2022 2022 GCSW Alums Advocate for Reproductive Justice - University of Houston
Skip to main content

GCSW Alums Advocate for Reproductive Justice


July 20, 2022

(HOUSTON, TX) - The recent decision from the United States Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health has effectively returned the issue of abortion to the states, where in some states, it has become banned and a punishable offense to either aid or administer an abortion.

We spoke with Ana Rodriguez (MSW '14) and Stephanie Gomez (MPP/MSW '20) about what they and their organizations are doing in response to the decision and why they believe reproductive justice is a critical aspect of achieving social justice. 


Name: Ana Rodriguez, Campaigns Director with Lilith Fund and Texas Equal Access Funds
Graduation from the GCSW:
 MSW 2014

There have been increased measures to limit access to abortions across the country in the lead-up to a decision from the Supreme Court. How has the leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court affected your work at Rosie's Law and in the community?

The leaked decision didn't impact us in our day-to-day work. Until now, the reality is that we've been operating under a post-Roe reality here in Texas since September. When SB-8 went into effect, we were gearing up to prepare for a post-Roe reality. For a long time, as abortion funds, we have been experts in helping Texans access abortion care and navigate decades' worth of restrictions. We were working with other abortion justice boards to warn about how bad SB-8 would be. So during the legislative session last year and immediately after, we were getting ready for the implementation of SB-8 and expecting most of our clients to travel out of state to obtain abortion care.

The point of anti-abortion policies is to confuse Texans into thinking that abortion is no longer an option, thereby taking away their opportunity to make decisions for themselves.

The purpose of Lilith Fund and Texas Equal Access Fund is to assist Texans in better understanding what options they have available to them. The most significant difference now is that 80-95% of our clients travel out of state to obtain abortion care.

Adult Texans are being put into a tremendously tricky position that is logistically a nightmare and can be incredibly traumatic. The abortion itself, for the vast majority who get abortions, the abortion is a relief and a blessing. It's a parenting decision and it's something that feels good. But everything surrounding the hoops the state is forcing people to go through is what feels traumatic. What feels traumatic is the neglect our clients feel when trying to access abortion care, which is currently being denied to them at every step of the process.

When you are told that you don't have the bodily autonomy to make health care or personal life decisions for yourself, you don't have bodily autonomy in your state. When you are stripped of the ability to affirm your bodily autonomy in healthcare decisions, that's what's traumatic and that's what's been difficult for Texans.

We, as abortion funds, expected and were prepared for a full repeal of abortion in the State of Texas and are ready to send our clients out of state to get the care they need.

Rosie's Law is a campaign that seeks to restore health insurance coverage and lift the state Medicaid ban for abortion care services in Texas. The organization is named after Rosie Jimenez, a woman who died after receiving an unsafe abortion after Medicaid would not cover her abortion care. Why is it important for this bill to pass in the state, and what impact would it have on poor people?

We as an organization exist because people don't have the financial means to get abortions when they want. Abortion care has always been inaccessible to people of color, people struggling to make ends meet, young people, and immigrants even when Roe had been settled. It's important to note that Rosie died when Roe was the law of the land. She died when, theoretically, abortion should have been accessible for all, but it wasn't. The restriction Rosie faced when trying to access an abortion was the State's policy of being prohibited from using insurance to pay for the procedure. That policy was enough to take away her life. 

As abortion funds, we try to bridge that gap financially and by advancing policies that will restore access to care.

We're looking for system-wide changes to make it easier for everyone to access care, no matter where you live, how much money you make, or whether you are living in a border community. That's something that we as an organization are going to continue to strive for. 

Rosie's Law would make it easier for people with Medicaid to pay for their abortion procedures. It would also make it easier for anyone with insurance, whether it's Medicaid or private, to use that insurance to pay for their abortion procedures. 

Sadly, even if Rosie's Law were to pass, it would not have a tangible impact on Texans due to the full repeal of Roe v. Wade/Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

You have shared that you have faced barriers to accessing medical care as an undocumented Latina. How did your personal experiences and education at the GCSW impact your views on health care and abortion rights in the USA?

I went into social work in the first place because of my experience as an undocumented person.

I grew up knowing I was undocumented, and due to immigration policies, I faced systemic limitations at every rung of the education ladder. I knew that I couldn't apply for specific scholarships beginning when I was in middle school, so seeing my peers with more availability to possible life paths was difficult in high school.

I have also felt limitations of healthcare access solely due to my legal status. I didn't have CHIP and I didn't have Medicaid. I lacked proper healthcare assistance as a child, regardless of my parent's financial struggles, and I grew up with a lack of preventative healthcare, which impacted me tremendously. So I know what it's like when you don't know that you can count on healthcare when you need it, and that's not something that anybody deserves. Everyone should be able to access healthcare no matter their legal status and no matter how much money they make because healthcare is a human right.

Healthcare belongs to all of us, so I wanted to go into policy work, organizing, and advocacy work to create system-wide changes, so our system operates more fairly and equitably.

Why do you believe it is essential for social workers to advocate for abortion/reproductive rights?

As social workers, we believe in self-determination, and part of self-determination means that you should be able to decide how you live your life, how you shape your life, and what happens to your body. That is a core tenet of our profession.

When abortion is restricted, people cannot decide if and when they will become parents. When there are restrictions on abortion care, people cannot make decisions about their financial life or if they will add family members. So if social workers are really about our profession and if we're really about our founding values, then we need to care about any policy that restricts our self-determination, and that means we need to be advocating to restore access to abortion.

It's about the human right to bodily autonomy and determining what happens to yourself. If we care about human rights, whether you're a clinical social worker or a macro social worker, you should be playing a role in advancing these solutions.

As social workers, we have to be creating system-wide changes. It's not enough for us to say, "Yes, I support self-determination and bodily autonomy, and yes, I support abortion access." We have to actively have to be working to make that a reality by contributing to system-wide changes.

Why is access to abortion a social justice issue?

Abortion is a social justice issue because we can't have true liberation as human beings without the ability to choose what responsibilities we want to take on. Black women, in particular, created the reproductive justice framework, and it's important to name that because Black women have borne the brunt of oppression restrictions for centuries. Black women saw the need not just to fight for the choice to have an abortion but to fight for our reproductive rights.

Their calls challenged us to see our reproductive lives more holistically and reproductive justice points out that it's not enough for us to choose whether we want to have an abortion or not. We have to have that access to abortion but also the ability to raise families in safe and thriving environments.

Reproductive justice is about ensuring that we are seen as people deserving of respect, the recognition of our full humanity, and the ability to thrive with dignity, regardless of if we want an abortion or whether we want to raise children.


Name: Stephanie Gómez, Political Director at MOVE Texas
Graduation from the GCSW:
 MPP/MSW 2020

There had been a continual increase in measures limiting the access to abortions across the country in the lead-up to a decision from the Supreme Court. How has the opinion from the Supreme Court affected your work at MOVE Texas?

I think the critical thing to understand is that we like to work towards building youth power at Move Texas. For us, it's evident that the Dobbs decision is an assault on everyone's ability to self-determination and the self-determination of young people specifically. I think what connects the issues between reproductive justice and the work at Move Texas is how we as an organization will tell young people the possibilities of the society they can live in and what they can do with their bodies. 

This erosion of self-determination is a symptom of what it means to exist in a country with disintegrating democratic institutions. Our government isn't being responsive to young people and their top concerns like climate change, voting rights, fair wages, decriminalization of sex work, and the legalization of marijuana. Instead, our government seems to be moving in the opposite direction, resulting in young people questioning the very principles and existence of democracy within the United States. 

You recently spoke to MSNBC about your personal experience receiving an abortion. What made you want to share your story, and how has the response been since sharing your story?

I've been sharing my abortion story for a long time, and I've been an abortion storyteller with WeTestify since 2015. Giving my account wasn't my first time sharing my story, and it wasn't the first time I shared my experience on MSNBC. This time sharing my story was very different in that the possibility of abortion being stripped of its federal protection was real and imminent at the time.

There are a few reasons why I shared my story. The first one is that I find it very healing, and the second is that I think the narrative around abortions has historically been controlled by people who do not have abortions. So I found it imperative to speak out and say that I had an abortion when I was young and in high school. Through this storytelling, I eventually found and developed my interest in politics.

The response has been overall positive, and I have been getting many direct messages from people who have shared their fears of sharing their abortion stories, and for me, that has been massively rewarding.

How did your time at the GCSW impact your views on reproductive freedom and abortion rights in the USA?

I came to the GCSW with a very pro-abortion stance, and it allowed me an opportunity to study abortion in a way that I was unable to do in other classes or situations. At the GCSW, it was also straightforward to go into social policy advocacy courses to do projects around abortion and civic engagement. The GCSW also taught me how to communicate with people not on the same political spectrum as you.

Why do you believe it is essential for social workers to advocate for abortion/reproductive rights?

When I look at social work values, a couple of them feed directly into abortion and bodily autonomy, such as the dignity and worth of people. These values are essential for civic engagement because they directly tie into a person's dignity and worth and to empowerment theory.

Abortion is a part of the human experience, and a lot of the work that social workers do is try to make up for the lack of what our state should be giving us. So for social workers, I challenge them to ask how their clients can have safe and readily available access to medical care nonjudgmentally. I also challenge social workers to ask how the issue of abortion intersects with the work they do.

Why is access to abortion a social justice issue?

I believe access to abortion comes down to power, and in our society, there will away be those who will be able to access abortion. Unfortunately, there will also be those who don't have such easy access due to financial constraints that are systemic and historical and will be subjected to violence by the state.

Deciding if and when you want to have children is a huge determinate of many economic, educational, and social factors in people's lives. Being able to make that decision bears tremendous weight, and so we must continue to fight for our ability to determine and choose our destiny.

Anything else you would like to share?

I want to send a hug out to those who have had an abortion or are thinking of having one. There are many resources online, but one I would recommend is NeedAnAbortion.com.