Social Work Graduate Leads Texas Reproductive Justice Nonprofit
Anna Rupani, Executive Director for Fund Texas Choice set her sights on a career in law, but within a framework of advocacy and social justice. “I knew if I wanted to help folks access legal care, understanding the psychosocial impacts of their day-to-day was necessary,” she said. “When I started researching how that was possible, social work made sense. I was able to understand the practical experience of working with clients and build rapport in a different way than other lawyers.”
Immediately after completing her undergraduate degree in Management, Human Resource and Marketing from Boston College, she applied to the FSU College of Social Work MSW Program, attracted by the opportunity to follow a clinical track while simultaneously taking courses in social leadership, including legislative advocacy and grant writing. FSU provided access to the social work framework beyond just direct client services.
After graduation, she gained experience working with clients experiencing domestic violence/interpersonal violence, as well as, providing substance abuse counseling to young people and teens. Anna would earn her social work licensure the same year she earned her MSW (2009), knowing that her desire to practice law in a direct client setting within the social services sector was an atypical step for a career in law.
“Direct client experience through a social work lens has had a significant impact on how I worked with clients during my legal career,” she reflects. “It still plays into my work as an executive director, managing social workers, case managers, and other team members who work with clients directly regarding reproductive choices.”
Earning her law degree from the New England School of Law, (2013) Anna continued to focus on the population she worked with as a social worker. Anna worked with undocumented immigrants who had experienced domestic violence/intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking.
As the first executive director of Fund Texas Choice (FTC), the only statewide nonprofit providing practical support services to Texans seeking access to reproductive and abortion care, she and her team are facing an uphill battle after the passing of SB8 in 2021, an anti-abortion law functionally banning abortion. “Texans are unable to get care in their state,” she explained. “FTC has been the leading organization in making sure Texans can travel to get access the reproductive and abortion care they deserve.”
Anna helps to lead a team of individuals who comprehensively and confidentially provide logistical and travel support to clients, as well as emotional and financial support. She also sees it as crucial that she and her team embody reproductive justice values including “personal autonomy, equity, intersectionality, community, collective power, compassion, empathy and ethical community behaviors.”
In her role as FTC’s executive director, Anna continues to serve many of the same populations from her earlier careers in social work and law, including undocumented immigrants and victims of violence and human trafficking. She strongly emphasizes the importance of understanding the overlaps between reproductive justice and immigration justice and the importance of providing clients access to the care they deserve.
Immigration status is often used as a tool to manipulate individuals, she explained. One example is the use of forced pregnancies and the court system that compels individuals to stay connected with their abusers in a cycle of abuse, threats of deportation and losing the custody of children.
Anna also expounded on how unaccompanied minors often flee gang violence and rape in their home countries, sometimes pregnant by incest or violence in their home countries, but need care that is difficult to come by in their home countries. However, in Texas, getting abortion access and reproductive justice care for minors is quite difficult due to restrictive laws. She also noted that border checkpoints within 100 miles of the US border and current immigration law allow Customs and Border Patrol to check individuals' immigration status. Such checks prohibit undocumented immigrants living within 100 miles of the US border to access care as they do not have documentation to show, and therefore, cannot leave their home base. Such laws like SB8 compound and exacerbate the difficulties folks in border communities face, which shows that reproductive justice is not a stand-alone issue; it intersects with many different areas of social justice that social workers interact with.
As an executive director, and as a director in other roles, Anna sees herself in a helping role - aiding others in becoming the reproductive justice leaders of tomorrow that fight for access and care for anyone that needs it. “I truly live by a quote by Simon Sinek, ‘Great companies don’t hire skilled people and motivate them; they hire already motivated people and inspire them. People are either motivated or they are not. Unless you give motivated people something to believe in, something bigger than their job to work toward, they will motivate themselves to find a new job and you’ll be stuck with whoever’s left,” she stressed. “I think going into any role requires you to push the next generation to be better than you did when they are in your role.”
She also continues to use her leadership role with FTC to talk about and educate people about the intersectionality of reproductive justice and that holistic care is vital. Her role has allowed her to collaborate and help establish new systems that provide better, more efficient access to care through creative problem solving and efficacy.
“Executive directors are often a lonely person on an island because of their role,” reflects Anna. But keeping the social work perspective in mind, she remembers the importance of self-care and surrounding yourself with a support network of mentors and peers. “Finding a cohort of folks similarly situated is important because they have a huge impact on whether you succeed or not, especially as a woman of color,” she stressed.
Contact Anna Rupani at firstname.lastname@example.org.