Executive Director: Kate Cockrill, MPH
“We all need to be reminded that sometimes, the best thing for us to do is to stop, drop our own agenda, and listen to the people around us. People are watching us for cues about how to communicate about abortion. Sometimes it’s how we listen that people will remember for the rest of their lives.”
Kate Cockrill is a leading researcher conceptualizing and measuring abortion stigma in the US and around the world. From 2006 to 2013, Kate was a researcher and program director at the ANSIRH program at the University of California studying the social and emotional aspects of abortion. In 2014, she and Steph Herold founded the Sea Change program to expand her multidisciplinary research into programming, evaluation and movement building. She has authored 12 peer-reviewed, scholarly articles and her research on stigma has been profiled in The New York Times, Newsweek, Salon, Slate and RH Reality Check.
Deputy Director: Steph Herold, MPH
“I want to figure out how we leverage our vulnerability into power, without worrying that if we talk about our breakdowns or our abortions, we might sound weak, irrational, or emotional. I want to help build a movement where we speak from our experiences and our values in addition to using science and statistics.”
Steph is an award-winning activist and researcher with a background in abortion care, abortion funds, and reproductive health advocacy. Her writing has been featured in The Nation, RH Reality Check, Jezebel, and Our Bodies, Ourselves. Steph is a recognized expert on abortion access, appearing in various media outlets including the Melissa Harris-Perry Show. Campus Progress named Steph one of the top 15 young feminists and Time magazine profiled her abortion rights activism in January 2013. She served on the Board of Directors of the New York Abortion Access Fund for three years, and is currently serving a two-year term on the ACCESS: Women’s Health Justice Board of Directors.
Untold Stories Project Manager: Roula AbiSamra, MPH
“When I first started working with people who were grappling with difficult pregnancies, one truth emerged almost immediately and has guided me ever since. The more people shared their stories with me, the more clearly I saw that it’s a privilege, not a right, to hear someone’s story. No one owes others their story in exchange for acceptance or permission; rather, if you choose to share with me, then I’m a guest invited to your story, and am honored by the invitation.”
Roula has spent her career providing, studying and improving reproductive health care. She holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Master’s of Public Health from Emory University, and previously worked at Advancing New Standards In Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) at the University of California San Francisco, the Feminist Women’s Health Center in Atlanta, and other organizations in the field. From her earliest encounters with patients seeking abortion care, fertility assistance, and trans*-supportive primary care to her later clinical and social science research with patients and providers in abortion clinics, she has aspired to contribute to a patient-centered approach and discourse. In joining Sea Change as the Untold Stories Project Manager, she is thrilled to advance the conversation even further — beyond people as “patients” only, and toward whole individuals and their lifelong stories.
Operations and Communications Manager: Elisette Weiss
“Our reproductive decisions are constantly scrutinized. I envision a world where someone’s first reaction to any type of disclosure is to listen and find ways to make that person feel heard. We have the power as friends, colleagues, strangers, and neighbors to shift our culture away from shame and towards compassionate understanding through connection, listening, and sharing.”
Elisette manages Sea Change’s operations and communications. Prior to joining the Sea Change Program, she was the Project Coordinator for multiple national research studies at ANSIRH. She also developed patient education content for OB/Gyn patients at Kaiser Permanente around pregnancy, prenatal genetic screening, contraception, abortion, and lactation. From 2007-2010 she led an award-winning sexual health education and counseling organization, Student Sexuality Information Service, at Brandeis University. She further explored her research interests in sexual health education while studying in Nairobi, Kenya. While there, she conducted research evaluating community programs fighting HIV stigma through sport and peer-led education. Elisette volunteers as a Health Educator at the Women’s Community Clinic in San Francisco, and serves as a Board Member for Lyon-Martin Health Services, a community clinic primarily serving lesbian, queer, and trans women in San Francisco.
Graduate Fellow: Pam Conelly
“Coming of age in the 1980s, my belief that women should have agency over their bodies and reproductive health fit in well with my immersion in punk-rock culture. However, it wasn’t until I lived in Ireland for four years that I came to truly comprehend the oppressive reality many women face when trying to control their reproductive lives. Supporting friends there, who had to make difficult journeys to another country in order to access abortion, was a powerful ignition for my move into reproductive health and justice activism. I began to fully understand that women all over the world, including in my beloved California, experience real and harmful barriers to abortion and other reproductive health services.”
Pam is a Masters in Public Health student at San Jose State University and current Graduate Fellow at Sea Change. She formerly managed the health center at Planned Parenthood Mar Monte. Pam is interested in the different ways people experience abortion stigma and seeks to gain a more thorough understanding of the complexity of abortion stigma and ways it can be reduced. Pam volunteers as a clinic escort and helps to organize public events promoting discussion about reproductive justice.
Renee Bracey Sherman
“We all have that secret that we’re afraid our family and friends will judge us for, and we crave connection and acceptance. You’ll never know how many of the one in three women who’ve had abortions are in your family or circle of friends unless you open the space for conversation.”
Renee Bracey Sherman is a reproductive justice and storytelling advocate who shares her own abortion story to help end the silence and stigma. In partnership with the Sea Change Program, Renee has helped developed Stop, Drop, and Listen, a model of support for abortion allies when listening to abortion stories. She also conducted surveys and in-depth interviews with public abortion storytellers to research the support that they need to be able to share their story, and how advocates can better support movement storytellers. With the Sea Change Program, she has written Saying Abortion Aloud, a report on her research, as well as two recommendation guides for storytellers and advocates. Renee is currently a graduate student at Cornell University pursuing a Master’s degree in Public Administration.
Annik Sorhaindo, MSc
Annik is an independent research consultant who is particularly interested in the reproductive needs and rights of vulnerable populations. In her previous work at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and at the Population Council Mexico, Annik led or significantly contributed to qualitative and quantitative research focusing on abortion, emergency contraception, and testing interventions to address risky health behaviors among adolescents. Annik is working on a project for Sea Change while residing in Mexico. She is supporting organizations in designing and implementing evaluations of their culture change work. She is also working with global abortion service providers to design theories of change connecting their service delivery work to individual and community-level culture change.
“Early on in my career, I worked locally with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth as a peer counselor and I also worked with children and young artists from the Bayview and Mission District in San Francisco. I quickly learned that every person has a story and a spirit and with the right support is capable of creating something beautiful and powerful that can communicate with the world. As my work moved towards state and national level law and policy, I never forgot how important the sharing of story and experience is in changing hearts and minds.”
Leanna is Donor Information and Data director at Children’s Hospital & Research Center Foundation in Oakland, CA. Nothing frustrates her more than when something important and progressive cannot happen simply because the money and the infrastructure isn’t there to move it forward. She has spent her career building the back end foundation for many projects and non-profit organizations to help them take the next step into their future.
Rachel Herndon, MSW, ASW
“I work firsthand with women who are struggling with pregnancy decisions. They have to manage the judgments of their communities and the larger society with their own internal judgments. Reducing stigma about all possible pregnancy outcomes helps women and their families make healthy choices.”
Rachel Herndon, MSW ASW, is the Director of Birthparent Services at Adoption Connection, a nonprofit open adoption agency in San Francisco. She is passionate about working with women experiencing unintended pregnancies to create the best plan for their situation and advocating for supportive, accurate, best practice services.
Laura Lee, JD
“I was in elementary school when I watched a news report on television about protesters outside of an abortion clinic. I asked my parents what was going on and they explained simply but directly what was happening and why. Even though I was young their truth-telling made sense to me. It wasn’t until much later that I understood the magnitude of the stigma surrounding abortion. Now as the parent of three young children I am grateful for my parents’ early candor. I think that every kid deserves to understand reproductive choices without shame.”
Laura Lee is an attorney who has been involved in social justice advocacy for many years. Laura received her J.D. from UCLA School of Law with a concentration in Critical Race Studies and her undergraduate degree from the University of California, Santa Cruz. During law school Laura was a comments editor for the Asian Pacific American Law Journal and managing editor for the UCLA Women’s Law Journal. Laura has worked with many public interest legal organizations including the East Bay Community Law Center, the HIV/AIDS Legal Services Alliance, and the Immigration Center for Women and Children.
Monica McLemore, PhD, MPH, RN
“My interest in women’s health initially began in nursing school in 1993. My feminist labor and delivery professor who was from San Jose, CA asked me a provocative question: Don’t you think it’s odd that we only teach maternity nursing in schools of nursing? I wondered, why are we excluding family planning and abortion from nursing training? From that point forward, I’ve been asking similarly provocative questions about the complexity of women’s lives and existential questions that get to the core of autonomy and dominion of one’s own life.”
Dr. Monica R. McLemore is an Assistant Adjunct Professor in the Family Health Care Nursing Department and an affiliated clinician-scientist at ANSIRH who maintains a clinical practice at San Francisco General Hospital. She also serves as the scientific consultant to the hospital wide shared governance research council. Originally from NJ, she has lived in the SF Bay Area for the last 21 years and recently moved to Oakland.
Lisa Stern, MSN, APRN
“I have been extremely fortunate since I was a child to have had family and friends who supported my choices in work, love, and life. Everyone should be able to make his or her own decisions similarly free of judgment and in an environment of love and acceptance.”
Lisa Stern is a nurse practitioner who practices at San Francisco General Hospital and teaches at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). She is also pursuing a PhD in History of Health Sciences at UCSF. Throughout her career, Lisa has worked and volunteered with non-profit and advocacy organizations in women’s health, domestic violence, early childhood education, and end-of-life care
We are grateful for the generous support of the following foundations:
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
The Compton Foundation