defined Reproductive Justice as the “human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.” According to SisterSong, RJ uses a framework that “combines reproductive rights and social justice.” They state that while abortion access is difficult, “women of color and other marginalized women also often have difficulty accessing: contraception, comprehensive sex education, STI prevention and care, alternative birth options, adequate prenatal and pregnancy care, domestic violence assistance, adequate wages to support our families, safe homes, and so much more.”

The Honorees – The Afiya Center & Rep. Sheryl Cole D-Austin

The Afiya Center is the only Reproductive Justice organization in North Texas that is led by all Black women. They explain their mission as “to serve Black women and girls by transforming their relationship with their sexual and reproductive health through addressing the consequences of reproduction oppression.”

(Photo taken from Dallas News)

Last month, The Afiya Center put up billboards in Dallas that say “abortion is self-care” following the installation of anti-choice billboards a few months earlier — “in a predominantly black neighborhood to shame and stigmatize women who choose abortion,” said Marsha Jones, co-founder and Executive Director of The Afiya Center. Jones shared on Dallas News that in “a reproductive-justice framework, self-care is the radical notion that black women give themselves permission to honor their lives and control their own destinies.” 

(Photo shared from Austin Statesman – Rep. Sheryl Cole D-Austin, left, Zoraima Pelaez, Lilith Fund Board Member, right)

Earlier this year, The Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity worked with Representative Sheryl Cole to expand Medicaid coverage in Texas to include abortion. Named after Rosie Jimenez, a young Chicana single mother in McAllen — and the first person known to die as a result of the Hyde Amendment enacted in 1976 — Rep. Cole authored HB 895, or Rosie’s Law, last legislative session with the support of local progressive organizations. In a statement provided by Lilith Fund, Rep. Cole said “I am proud to file HB 895, known as Rosie’s Law. I will fight for justice, including reproductive justice, and I believe that everyone deserves access to healthcare.” While Rosie’s Law didn’t pass this year, you can continue showing your support until it does by clicking here

Keynote Speaker – Renee Bracey Sherman

Renee Bracey Sherman is “the Beyoncé of Abortion Storytelling. She’s a Chicago-born, midwest-raised activist, writer and reproductive justice activist committed to the visibility and representation of people who have had abortions in media and pop culture.” As the Senior Public Affairs Manager at the National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF), Renee was instrumental in developing We Testify — an abortion storytelling leadership program of NNAF — where she’s worked to uplift the voices of Black womxn and other marginalized communities who are disproportionately affected by restrictions when accessing reproductive healthcare. 

In September 2019, NNAF launched the latest cohort of We Testify (WT): We Testify Texas. Meet Jessica — a WT Texas abortion storyteller representing The Afiya Center — below! And click here to read more from the latest cohort!


(Photo and text from We Testify)

Why are you sharing your story? 

I’m sharing my story because it’s important for people who choose to have abortions without some elaborate reason or extenuating medical conditions to know that it’s okay to choose what’s best for them. I want to do what I can to ensure that abortion stigma is a thing of the past. My excitement for eradicating abortion stigma is at an all-time high even though I’m pregnant.

What do you wish other people knew about seeking an abortion?

I wish people knew that there are resources available and you don’t have to continue a pregnancy if that’s your choice. I am carrying a child currently that, if there were resources available to me, I wouldn’t be pregnant.

Austin Women’s Health Center At The RJ Awards

Austin Women’s Health Center is a proud sponsor of Lilith Fund’s Reproductive Justice Awards 2019! As one of our partner funding organizations, the financial assistance they provide makes abortion access a reality for many who visit our clinic. 

We’re excited to celebrate the Reproductive Justice advocates in our community who continue to center the voices of those most affected by oppressive systems and policies. We invite you to do the same, and hope to see you there! Can’t make it? You can still buy a ticket for someone else to go! Just email [email protected] letting them know you’ve purchased a ticket in solidarity. You can also click here to show your support by making a donation to The Afiya Center.