If you’ve ever heard the powerful phrase, “Everyone loves someone who had an abortion,” you already know our donor spotlight focus, Renee Bracey Sherman. As the Senior Public Affairs Manager at the National Network of Abortion Funds and the creator of WeTestify.org, an abortion storytelling and leadership project, Renee is an incredible force in the reproductive justice movement – and she just happens to be a longtime monthly donor to All-Options, too! We recently sat down with Renee to find out how she became a supporter and how she wants to see All-Options grow over the next few years. Check out what she had to say.
All-Options: How did you first learn about All-Options (then Backline) and what inspired you to make your first donation?
Renee: I first learned about All-Options when I began sharing my abortion story about 6 years ago. I was amazed by their model of supporting people throughout their pregnancies and for all pregnancy experiences. Their model aligned with what people’s abortion stories actually look like: an abortion is just one pregnancy decision along a spectrum of many reproductive health decisions. When I began sharing my story, people would come up to me and ask if there was someone they could call to talk about their experience, or I’d get messages of people who were pregnant and thinking about what to do but didn’t really have someone to talk to, and I have always referred them to All-Options because I know they’re in good hands and someone will be on the other line who is ready to listen and support.
All-Options: In your opinion, what is the most important work that All-Options does? What makes All-Options a unique resource or sets it apart from other reproductive justice organizations?
Renee: My family has been created through pregnancy, abortion, and adoption. For me, it’s important that all decisions are talked about and represented in the reproductive health, rights, and justice movements. I am so deeply in love with All-Options’ Pregnancy Resource Center in Indiana. I was first introduced to it during their crowdfunding campaign, and I thought it was such a perfect, real life model of full-spectrum care, that I wrote an article about it for EBONY Magazine. For me, it felt like support for all pregnancy decisions that I could touch and I knew was making a difference in people’s lives – particularly folks in the Midwest, where I’m from.
All-Options: How would you like to see All-Options grow in 2018 and in the following 5 years? What does All-Options look like to you in 2023?
Renee: More All-Options Pregnancy Resource Centers! I’ve been to anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers as part of investigative efforts and I really believe people underestimate how dangerous they are. Not only do they spread lies about abortion, but they give out basic inaccurate information about reproductive health. I remember asking basic questions about how pregnancies progress and how birth control worked, and they couldn’t answer anything – despite wearing lab coats and their “clinic” looking like a medical office. Now there are so many of them and they’re receiving money from our taxes to lie to people who go there truly believing they’ll receive medical care. I believe people should have medically accurate information and be free to make health decisions themselves, including when it comes to pregnancies. I love that the All-Options Pregnancy Resource Center not only supports people as they seek information about their pregnancy options, but has actual resources for them. We need more of them.
All-Options: Do you have any kind of anecdote or story about why you’re moved to support All-Options?
Renee: All-Options is just the warm, open-hearted friend that’s there for you no matter what. One thing that warmed my heart recently was that someone heard me share my abortion story and recommend All-Options’ talkline. She called it, and reached out to tell me how grateful she was to have heard about them and how wonderfully kind the counselor was in listening to her experience. It feels great to be able to recommend a resource to people that will take care of those who call with true compassion.
All-Options: Tell us a little bit about you – what you do in the world, what your hobbies are, whatever you’d like to share. What’s one things others would be surprised to learn about you?
Renee: I’m a reproductive justice activist and freelance writer who is deeply interested in shifting how our world treats people of color who have abortions. Much of my writing focuses in on the intersection of race and abortion experiences, and I want to make sure the stories we hear about are reflective of who has abortions, which is mostly people of color. By day, I work as the Senior Public Affairs Manager at the National Network of Abortion Funds where I run We Testify, a leadership program for people who’ve had abortions.
Sometimes people are surprised to hear I’m a midwestern girl. But if you have a meal with me, it’s pretty evident because I throw down on a glass of milk, rack of ribs and a perfectly roasted ear of corn. Other things that make me happy are rolling on the floor with my cat Clark Fluffy Fluffington the Third, traveling around the world (especially to Sweden!), and figure skating.
All-Options: What other movements, causes, and/or organizations are important to you and why?
Renee: For the last few Mother’s Days I’ve decided to not get my mom a gift and instead donate to local bail bonds to help mamas pay their bails and get out of jail so they can spend it with their children. It’s really frustrating that much of the United States still uses this classist money bail system, which means that poor people end up sitting in jail for small alleged crimes, while people who have money are able to buy their freedom. It’s kind of like abortion funds – only those with money can buy access to their rights. I am also a monthly donor to a number of organizations including Higher Heights, which is working to get Black women elected to political office, and the Gender and Sexualities Alliance Network, which organizes middle and high school queer youth in their schools and around racial and economic justice.
All-Options: If you could have anyone over to your home, living or passed, who would it be and what would you make them for dinner?
Renee: I recently visited the new portrait of Henrietta Lacks in the Smithsonian Institute National Portrait Gallery and it was stunning. Henrietta Lacks was a Black woman who went to Johns Hopkins for treatment of cervical cancer, and her doctor scraped several cells from her cervix and used them for testing and developing of treatments all around the world; they’re commonly known as HeLa cells and are the basis for many modern medicines and treatments. Although her cells have saved many lives, Henrietta Lacks never consented to this, and her family wasn’t compensated and didn’t have access to basic healthcare until recently. It’s a tragic story that is all too familiar to Black families. Seeing the portrait moved me. The colors were vibrant and bold, and the symbolism is breathtaking. I would love to have her over for dinner and hear her story, and what she thinks of what happened to her body and the impact it has made around the world. Unfortunately, I can’t cook, so I’d probably have my deceased maternal grandmother, mom and aunt over, and together we’d make her a hearty Black midwestern meal of fried chicken, ribs, greens with a ham hock, cornbread, and baked mac and cheese.