In March of 2022, Jane’s Due Process was profiled in this article in Ms. Magazine with a group of teens in Southlake, Texas who were screen-printing and selling t-shirts and tote bags to raise money for abortion access. Of course we had to learn more! So we interviewed Annabel Yu about how she and her friends Preethi Reddy, Iris Schmeder, Abhi Maddukuri, and Nishka Kumar got together and started Change 4 Choice — and what they’re up to now.
Q1. How did y’all come together as a group?
After deciding that I (Annabel Yu) wanted to start an organization dedicated to fundraising for Planned Parenthood back in September 2021, I introduced my idea to a few of my friends (Preethi Reddy, Iris Schmeder, Abhi Maddukuri, and Nishka Kumar) from school who I thought would also be interested in starting an organization advocating for abortion rights. They all thought the idea was great and were super excited to start working with me. We started having group meetings where we brainstormed ideas like creating merchandise and writing informational blogs and have continued to work as a team thus far.
Q2. What inspired you to take action around Texas Senate Bill 8?
Immediately when I heard that Texas Senate Bill 8 was passed, I not only felt disappointed and angry at our government, but I also felt a sense of urgency to take action. I thought about women, girls as young as me, and other individuals, especially those of low-income and living in medically underserved areas, whose lives would directly be jeopardized by such an invading and restrictive law. While volunteering at my local homeless shelter, I encountered mothers who were struggling to provide a substantial life for their children and many who lacked the financial resources needed to raise another child. For me personally, I am not mentally or emotionally at the stage of life where I want or am ready to have a child, which I understand is the case for many other young women as well. Not only was access to such essential medical care being restricted, but my and millions of other Texans’ right to make our own decisions and have a quality life were being taken away with such ease. I didn’t want to stand idly by, but instead decided that using my resources to fight against this new, terrifying reality was the right thing to do.
Q3. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a youth organizer?
As a youth organizer, I’ve learned that advocating for the right thing doesn’t mean that everyone is going to agree with what you believe in. There are going to be people who oppose what you’re doing left and right. And, even though I knew and accepted this before starting my organization, it was a different experience to actually handle opposition. So, especially with many people who have diverging beliefs surrounding me, I’ve mainly learned how to stand firmly by Change for Choice’s cause and continue my work no matter how uncomfortable or upset I might make others. I think that this is something that is one of the most important, yet difficult lessons that many advocates learn when first beginning their work.
Q4: Southlake is known for being a conservative and racist community. What’s your experience been like organizing around abortion rights in the community?
In my community of Southlake, it’s true that the majority of people here hold very conservative beliefs. So, it was not much of a surprise when there was not much support received from my town. Before starting Change 4 Choice, I was aware that abortion was a very controversial and not welcomed subject in Southlake. So, although I made unsuccessful efforts to seek support from my local newspaper and school, most of my support I have received for Change 4 Choice has been from other states and cities in Texas. That is why I hope to continue expanding my organization’s outreach to a national scale in order to connect with other’s fighting for abortion rights in the U.S.
Q5: What would y’all like to do next as you continue your organizing around reproductive rights?
For now, my main goal is to work even harder towards raising funds for Planned Parenthood, as the level of this issue has escalated nationally and even to the federal government, with the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Even with the complete ban on abortion in Texas, I will never stop advocating for what I believe in and, as I said, I want to start networking with advocates and organizations from other states who also have very restrictive abortion bans in order to organize an effective national movement for abortion rights. Additionally, most of our work so far has been virtual and through social media. I hope to organize and work with in-person events like protests, rallies, or large fundraising events.