The Future is Ms.: Tennessee Teens Advocate for Abortion Rights in a Red State

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

Alyson Nordstrom, 17, was catching up with her friends over lunch when a cell phone pinged with the notification of the leaked Supreme Court draft that would overturn Roe v. Wade. Because of Tennessee’s so-called Human Life Protection Act, Nordstrom knew that the Court’s decision would result in the girls and women of her community losing their rights to obtain an abortion entirely.

“The law in Tennessee is a complete ban on abortion after fertilization. There are no exclusions,” said Dr. Nikki Zite, the vice chair of education and advocacy at the University of Tennessee Knoxville and a practicing gynecologist.

Nordstrom assumed that her neighbors in Williamson County, a Republican stronghold that voted 62.2 percent for Donald Trump in the 2020 election, would be celebrating the enactment of Tennessee’s trigger ban. However, soon after she got into reproductive rights advocacy, she saw a part of her county she didn’t know existed.

“It’s honestly been a very positive experience,” Nordstrom said. “I had people reach out to me and want to get involved and make positive comments, people who I never in a million years thought would’ve been interested or people who I thought definitely would’ve disagreed with me.”

Despite the challenges of fighting for a blue issue in a red state, Nordstrom helped form Teens for Reproductive Rights, a coalition of teens who organize fundraisers for abortion care, post infographics about current abortion restrictions in Tennessee and encourage teenagers to vote for pro-abortion candidates.

The Williamson County community surprised her co-founder, Emma Rose Smith, by donating tables and tents for their opening event. She said the response in Nashville and surrounding counties have been overwhelmingly positive to the pro-Roe protests she participated in.

“When we go marching in the streets, we have more people in support of us than people telling us to get out or leave,” said Lily Swain, founding member of Teens for Reproductive Rights. “It’s helped to see the bright side of things and see that Tennessee is not doomed.”

Nordstrom drew inspiration from her mother, a former political activist, who supported her when she first voiced the idea to organize the group. After getting the validation she needed, she turned to Smith, who had helped organize Nashville’s largest protest in recent history.

Paige Buckley, Lily Swain, Emma Rose Smith and Alyson Nordstrom take the mic at their initial event, Rock for Reproductive Rights. (Taylor Currie)

Joined by Paige Buckley, Nordstrom, Smith and Swain organized the Rock for Reproductive Rights, benefitting Abortion Care TN, a nonprofit that provides funds to abortion clinics in and near Tennessee to pay for patients’ procedures.

“Music was the first thing that popped into my mind. Everyone likes listening to music and we have so many great musicians around here,” Nordstrom said. The concert raised $2,714 for Abortion Care TN.

Nordstrom hopes to encourage more young people to vote through the organization, a move that Zite said is crucial.

“For too long people have thought that local elections or midterm elections don’t matter, but I don’t think they’ve ever mattered more,” Zite said.

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


Ava Sjursen, a journalist from Nashville, has written for The Tennessean and reported for the American Association of School Administrators. She is an editor in chief of Harpeth Hall’s school newspaper, Logos, and a Northwestern Medill Cherub.