BROWNSVILLE — Sadie Hernandez didn’t know it at the time, but the moment she walked into the Texas Capitol during Wendy Davis’ 2013 filibuster would set her on a path to capturing national attention.
Hernandez, now 23, had been named among TeenVogue’s 21 Under 21, The Tempest’s 40 Women to Watch, and honored by Planned Parenthood for her reproductive rights advocacy.
The Brownsville native will also appear on a SXSW panel titled “Youth Power: Young Activists on the Front Lines” in March.
“My goal is to let people know about the (Rio Grande) Valley and how amazing it is and how resilient it is,” said Hernandez, a youth and digital organizer with Planned Parenthood Texas Votes. “To me, I’m just doing stuff to help my community.”
Her involvement with Planned Parenthood began in 2013, when she attended Davis’ filibuster against strict abortion regulations.
Hernandez continued to volunteer soon realized her passion for advocacy, focusing her efforts on the branch of the organization dedicated to voter turnout.
She gained national attention in 2015 during the People’s Veto demonstration, during which protesters urged Gov. Greg Abbott to ensure Planned Parenthood received funding for breast and cervical cancer screenings.
Hernandez demonstrated outside the governor’s mansion for 17 days, and the hashtag #StandWithSadie went viral on social media. National publications asked her to write about her experience for them.
“I was like, ‘It’s about the bill, not me,’” she recalled. “It wasn’t until people from Alabama and Utah would say, ‘I remember watching that.’ I didn’t know how impactful it would be.”
She returned to Brownsville in 2016 as a student at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, where Hernandez has been a leader not only in engaging young people in the political and voting process.
She said students are also eager for even the most basic reproductive health information, and she’s worked to chip away at the stigma around hot-button issues like abortion.
Hernandez doesn’t call herself an activist but an organizer.
“I call myself an organizer because I’m looking for activists to uplift and coordinate,” she said. “My goal is to create a culture of political awareness on all levels. We’re letting people know their vote really does impact health care.”
While she plans on returning to Austin for school in January, she hopes to eventually return to the Valley and run for office. In the meantime, she’s happy to see more young people get engaged in advocacy.
“The young people in the Valley know what’s up,” Hernandez said. “It’s been a really positive outlook.”