Wednesday is International Women’s Day, so Yahoo Style is highlighting a few of the powerful women who are living by the year’s IWD theme, #BeBoldForChange, which calls on women to help forge a more gender inclusive world.
Lindsay Rodriguez, 34, is from Austin, Texas, and is the coordinator of the National Abortion Access Bowl-a-Thon.
“Growing up in San Antonio, Texas, I witnessed the erosion of our access to reproductive services,” she says. For Rodriguez, the real turning point came in 2011, when the conservative Texas state lawmakers approved legislation to defund Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers, resulting in the closing of more than 60 family planning clinics statewide.
“I watched family, friends, and co-workers struggle to make sense of their options and struggle even harder to afford it if they were able to figure it out,” she says. “It made me furious that the ability to choose was reserved for people with more money and more access.”
That’s why after graduating from a local Catholic college (“I was openly pro-choice there and had great, supportive, progressive friends.”) and working for several years as a high school teacher, Rodriguez switched her career ambition from fashion and marketing to reproductive rights .
“Like a lot of women my age, I experienced a lot of anxiety around my ability to control my reproductive future, knowing how critical it was to the plans I’d made. I found the biggest passion in my life became feminism in particular, and how politics often failed women,” Rodriguez says. “I began volunteering with the Lilith Fund, my local abortion fund, during that period, and became consumed with abortion funding as the intersection of gender, racial, and economic justice. It seemed so obvious to me, and like a place where efforts could directly help people in my community.”
She now works for the National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF), which is a confederation of 70 funds in cities nationwide that provides travel, housing, and medical-fee support for women who can’t get an affordable abortion in their immediate area. Founded in Boston in 1993, the network aims to put abortion funding in the broader context of social justice and intersectional rights among women, people of color, and low-income people.
Currently, Rodriguez is coordinating NNAF’s 8th annual Bowl-a-Thon campaign, a series of live and virtual events that raise money for the organization’s various funds. The campaign, which launched the day after Valentine’s Day, will run through April, culminating with Bowl-a-Thons nationwide.
“Bowl-a-Thons are so powerful, but also fun,” she says. “People come up with amazing team names, like Oh, No You IUDidn’t!, Zsa Zsa Gabortions, Vagetarians, and Make Abortion Great Again.”
Last year, the Bowl-a-Thon site was briefly shut down by antiabortion hackers. That’s why Rodriguez is all the prouder that this year, the Bowl-a-Thon is hosting events in cities within states hostile to abortion access, including Fargo, N.D.; Bloomington, Ind.; St. Louis, Mo.; Jackson, Miss.; New Orleans; Atlanta; and throughout Texas.
“Take Mississippi,” Rodriguez says. “They have only one clinic left, which is constantly under attack, and because of closures in the rest of the South, a lot of women have to go all the way to Atlanta.”
“I love my job,” she says. “Abortion funders and their supporters are some of the funniest, most compassionate and hardest working people I’ve ever met. They make me hopeful for a future where we’re all trusted to make critical decisions in our lives and have the resources to do it.”
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