Teen Activists Take on Texas Abortion Bans: ‘They Are the Future of Texas’

The Future is Ms. is an ongoing series of news reports by young feminists. This series is made possible by a grant from SayItForward.org in support of teen journalists and the series editor, Katina Paron.

Right before the pandemic, Annabel Yu met a single mom living in a Dallas homeless shelter. The woman’s husband recently left her and her three kids. She said that if she had known he was going to walk, she may not have had the third child if that meant she could provide a better life for her first two.

“Thinking about her, and thinking about the tons of other women who are in her situation, or were heading towards that situation,” made Yu, 17, establish her commitment to support reproductive rights for all people in Texas.

As the founder of Change 4 Choice, Yu sells T-shirts, bags and pins with her organization’s name to fundraise for Planned Parenthood. The merchandise is a selection of handmade and company-produced goods, some of which Yu gets screen printed. She launched the site in January after learning about current legislation and legal actions taken to suppress abortion rights and healthcare in Texas and other states in the country.

Since September 2021, Texas’s S.B. 8 legally bars individuals from receiving abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, just two weeks after a missed period. Following this, Ohio, Idaho, Alabama, Oklahoma and Missouri proposed copycat laws, and last week, Idaho officially joined Texas as the second state to pass six-week legislation.

“I’ve always felt strongly about abortion rights and women’s reproductive rights but I’ve never felt like as outraged as I am right now,” said Yu, a high school junior in South Lake, Texas.

“When [S.B. 8] was actually signed into law I just thought that was absolutely absurd.” By challenging the nuances of legislation and the definition of liberty, Yu is trying to reconstruct the feminist narrative, one abortion at a time.

Yu sees the bill as a violation of civil liberties. “In a country where our morals are based on individual rights and individual freedoms,” Yu said, “the fact that the government passed a law like deliberately restricting women’s freedoms was just mind-blowing.”

The Change 4 Choice social hub on Instagram allows for students, adults and organizations to share Yu’s concerns. Yu plans to expand this page to incorporate virtual collaborations between other small grassroots organizations to raise awareness for this crucial cause. To date she has raised $837 of her $1000 goal.

Yu’s work may seem like a drop in the bucket, but her involvement matters, say Eleanor Grano and Sarah Lopez of Jane Due Process. “Even $700 could help someone,” Lopez said, for a last minute flight out of Texas to get medical attention.

Teen activism for abortion rights pares larger issues down to “digestible” quantities, said Lopez. It also helps reduce the stigma around and normalize concepts such as abortion.

Jane Due Process has seen a trend of youth teens of color become more actively engaged in the abortion issue, said Grano, emphasizing the importance of diverse groups of young people challenging social norms of conservative or liberal trends. She referred to the work of the Phan sisters and TikTok user Mahi to illustrate the importance of youth activism to support abortion rights. “They are the future of Texas,” said Grano.

For now that means Yu will keep selling shirts online. “Choosing whether or not to get an abortion is  your decision, one of the most important decisions ever, and nobody should be deciding that for you” says Yu.

The Future is Ms. is committed to amplifying the voices of young women everywhere. Share one of your own stories about your path to empowerment at SayItForward.org.

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Aaryana Sharma is a Texas-based student journalist, poet and author who writes for her high school newspaper. She has been recognized by the Mockingbird poetry anthology, DAR Essay contest and loves to cover education, teen profiles and art.