Renee Bracey Sherman
Position: Abortion Storyteller
Organization: National Network of Abortion Funds
Current Location: United States, North America
Masters Public Administration from Cornell University
Additional Degrees and Certifications:
• Bachelor of Science, Economics and Sociology, North-eastern Illinois University 2009
Award:Unstoppable Advocate AwardAwarding Organization:Planned Parenthood Metropolitan WashingtonDate Awarded:April 12, 2019
Award:Salute to Excellence AwardAwarding Organization:National Association of Black JournalistsDate Awarded:August 11, 2017
Award:Activist AwardAwarding Organization:National Women’s Health NetworkDate Awarded:June 12, 2017
“Renee has brought a reproductive justice lens to abortion storytelling by creating We Testify (wetestify.org) and co-creating Youth Testify (youthtestify.org), investing in the leadership of POC, queer folks, and young people who’ve had abortions.
– Jeana Nam, National Engagement Coordinator at All-Options
Describe your contributions to and achievements in family planning.
Renee has been the leading voice on abortion storytelling for nearly a decade. Named the Beyoncé of Abortion Storytelling and coining “everyone loves someone who had an abortion,” she has written over 70 articles on reproductive justice, abortion access, and the visibility of people who have had abortions. Through her deep work with 45 We Testify storytellers, and training of hundreds more, her work has elevated the conversation on abortion experiences, using creative and innovative strategies to shift the conversation centering people of color, people with marginalized identities, and holding the reproductive rights movement accountable for their blind spots on intersectionality. Her work is so influential that the right-wing website Twitchy recognizes her as “the queen of all abortions.”
What sparked your passion for family planning?
I had an abortion at 19 years old, and although I grew up in a pro-choice family, I was nervous to tell my loved ones that I’d had an abortion for fear of the stigma and judgment. Six years later I decided to start sharing my story publicly, however I realized that I was one of very few people of color, particularly Black women, who were openly sharing our stories, so I made it my mission to support and organize other people of color who’ve had abortions to speak out and change the conversation.
Give one or two examples of how you display leadership in your family planning work.:
The majority who have abortions in the US are people of color, however they’re not centered in the conversation. Through my work, I’ve shifted the narrative to one matching the demographics of who has abortions and why, elevating the voices of people of color in particular, and ensuring the media covers and legislators hear from a diversity of stories including from trans people, people with disabilities, parents, teens, immigrants, those who experienced barriers, and had multiple abortions.
If you are named a winner of 120 under 40, how will you use this new platform and the $1000 grant to advance your work?
If selected, I will use this new platform to let people who’ve had abortions know they are loved and train more storytellers to share. I would use the grant to update and disseminate Saying Abortion Aloud (reneebraceysherman.com/saying-abortion-aloud), my 2014 guide on abortion storytelling, available for free, featuring recommendations from 40 public abortion storytellers. As more are sharing their stories, the guide needs to be updated to help them share proudly, safely, and free from stigma.
Photos of the nominee in the field/at work