Episode 4: Tacos. Beer. Abortion.

Abortion stigma is real, y’all! It can be scary, intimidating and anxiety-inducing to talk positively about abortion — which is why Traitor Radio host Andrea Grimes launched the Taco or Beer Challenge, a month-long fundraising movement to support abortion access. It’s the most delicious homework assignment we’ve given you on the show so far.

aimee
Aimee Arrambide, the program manager and reproductive rights policy specialist at the Public Leadership Institute, is also the board secretary for Fund Texas Choice and on the advisory council of Repro Action. She lives in Austin.

Our storyteller on this episode is Aimee Arrambide, a badass reproductive justice crusader, lawyer and Texan of Mexican and Filipino descent who is part of We Testify, a group of storytellers working to bust abortion stigma. Aimee’s story is about abortion, of course, but it’s about so much more: It’s about her mental health journey, her professional career, and her relationship with her father — who was also an abortion provider. Aimee’s story beautifully weaves her abortion experience into the larger fabric of her life — she talks about what an important decision it was for her, and how essential it was that she had access to abortion during a time in her life when, as she’ll tell you, she was approaching “rock bottom.”

Yamani Hernandez, a woman with dark brown hair and brown skin, smiling and wearing a red blazer.
Yamani Hernandez, executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds. She lives in Chicago.

Also on the show: Yamani Hernandez, the executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds. Yamani (who took the Taco or Beer Challenge and donated to her local fund, the Chicago Abortion Fund) explains what abortion funds do — it’s more than just funding abortion — and how listeners can join in on this year’s Taco or Beer Challenge to support their local abortion funds.

Listen, then take the Taco or Beer Challenge by eating a taco or drinking a beer (or both) and donating to your local abortion fund. Find one here!

As promised, Andrea’s posting her own #TOBC17 selfies to get y’all pumped about the challenge:

Listen to us on SoundCloud above, or subscribe to us on iTunes and Stitcher. (And if we’re not on your podcasting platform of choice, let us know!)

Can’t listen? We’ve posted the episode script below — something we’ll be doing for all of our episodes as part of our commitment to accessibility.

But first, here are links to the organizations and resources we talk about on this episode:

TRANSCRIPT

ANDREA GRIMES: Howdy y’all! You’re listening of Traitor Radio, the podcast for people who are mad as hell and ready to bring the resistance home.

< THEME MUSIC WITH VIOLINS AND PIANO >

ANDREA: I’m your host, Andrea Grimes, and thanks for tuning into Traitor Radio. This podcast a way to focus our energy and our anger into making positive change in our own communities, one issue at a time. The format is pretty simple — we introduce y’all to real people who will talk about how their lives are affected by the racist, sexist, transphobic and otherwise oppressive laws and policies that are backed by the officials and institutions that are making America un-great. Then we’ll give you some homework — stuff that goes beyond calling your elected officials, which you should totally do, but which will help you start making change in your own community.

Because when government doesn’t work for us we have to take matters into our own hands. We can’t wait for the mid-terms, we can’t wait for the perfect politician to save us. We have to lift each other up, now, today.

Every activist, new or seasoned, is welcome here. Hello, old-school resisters! But this is a 101-level space; if you’ve never done activism before, or you’re just getting into the swing of it after the election, I’m so happy to join you on your journey to un-fucking this country.

So let’s get started.

< MUSIC >

ANDREA: [ opens beer ]

Y’all know what that sound means, right? It’s time for the third annual Taco or Beer Challenge, the fundraiser that finally combines tacos, beers and reproductive freedom! I am heavily biased toward this challenge, because I thought it up. It started as a Twitter joke, amid the viral chaos of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, and now it’s turned into an annual month-long celebration of tacos, beer and — most importantly — abortion access.

The challenge is simple: You eat a taco or drink a beer, and make a donation to an abortion fund. Then, you challenge your friends to similarly enjoy some gastronomical treats and fund abortion care. That’s it. Super easy! To find your local abortion fund, go to Abortion Funds Dot Org. This isn’t a reproductive rights fundraiser, or a fundraiser for political activism — it’s a fundraiser directly for abortion funds, to fund abortion. An abortion fund fundraiser. It’s never a bad idea to donate to Planned Parenthood or NARAL, but the only way to complete the taco or beer challenge is to donate to an abortion fund, which will directly support abortion access.

Today on the show, we’re going to talk about why abortion access is so important — why it’s absolutely vital that pregnant people are able to decide when and whether to have children. Why it is unacceptable for politicians to play doctor, and why the government has no right to force people to stay pregnant against their will. On the second half of the show, we’ll talk with Yamani Hernandez, the executive director of the National Network of Abortion funds, who will explain how abortion funds help people do things like travel hundreds of miles for abortion care, find someone to take care of their kids while they’re at their appointment, or scrounge up that last fifty bucks for their procedures.

But first: Our storyteller on this episode is Aimee Arrambide, a badass reproductive justice crusader, lawyer and Texan of Mexican and Filipino descent who is part of We Testify, a group of abortion storytellers — mostly people of color, queer folks and folks from rural and conservative communities — who are working to bust abortion stigma. Abortion stigma is real, y’all! It can be scary, intimidating, anxiety-inducing to talk positively about abortion, even though abortion is incredibly common and very safe — safer, actually than getting a colonoscopy or having your wisdom teeth out.

Aimee’s story is about abortion, of course, but it’s about so much more: It’s about her mental health journey, her professional career, and her relationship with her father — who was also an abortion provider. What I love about Aimee’s story is how beautifully she weaves her abortion experience into the larger fabric of her life — she talks about what an important decision it was for her, and how essential it was that she had access to abortion during a time in her life when, as she’ll tell you, she was approaching “rock bottom.”

< MUSIC WITH VIOLINS AND PIANO >

STORYTELLING

AIMEE ARRAMBIDE: For a long time, I felt inauthentic — because, as someone who works for reproductive justice and reproductive rights, I had never told my abortion story. Even though my own father was an abortion provider in Texas for 25 years, and I work specifically on or advocating for proactive abortion rights policies, I had never shared my story. But not because I was hesitant about the abortion itself. I was hesitant because my abortion story is my mental health story and the stigma surrounding both topics fuels my hesitation. But I am starting to share. And my story starts with another woman’s story.

It was 2013 and I’d just moved back to Texas from New York, where I’d gone to law school. My husband and I were living at my mother’s house in San Antonio. We drove up to Austin with our toddler and baby in tow to join the people’s filibuster — the testimony that eventually led to Wendy Davis’ 13-hour stand for reproductive rights at the Texas state capitol.

Public speaking is one of my biggest fears, so I was watching the other testimonies, trying to gain insight into what I should say and how I should say it. I was watching my kids, eating snacks, thinking about the story I would tell. I would tell the story about my dad providing abortion care to people in Central and South Texas. Anti-abortion advocates depicted providers as an industrial complex interested only in profit, and I knew from my own family experience that that was not true. My dad was motivated by giving individuals bodily autonomy, self-determination, and his commitment was demonstrated by wearing a Kevlar vest to work, moving us to gated communities, and shielding us from the terrorism he encountered every day. I wanted to contrast the anti-abortion movement’s narrative and tell a story. My dad’s story. But not my own story. Not yet.

Instead, I was taking mental notes: did the other people testifying seem nervous? How long did they talk? Did they look straight ahead? At one point, I heard one woman tell the committee about how her mental illness and treatment would prevent her from having a healthy pregnancy. She would have to make the choice of having a healthy pregnancy while sacrificing her mental health, or having an abortion and continuing mental health stability. And because of that, she was grateful for her right to choose abortion. Hearing her articulate her two options resonated with me like no other abortion story ever has. My eyes widened, tunnel vision set in. I was so focused, my husband had to run and chase after our toddler.

I had heard many abortion stories before. But this woman’s story echoed my own struggle with mental illness and the underlying factor for why I had an abortion when I was 25.

Sometimes I think of two Aimees. There’s the Aimee who literally advocates for abortion out loud policies in states and for accessing abortion care in Texas, and there’s the Aimee who’d have a 13-year-old teenager right now. That’s crazy to me.

Fourteen years ago, I wasn’t functioning at all. I hadn’t been functioning properly since I had left high school. I was cycling through college semesters in manic and depressive phases, in contrast to my high school persona of the consummate over-achiever. I was approaching rock bottom.

I found out I was pregnant shortly after my birthday — my boyfriend and I were at my favorite Mexican restaurant, but I was so nauseous I couldn’t eat. I knew I wasn’t hungover. I was pregnant. There was no question that I was going to have an abortion. I made my decision instantly and I never questioned it before or after. I knew I was unfit to be a mother, and if I put the child up for adoption, I would be weeping over it for the rest of my life.

I was scared, but I told my dad, and he and my partner, helped me access the abortion care I needed.

But my personal life was getting more complicated. My partner and I broke up, and my father was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I knew I had to seek help if I was going to get through the days, weeks and months to come. So I did.

Just as my father was getting sick, I was finally getting better. I was finally in therapy, and after a yearlong search for the right balance of medications, I was finding treatment that allowed me to still be Aimee, to be sad or scared or happy, without being numb.

One day, I took my father to the dog park with me with me and my pug. He’d never been, but I wanted to address all the unresolved issues between us. He acknowledged my feelings, apologized, and I was able to forgive him and we moved on.

My dad was raised by a single woman who immigrated from Mexico. She worked three jobs in a cannery to support her three children. My father, in turn, worked three jobs to put himself through school, college and medical school. The one thing he would say to me, growing up, was that education was something no one could ever take away from you. As a Mexican American, he was aware that his Mexican Filipina daughter would probably start life with things stacked against her. But education would make all the difference.

For me, my abortion was the beginning of the path that led me to reconnect with my partner, finish college, go to law school, and start my family when I was ready. My abortion embodied the self-determination through bodily autonomy that my dad dedicated his life to and had raised me to believe in. I wouldn’t have had that day with him at the dog park if I hadn’t had my abortion. I couldn’t have cared for him with a toddler at home. But I had that time with my dad, and before he died, I was able to tell him that I’d finally decided to go to law school. So that I could go on to work for reproductive rights. He had aphasia then, so it was hard for him to talk, but he told me he knew I could do it. I watched as the tears fell down his face.

Making that promise to my dad is what got me through law school. What would have happened to me if I’d become that other AImee 14 years ago? I would have self-destructed. I would not have snapped out of it. I needed the time after my abortion to focus on myself. Focus on getting help. Focus on finding the right treatment. And focus on getting better. That would not have been possible if I’d been caring for a child, or pining for a child I’d given up. Today, as a mom by choice, I know for sure: parenting is something that you have to want to do. It would have been the one more thing on my plate that I couldn’t have handled. It would have been the straw that broke me. Because of that choice, I’m able to be the best mother to my children now, because I was able to heal myself, I had found myself, and I was ready and capable of making them my priority.

I am telling my story now because I’m trying to do for others what that brave woman at the Texas Capitol did for me. When she talked openly about mental illness and abortion, despite the stigma associated with both issues, she helped normalize them both for me. In the U.S., one in three people will have abortions in their lifetime, and one in five people suffer from mental illness. But I rarely hear anyone talk about these two together until that day four years ago at the Texas Captiol. The reason I have started telling my story, the reason that I am here now, at the heart of it, is because I want people to feel less lonely, and take comfort that they are not alone. I want people to hear my story, so that someday, maybe, they can tell their own story.

[ MUSIC WITH VIOLINS ]

HOMEWORK SECTION

ANDREA: Hello, Traitors! It’s Andrea, again — here to talk homework with Yamani Hernandez, the executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds. Hi, Yamani!

YAMANI HERNANDEZ: Hi Andrea! Thank you for inviting me to join you today!

ANDREA: So let’s jump in. Our listeners know how important abortion access is, thanks to Aimee’s incredible story. But what does NNAF actually do to bridge those gaps, and break down those barriers, to abortion care?

YAMANI: Yeah, so, abortion is legal for everybody but only affordable for some. At the National Network of Abortion Funds, we believe abortion should be freely accessible regardless of race, income, zip code, or any other part of a person’s identity. We really view our work at the intersections of racial, economic and reproductive justice because we know that because of the history of exploitation of people of color in this country, it’s people of color that are disproportionately impacted by economic injustice. We center people who have abortions in our work, particularly those who are hit hardest by systemic barriers to care like racism. That’s why we fund abortion and build power with a network of 70 abortion funds, organizations in 38 states that support abortion access by helping pay for abortion and providing logistical support for things like lodging, travel, and childcare, which are things that a lot of people don’t think about that go into actually accessing care. It’s not just the legal right to have an abortion, but all of the other things that it takes to actually get to an appointment.

Since 2010, we’ve seen literally hundreds of new laws passed on the state level designed to make getting an abortion next to impossible if you don’t have money. That makes getting an abortion technically legal but logistically impossible, and they pass them with deceptive language about protecting our health. This year, we’re seeing insurance bans passed that keep private insurance companies from offering abortion coverage unless you buy extra policies. It’s really jaw-dropping, actually, how quickly we’re seeing abortion access get worse in the U.S.

ANDREA: And maybe this seems obvious, but — NNAF, and abortion funds across the country, literally can’t do this work without, well funds. That’s part of why I started the Taco or Beer Challenge — because awareness and just being pro-choice doesn’t fund abortion. Supporting abortion in theory doesn’t buy bus tickets or pay credit card bills. But because there’s so much stigma around abortion care, it can be hard for people to make that leap, right?

YAMANI: Yes, that’s exactly right, and we are so grateful that you started the challenge because it’s helping and it’s fun at the same time. The reality is that a lot of people in this country are not thriving financially and can’t afford a $500 emergency, even if they aren’t necessarily labeled as low-income. That’s just the way our economy is right now. No one should have to give up food or miss paying their rent or mortgage in order to pay for health care. It’s ridiculous. Taco or Beer Challenge, as you know because you founded it, tackles abortion stigma head on. We’re so honored to pick up the torch and celebrate the generosity of everyone who supports abortion access. Abortion funds are doing phenomenal work, I’m so proud of what I see them doing every day, It’s actually what gets me up in the morning each day, and the work is just not possible without grassroots fundraising power that you can bring as a donor. Even as small as $10, $15, it makes a huge difference.

ANDREA: Absolutely. I know that from answering the hotline for Access Women’s Health Justice here in California, $10 can be a Lyft ride for someone from their home to the clinic. Which brings us to your homework: Do the Taco or Beer Challenge! Eat a taco or drink a beer (or do both) and make a donation to your local abortion fund. Yamani, how can folks find their local abortion funds?

YAMANI: We definitely want everyone to join with their local abortion fund, and even if their local fund isn’t having an event, any individual can still go out, eat some tacos and donate to their local fund. The point is to make donating fun and contagious. So look up local events at TacoOrBeerChallenge.com, or find a local fund where you can donate and volunteer at AbortionFunds.org and click “need an abortion.” This is hard work, so let’s make it fun. I mean, you’ve got to EAT anyway, right?

ANDREA: And please, embrace the “challenge” part of the taco or beer challenge! Take a selfie with your taco or your beer, and tag your friends to encourage them to take the challenge, too. In fact, I’m taking the taco or beer challenge right now — you can see my selfie in the show notes and find out who I’m challenging. Yamani, have you taken the taco or beer challenge?

YAMANI: Oh, you know I have! Multiple times actually. To be honest, it’s gotten to the point that I automatically think about the amazing work of abortion funds every time I eat tacos or drink a beer. This year I donated to my local fund, Chicago Abortion Fund, and a couple others. And if you’re listening, then TAG! You’re it! I officially challenge YOU next.

ANDREA: Thanks so much, Yamani!

[ GUITAR ROCK MUSIC WITH SHOUTING LYRICS: “TACOS! BEER! ABORTION!” ]

ANDREA: Thanks for tuning in — and thanks to the dozens of donors who have made Traitor Radio a reality. In particular I want to thank James, Robin, Aria, Shannon, Aspen, Merritt, Timothy, Teresa, Caitlin and Jacob, our Traitors of Record who’ve pledged $5 or more per month to support the podcast. If you want to join badass bunch of Traitors who get thanked by name on every episode, check us out at Patreon.com/TraitorRadio. We’ve got three different donation tiers with some pretty cool rewards, everything from behind-the-scenes updates to exclusive calls with our producers and guests. Because we’re committed to paying our contributors for their time and their emotional and intellectual work, we can’t do what we do without your financial support.

If you would like to contribute to Traitor Radio, we are always taking submissions, especially from people who are willing to share their first-person stories with listeners, just like M did on this show. Journalists are also welcome — if you want to do radio reporting on social justice activism, let us know! Our email address is traitor radio at gmail dot com.

This episode was produced by me, Andrea Grimes. Our music is by Emily Meo. Follow us on twitter at @TraitorRadio, and find us on Facebook or at TraitorRadio.com.

< THEME MUSIC WITH VIOLINS AND PIANOS fade out >

 

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