Youth Testify is a groundbreaking leadership program that provides training and support “to equip young people, aged 17-24, with the skills to share their stories with their peers, the media, and legislators, to shift the culture of stigma and center the voices and needs of young people in the fight for abortion access.” When we first heard from the National Network of Abortion Funds, We Testify, and Advocates for Youth about the first Youth Testify cohort, we couldn’t wait to share the opportunity with our former clients. We are overjoyed that four of our former clients were able to join the first Youth Testify cohort! Their work has already been featured in Teen Vogue.
We caught up some of our former clients after their first Youth Testify training to see how they have been enjoying the experience. You can read their full profiles on the Youth Testify website here (HK, Veronika, & Lucy).
- How did you first find out about Jane’s Due Process?
HK: I found out that as a minor in Texas, I was going to have to go through a judicial bypass. While looking up the court process and laws, I came across the Jane’s Due Process hotline and saved it to my contacts. I ultimately ended up calling them two days after I initially found them.
Lucy: The morning that I found out about my pregnancy, I locked myself in my bathroom, alone and sobbing. I called my best friend and immediately ordered her a Lyft to my house. As soon as she arrived, she told me about her research into legal abortions and how Jane’s Due Process could help. I immediately called Jane’s Due Process, and they were so amazing and helpful.
Veronika: I first found out about Jane’s Due process when I had just found out that I was pregnant. My boyfriend was searching on the internet about the process of having an abortion. This is when he saw that in Texas, you have to be over 18 to have an abortion or get parental consent. Once we discovered this, he did more extensive research on the process of having one under the age of 18, which is when he learned about judicial bypass. When he was looking for help on how to do that he came across the number for Jane’s Due Process. I texted them not knowing or expecting them to help me the way they did, which was in every way they possibly could. They informed me about what I had to do, and when to do it. They gave me every piece of information I needed to get as soon as possible.
- When did you decide that you wanted to share your story?
Veronika: When the JDP case manager told me about the Youth Testify retreat, I didn’t really understand exactly what I was going to do but I thought that it would be so great to travel and meet other people who had abortions as well. When I got there and started learning about everything from policies, to history, and how to share my abortion story, it got me really excited and prepared to share my own story. I’ve never thought of sharing my own story; I thought of it as something to keep private because it was my difficult experience I had to go through. Going on the retreat, I was shown how powerful our voices could be, and it inspired me to be brave. That’s when I decided I really wanted to share my story to help other young people that are in the situation I was in. I can also influence policy by illustrating to people that this is the way it was for me, and that’s why we need to improve young people’s accessibility to abortion. In the end, I just want to help people and encourage other people to be brave as well.
HK: After I had my abortion I went into a kind of depression. I was already a teen mom to my daughter, so I would be taking care of her and couldn’t help but think about the “what if’s” regarding my 2nd pregnancy. The lawyer that helped me with my bypass told me about Youth Testify and I decided to join and start sharing my story as a way to cope with my after-abortion feelings. I’m so thankful I did, because meeting women that had gone through similar situations was so great for my mental health and I hope to bring awareness and support to any other women going through the motions after her abortion.
Lucy: I decided that since not many girls know about their rights and organizations that could help them, I could share my story and provide them with resources such as Jane’s Due Process. I tried so hard to prevent my pregnancy, by trying to get birth control from a local Planned Parenthood, to trying to buy Plan B from a Tom Thumb, but nothing worked out. I wish that through my story telling, that people will understand that an abstinence only sex education is detrimental and the harsh stigma against youths getting abortions is harming our generation and we need to act against it.
- What was meeting the other Youth Testify cohort members like?
Lucy: Meeting them was such a great experience. I was able to find people that I could relate to that went through an abortion and we bonded over it. I felt like I wasn’t alone and it was an amazing time. Everyone that I had met has been so inspirational and I have matured so much since meeting the Youth Testify cohort members.
HK: Meeting all the ladies who are a part of Youth Testify was so refreshing, they were all so open about their abortions and not scared to show their vulnerability which made me feel very at peace with all of them immediately. We soon became like family and they are one of the best support systems I’ve ever been blessed with.
Veronika: Meeting the other girls was such an amazing experience. I made new friends that I know will last forever. We all bonded in a way that I have never bonded with any of my friends. We cried together, laughed together, shared our stories with each other, it was unforgettable. Every single girl had a different story, some of them had way different stories than mine but some were so similar. We all came from different areas and different backgrounds but we all had one thing in common, our bravery. Our bravery in telling our story to inspire others. On the downside, we receive hate, but we all do it to change the world’s view on abortion, no matter what obstacles we face. I was so glad to meet a group of such strong badass women that made me want to be more like them. Most of them were so involved in their community making a difference which inspired me to do so as well. They were brave which encouraged me to be brave as well.
- What are you most looking forward to about being part of the first Youth Testify cohort?
HK: The thing I’m most excited about with being apart of the 1st Youth Testify cohort is that we’re changing the way the world looks at young people having abortions. When I had mine, I had to deal with all the stigma surrounding abortion care and I internalized a lot of it. Being able to challenge the stigma so that when other young people have abortions they don’t have to feel the pressure that I went through is something I take a lot of pride in, even though we still have a lot of work to do.
Veronika: I’m most excited for all the community projects and interviews I’ll be doing. For the community projects, I am trying to brainstorm ideas I can do in my community to raise awareness about abortion access, whether just informing people or fundraising, anything that helps the reproductive justice movement. I would like to do it in a wide range, from my city to my school. I do have one project that is in the first steps, preparation and planning, and this will be my first real community project that I have ever done. I’m really excited for how it will turn out because it will prepare me for other future events. As for interviews, I hope to do as many interviews as I can. Hopefully I can encourage other young women to speak out and I hope to inform other people about how difficult it is to seek an abortion as a young person and portray how it affects young people who need abortions. Being a part of Youth Testify will open more doors or opportunities that I am excited to take advantage of.
Lucy: I am looking forward to spread factual information about abortions and share my story in order to lessen the stigma of having abortions, especially for young women. Through storytelling, I will try my best to help out other Janes. The cohort taught me so much about how policies worked and how to actually be active in my community, I will use all the resources that has been provided to help and actively pursue my goal spreading knowledge and resources to every girl that needs it.
- What advice would you give to someone else who’s about to call the Jane’s Due Process hotline for the first time?
Veronika: The only advice I’d give is to not be afraid when seeking help; you are in good hands and everything will be fine. Jane’s Due Process will definitely impact them in a positive way that they’ll never forget. When I asked them for help, I didn’t expect to get the extensive amount of help I received; from information to funding, they help you out in every way possible. I would let them know what Jane’s Due Process did for me and how it really made the whole experience less stressful than if I had to do it myself, which is why I am forever grateful and I would love to help them out in every way possible. I’d like to note that especially my case manager helped me out in a way that is just unforgettable. I am forever grateful for her and everything she has done for me. She really helped me out during a scary time in my life and made everything seem more tangible.
HK: To anyone that is about to call the Jane’s Due hotline for the first time, I know it makes it really real and raw when you’re having to tell someone you want an abortion but make that call because they will set you up with a free lawyer and give you all the information needed to get your judicial bypass. Having to go through the courts is a very nerve racking thing but with Jane’s Due Process by your side, it’s a little easier and it’s always great to be able to talk to someone about what you’re going through, especially if you can’t talk to your parents about it.
Lucy: My advice is to not be afraid and that the people at Jane’s Due Process are the sweetest and most understanding people that I have ever met. I was able to get my judicial bypass ready and the communication between us was impeccable! Without Jane’s Due Process, I probably will not even be at the place that I am at right now, where I am able to pursue a higher education at a four-year university.
Keep an eye out for more from these young activists – they are doing incredible work!
Read more stories from Janes here!