Vail Kohnert-Yount is a Jane’s Due Process hotline volunteer. She comes from a long line of fierce Texas women who’ve worked for women’s rights—her grandmother helped found the Houston Women’s Clinic, her aunt continued that work for many years, and her mother, Peggie Kohnert, is a supporter of Jane’s Due Process, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, and other social justice causes in Houston.
How did you get involved with Jane’s Due Process?
I lived in Washington, DC, for eight years, most recently working on international workers’ rights in the Obama administration. I came back to Houston for about six months before starting law school in Boston, and I was looking for a way to get involved in reproductive justice issues here in Texas. My aunt, who works at Houston Women’s Clinic, suggested Jane’s Due Process because she’s seen firsthand how JDP helps teens navigate the many barriers to accessing abortion and other reproductive healthcare support. I went to an orientation for Jane’s Due Process at the University of Houston and started volunteering on the hotline. Now that I’m away at school, I volunteer on the textline, and it’s a great way to stay involved.
What inspires you about volunteering with Jane’s Due Process?
In law school, you quickly learn how little our laws have to do with justice. So many laws in Texas are deeply unjust, but Jane’s Due Process helps teens seeking to exercise their reproductive rights overcome these unfair legal hurdles. This work really shows me how people interact with and experience the legal system, and it allows me to continue the legacy of the work that my grandmother and aunt have done here in Texas to support abortion access. And working directly with the Jane’s Due Process clients to answer their questions allows me to really feel the impact I’m having. Working in law and policy often feels like the view from 30,000 feet. But volunteering with JDP is personal, and I can see the ways in which this work makes a difference.
What is something that’s surprised you in your time volunteering with Jane’s Due Process?
What I love most about working with JDP is the respect we show our clients and their choices, especially because our clients are young people. When I talk to people about what reproductive health, rights, and justice mean, they often bring a lot of preconceived notions to the table. People can be especially condescending with regards to young people seeking an abortion, and what I think would surprise people about this work is just how resilient the teens JDP supports are. There is a huge difference between the way people talk about pregnant and parenting teens and who they truly are—which is that they are people who care and deserve autonomy and respect, just like everyone else. When I talk to my friends in law school about the work that JDP does, they’re often shocked to learn that even supposedly progressive states like Massachusetts also have parental consent laws like Texas’s on the books, so there’s much work to be done and not just in Texas.
Anything else you want to share?
Just that the staff and volunteers at Jane’s Due Process are so incredibly good at their jobs—I’m constantly amazed at how great Jane’s Due Process is at supporting the Janes, providing knowledge and practical support with kindness and compassion. It’s very special to me to be a small part of it.
Learn more about how to involved with Jane’s Due Process and become a volunteer on our hotline here.