In an effort to combat anti-abortion laws, two UTRGV students are helping break abortion stigma in the RGV by hosting an #AbortionSpeakOut event.

Ofelia Alonso and Renee Rivas are organizers with the 1 in 3 Campaign, a project from Advocates for Youth, an advocacy group dedicated to sex education.

“The 1 in 3 Campaign is a grassroots effort to uplift abortion stories and end the stigma and shame around it,” Alonso of 1 in 3 said. “We want to start a new conversation about abortion by telling our stories on our own terms.” According to the organizers, the statistic “1 in 3” highlights the likelihood that someone they know has had or will have an abortion.

This isn’t the first time that Alonso and Rivas pair up to work to de-stigmatize abortion in the RGV. In the Fall 2017 semester, Alonso and Rivas worked on a campaign known as “#ExposeFakeClinics.”

“Last semester, we organized an #ExposeFakeClinics digital campaign and an on-campus tabling,” Alonso shared. The 1 in 3 organizers also organized protests at the McAllen Pregnancy Center and the Brownsville New Life Pregnancy Center, two anti-abortion state-funded groups known as Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) that are infamous for using fear-mongering tactics to force people out of receiving an abortion.

Alonso and Rivas believe that the CPCss contribute heavily to the stigma surrounding abortion. The tactics they use stem from religious extremism, according to the two organizes. Additionally, the services they provide are often not performed by medical professionals. However, because they base their facts on these false and extremist views, people are led to believe that abortion is “wrong” and, in a lot of cases, illegal altogether, which is false.

“These protests were meant to expose these establishments because they use state money to trick people who are seeking an abortion,” said Alonso.

The work Alonso and Rivas have done to #ExposeFakeClinics has created shockwaves across the RGV and inspired them continue working towards an abortion positive climate, such as the RGV Abortion Speakout.
“The Abortion Speakout is meant to be a space for people to share their abortion stories openly, OUT LOUD, and unapologetically,” Rivas shared. “We often hear abortion being talked about in very negative and stigmatizing ways that can be harmful to anyone who has had an abortion or is contemplating having one. We will…read [other] stories from the 1 in 3 booklet, but [will] seek to center the 956 and build community through storytelling.”

While the RGV Abortion Speakout is primarily a storytelling opportunity, community members will also be able to display art or poetry that aligns with reproductive justice.

Additionally, in an effort to continue to express the need for reproductive justice, Rivas and Alonso are also putting together a Zine, a collective publication on any range of topics usually utilized as a means of telling a story or sharing ideas.

“We’re looking for submissions of art of any kind, poetry, short stories, essays, photos/ photo essays, quotes, and any content related to people’s experiences who have had an abortion, show support for abortion access, immigrant justice, racial justice, queer justice, and any other issues that interfere with someone’s right to live in the world freely,” Rivas shared.

Storytelling is a powerful medium for expression and has the power to create change at all levels. As a way to strengthen the voices of these stories, Alonso and Rivas are combining the strength of storytelling and are connecting a wide array of art from the community.

“The intention of the zine is to publish stories, art, [ideas], and to simply document people’s experiences surrounding abortion and other issues,” Rivas said.

Ultimately, Alonso and Rivas intend to use the stories and art that will be shared at the speakout as a tool to tell anti-abortion legislators that abortion restrictions negatively affect people and that people who get abortions should be the ones on the frontlines of these conversations.

The RGV Abortion Speak Out is set for Monday, April 23, 2018 at 8:30PM at Yerberia Cultura in McAllen, Texas. “Stories from the RGV: Abortion Speak Out” is a project brought to you by the 1 in 3 Campaign and URGE (Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity).