https://reveal-player.s3.us-west-1.amazonaws.com/807_Reveal_PC.mp3

To see what the future of abortion could be in the United States, look to Texas. Across the country, conservative foes of abortion rights have pushed “heartbeat bills” that would ban abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy, when an embryo’s cardiac activity can be detected. Journalist Amy Littlefield and a team of law and journalism students from UC Berkeley investigate how this law went from being dismissed as a fringe idea, even by traditional right-to-life groups, to getting enforced in Texas. 

We hear the backstory of right-wing activists who have been pushing toward this moment for more than a decade by embracing an approach that uses science over religion to justify abortion restrictions. But the science is often skewed and misleading. To rally support for a ban on abortion, activist Janet Porter filled press conferences with red heart balloons and sent lawmakers teddy bears that play the sound of heartbeats. Mark Lee Dickson drove across Texas in his Ford pickup getting small towns to pass ordinances that create “Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn.” It was all a precursor for what was to come. 

Now, the consequences of restricting abortion are playing out in the crowded waiting room of an abortion clinic in Wichita, Kansas, where staff are being overwhelmed by patients from Texas. To get an abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy, Texas patients not only must leave their state, but also navigate the rules of a different state with its own set of laws designed to make abortion hard to access.  

Dig Deeper

Read Michele Goodwin’s essay: I Was Raped by My Father. An Abortion Saved My Life. (The New York Times)

Read Mary Ziegler’s essay: We Can Now See the Playbook for Overturning Roe v. Wade (The New York Times), plus her book: “Abortion and the Law in America, Roe v. Wade to the Present”

Read Mary Tuma’s reporting on Jonathan Mitchell: The legal mind behind America’s most extreme abortion law (The Guardian)

Credits

Lead reporter: Amy Littlefield | Lead producer: Katharine Mieszkowski | Producer: Nadia Hamdan | Editors: Cynthia Rodriguez and Casey Miner, with help from Features Editor Nina Martin

Additional reporting by Reveal’s Roy W. Howard reporting fellow, Grace Oldham, and staff and students at UC Berkeley’s Human Rights Center and Investigative Reporting Program: Gisela Pérez de Acha, Brian Nguyen, Emma MacPhee, Eleonora Bianchi, Eliza Partika, Elizabeth Moss, Leah Roemer, Taylor Graham, Alex Harvey, Anabel Sosa, Rhia Mehta, Brittany Zendejas and Sophie Hoblit

Production manager: Amy Mostafa | Digital producer: Sarah Mirk | Episode art: Molly Mendoza | Score and sound design: Jim Briggs and Fernando Arruda, with help from Steven Rascón, Kathryn Styer Martínez and Jess Alvarenga | Executive producer: Kevin Sullivan | Host: Ike Sriskandarajah

Special thanks to Texas-based freelance reporter Mary Tuma.

Support for Reveal is provided by the Reva and David Logan Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, the Hellman Foundation, Democracy Fund, and the Inasmuch Foundation.

Transcript

Reveal transcripts are produced by a third-party transcription service and may contain errors. Please be aware that the official record for Reveal’s radio stories is the audio.

Al Letson:Hey, it’s Al, and last fall we brought you Mississippi Goddam. It was named one of the best podcast series of 2021 by the Atlantic, CNN, Rolling Stone, and others. We told that story over the course of seven weeks, and now we’re making it available to you to binge. You can hear the whole series by subscribing to Reveal Presents Mississippi Goddam wherever you get your podcast. Again, that’s Reveal Presents Mississippi Goddam.
Ike Sriskandara…:From the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal, I’m Ike Sriskandarajah filling in for Al Letson.

If you’ve been pregnant or gone with someone to an ultrasound visit, then you might recognize that sound. It can bring up a range of emotions. If you wanted to be pregnant and you’ve experienced that moment where you feel like you’re meeting your baby for the first time, it might feel so joyful to hear that sound. Or maybe you’ve had a pregnancy loss and that sound is hard to hear. And if you’re like me, I’ll be honest, that sound just reminds me of how bummed I was that I couldn’t be there in person to hear those first sounds from my baby. Whatever your experience may be, this idea of a heartbeat is so resonant in our society. I mean, consider Valentine’s Day, how many other vital organs have a holiday devoted to them? So maybe it’s not surprising that the anti-abortion rights movement has latched onto this image and the sound of a beating heart.
Shelby Slawson:That [inaudible], that beautiful melody of a tiny life, innocent, vulnerable, and worthy of our protection.
Ike Sriskandara…:That’s Texas state representative, Shelby Slawson, one of the sponsors of the so-called heartbeat law. On the other side, scholars like Michelle Goodwin say the whole premise of the heartbeat law is misleading because it’s meant to conjure up an image of this undeveloped embryo as a tiny person with a heart.
Michele Goodwin:It’s purposeful in many instances is deeply weaponized as well, but it’s also part of a longstanding cultural expression and also a commercialized one, too, right?
Ike Sriskandara…:And in Texas, it’s been effective. In September, the Heartbeat Bill, known as Senate Bill 8, went into effect. It bans an abortion when cardiac activity can be detected during an ultrasound. Dr. Blair Cushing works at the Whole Woman’s Health Clinic in McAllen, Texas. And part of her job is to deliver the life-altering news that a patient can’t move forward with an abortion.
Dr. Blair Cushi…:You can sort see this wave of emotions that crosses them of, it could be sadness, it could be fear.
Ike Sriskandara…:The signs of a developing cardiovascular system are usually detectable around six weeks. That’s just two weeks after a missed period. And Dr. Cushing says that amount of time gives women very little opportunity to decide whether to keep or end a pregnancy.
Dr. Blair Cushi…:I want people to understand that this law has forced so many women into making a more rushed decision than they otherwise would have.
Ike Sriskandara…:Sometimes she gives a patient an abortion pill and then watches the patient hesitate.
Dr. Blair Cushi…:At least once per session, I will have a patient in exactly that position, that she sits there and she takes the pill from me and she holds it in her hand and then just breaks down, telling me this extreme uncertainty that she has about feeling pressured, like, she knows if she doesn’t do it now, she’s going to lose her chance.
Ike Sriskandara…:SB 8 in Texas is not the only abortion law that’s reached the Supreme Court in recent months. A case out of Mississippi is a direct challenge to Roe V. Wade. If the court strikes down that landmark decision, then states could start enforcing even the most extreme anti-abortion laws, which is why we are taking a deep look at the so-called Heartbeat Bill. It’s already led to severe restrictions on abortion in Texas. Patients there have been forced to travel to more than a dozen other states, and some aren’t getting their abortions at all. The question is, how did the so-called Heartbeat Bill succeed when so many other attempts banning abortion early in a pregnancy have failed?

For months, we’ve been trying to answer that question with journalist Amy Littlefield and a team of students from the UC Berkeley Human Rights Center and Investigative Reporting Program. As Amy tells us, it’s a combination of savvy marketing and good timing.
Amy Littlefield:In 2010, a woman named Janet Porter went to the wake of her former boss at Ohio Right to Life. Like a lot of anti-abortion rights groups, it focused on laws that made abortion harder to access instead of trying to ban it. That day, she realized life was short and she wanted to move faster. Janet wouldn’t talk to me, but in one of her books, she describes how she thought about banning abortion once brainwaves could be detected. In that moment, though, she settled on a heartbeat.
Janet Porter:You know, if a heartbeat indicates life, it’s the universally recognized indicator of life, and everyone gets it.
Amy Littlefield:That’s Janet years after her epiphany. At this point, she’s running her own organization, Faith to Action. And the heartbeat bills she comes up with would ban abortion in the state of Ohio at about six weeks of pregnancy, even though Roe V. Wade said, states can’t ban abortion until more like six months, when a fetus is viable outside the womb. There’s pushback. Even within her own movement.
Michael Gonidak…:Michael Gonidakis. I serve as president of Ohio Right to Life.
Amy Littlefield:Mike agrees with Janet’s beliefs, but not her tactics.
Michael Gonidak…:We both support life from conception until natural death. I tend to believe there’s different ways of advocating for life. And she tends to believe there’s other ways to do it.
Amy Littlefield:Mike tells me back then the Supreme Court would not uphold a law that restrictive. And if the court struck down Janet’s law, it might strike down other anti-abortion laws too.
Michael Gonidak…:Right idea, wrong time.
Amy Littlefield:But Janet was not deterred. In fact, she went all out, promoting her bill with a music video.
Janet Porter:(singing)
Amy Littlefield:This is only the beginning. Later, Janet fills a press conference room with red Mylar heart balloons and sends roses and teddy bears that play heartbeat sounds to lawmakers. Mike is watching all of this happen.
Michael Gonidak…:I believe we had a plane with banners flying over our state house multiple times on multiple-
Amy Littlefield:He’s publicly opposing the bill. The disagreement is splitting the movement in Ohio. Janet would write a chapter in her book, The Enemy Within. A good chunk of it’s about Mike.
Michael Gonidak…:I have been on the receiving end of very blunt criticism from Janet. And it’s a free country, everyone one can have an opinion.
Amy Littlefield:Mike may not agree with the spectacle of it all, but he can’t deny that it’s helping his cause.
Michael Gonidak…:There is value in talking about a beating heart. I think the marketing around that, the messaging around that to people who might not have this as a top of mind issue was brilliant.
Amy Littlefield:Janet knows how to get the media’s attention.
Janet Porter:We had a mobile ultrasound, we hooked it up there in the committee room.
Amy Littlefield:Here is on a show called The Gospel Truth, telling televangelist Andrew Womack, how she brought a fetus to testify at a public hearing.
Janet Porter:We put it up on the screen and there you could see the baby’s heart beating. You could see it. They could zoom in on it to make it red and the pro-aborts hated it. Oh my goodness, they were going nuts. Janet and her gimmicks and her stunts and her antics.
Amy Littlefield:By 2013, these stunts were getting traction outside Ohio. Versions of her bill managed to pass in North Dakota and Arkansas. But Janet just wasn’t able to get enough Ohio lawmakers behind her bill to pass it, so she ran for office herself.
Speaker 9:Janet’s endorsed by Mike Huckabee, Dr. James Dobson, and Gun Owners of America.
Janet Porter:I’m Janet Folger Porter and I’ll fight to defund Obamacare and end abortion.
Amy Littlefield:Janet lost the primary by a lot. Then Donald Trump got elected and things started to change.
Speaker 10:Brett Kavanaugh has been confirmed to be an associate justice on the United States Supreme Court.
Amy Littlefield:Within a few years, Trump had appointed two justices to the Supreme Court. A lot of people thought the court might be willing to reconsider Roe V. Wade, even Mike Gonidakis.
Michael Gonidak…:It all came down to timing and that’s truly it.
Amy Littlefield:Ohio Right to Life threw its support behind the bill. In 2019, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signs it. At the signing ceremony, Mike Gonidakis is right there.
Michael Gonidak…:Oh, absolutely, front row seat.
Amy Littlefield:But Janet who had burned so many bridges during her eight years fighting for the law, she wasn’t even invited. A decade after launching her so-called heartbeat bill, Janet’s gone from annoying Republicans in the Ohio legislature to being welcomed as an honored guest in Texas.
Speaker 11:Has Ms. Porter made it into the chamber? I know she’s an expert on this topic and we’re sure excited about having her in the state. Ms. Porter, come on in. You’re in the right place.
Amy Littlefield:Janet was in the right place at the right time.
Janet Porter:This was a common sense bill. Everybody knows it. If there’s a heartbeat, there’s life. It’s why we instinctively check for a pulse if we’re wondering if someone’s alive or not. It’s the reason we’ve never been to a funeral of somebody with a beating heart.
Amy Littlefield:At this same hearing, a woman who testifies tries to copy one of Janet’s stunts.
Misty Tate:My name is Misty Tate, and I’m a registered stenographer.
Amy Littlefield:Misty works at a crisis pregnancy center. These are places set up to look like real abortion clinics, but they’re actually run by anti-abortion rights groups. They offer free ultrasounds as a way to try to convince people seeking an abortion, to change their minds.
Misty Tate:Let’s listen now to two brief recordings that I gathered from work this last week. One recording is from a baby that is protected from abortion because the fetal age is over 20 weeks. And one recording is the heartbeat from a patient and she was six weeks and two days the day that this was recorded. [inaudible] That was one. When you hear these two heartbeats, can you tell the difference?
Lori Strakowski:I can.
Amy Littlefield:That’s Dr. Lori Strakowski.
Lori Strakowski:They do sound slightly different to me, the swishing sound is different in the latter.
Amy Littlefield:Dr. Strakowski is a Professor of Radiology at University of California, San Francisco, one of the leading institutions for OB GYN training.
Lori Strakowski:My specific interests are primarily in obstetric and gynecologic ultrasound.
Amy Littlefield:We asked her to tell us what we’re really hearing on an ultrasound at six weeks.
Lori Strakowski:What are we hearing? When we put a stethoscope on the heart of human that is after birth, the lub dub sound that we are hearing are the valves of the heart. That is different. There are no valves yet developed at six weeks.
Amy Littlefield:Instead, Dr. Strakowski says what we’re hearing on the six week ultrasound is a vibration of early cardiac cells that will eventually form chambers and valves. This early in a pregnancy, just six weeks in, the ultrasound probe is picking up the movement of those cells.
Lori Strakowski:And that movement creates these waves or sound waves that are considered ultrasonic because they are above the audible range that we hear.
Amy Littlefield:It’s a lot to take in, but let’s recap. Here’s what Dr. Strakowski is saying. At six weeks, an embryo doesn’t have a heart yet, but it is true the cardiac system is beginning to form. And so what you’re hearing are all these cells vibrating. And if you were to use, say a stethoscope instead of an ultrasound machine, you wouldn’t hear a beat at all. But for anti-abortion rights groups, this romantic ultrasound moment that we’ve all bought into, it’s a way to convince the public that at six weeks of pregnancy, there’s a baby with a beating heart. You could hear this strategy playing out when the Texas legislature debated the Texas heartbeat act. Here’s Representative Donna Howard trying to challenge representative Shelby Slawson.
Donna Howard:You’re not actually hearing the sound of a heartbeat because there’s not a heart beating, but you’re hearing amplified version of electrical signals. Did you know that?
Shelby Slawson:I fundamentally disagree with that.
Donna Howard:Well, I appreciate that you don’t want to believe this and that you are disagreeing with it, but I’m talking about what the science says. And so you’re telling me that the science is wrong because you don’t agree with it.
Shelby Slawson:What I’m telling you is that when a beating heart represents a life within a womb, we have a duty to protect that innocent unborn life.
Donna Howard:And I appreciate, excuse me, Mr. Speaker.
Amy Littlefield:Whether or not you call it a heartbeat, everyone can agree that an embryo can’t survive on its own at six weeks of pregnancy. And like I said earlier, under Roe V Wade, the Supreme Court ruled there’s a constitutional right to abortion until the fetus is viable. But what if you just move viability from around six months to six weeks, it turns out that’s what the architects of the Heartbeat Bill are trying to do.
David Forte:Benjamin Franklin once said nothing is as certain as death and taxes. He left one thing out, and that is birth after a heartbeat.
Amy Littlefield:That’s David Forte, a former Reagan administration attorney now a law professor in Ohio who helped write Janet’s original heartbeat bill. He’s testifying in front of Congress.
David Forte:The court also said that viability is when the fetus can survive on its own, but nobody can survive on its own. Everybody needs extrinsic help. What do doctors, obstetricians say about viability? They say a viable fetus, a viable pregnancy is one where the heart is beating and it is likely, almost inevitably to reach full term. That’s what doctors say viability is, not what judges say viability is.
Amy Littlefield:Mary Ziegler is a law professor and expert on abortion law. She says, Forte is playing with the semantics of the word viability, but he’s also doing something else.
Mary Ziegler:This is a group of people who are not entirely convinced that the Supreme Court is going to go all the way to fertilization.
Amy Littlefield:In other words, a lot of anti-abortion rights activists believe life begins the moment a sperm and egg come together.
Mary Ziegler:It’s to say, we’re going to come as close as we can to fertilization while convincing the court that they haven’t done any that radical and that what they’re doing is on the side of science.
Amy Littlefield:We found this is part of a wider effort by anti-abortion rights groups to pivot from religious to scientific arguments. And there’s a network of anti-abortion medical experts who claim that science is on their side. One of these groups is the Charlotte Lozier Institute. They used research from legitimate scientists to help promote the idea that a heartbeat means a viable pregnancy. I called up the author of a paper cited by the Institute to check it out.
Jennifer Hier:I’m Dr. Jennifer [Hier]. I’m a full scope, practicing obstetrician gynecologist.
Amy Littlefield:Dr. Hier told me that her research was conducted on people who had experienced miscarriages and were undergoing fertility treatments. She measured rates of cardiac activity to try and determine the likelihood that a pregnancy would be successful.
Jennifer Hier:They want to parent children. And so are there things that we can do to make things more reassuring for them?
Amy Littlefield:And yes, her study found that cardiac activity is a strong sign that a pregnancy will continue developing, but she was shocked to hear that her findings were being used to argue that people who don’t want a baby should have to have one anyway.
Jennifer Hier:I’m embarrassed. That’s disgusting. It’s true information, but they skew the truth. This is not a political decision, this is a medical decision and a personal decision for the person that is pregnant.
Amy Littlefield:When she took to the floor of the Texas legislature, Representative Donna Howard did her best to get that point across.
Donna Howard:There will always be women who will pursue having abortions despite what you do here today, and what you’ve been doing for a decade to create all these obstructions. It will always be a case that women will seek abortions because women are not always in a position to have that baby. And you guys don’t have to have them, we do.
Amy Littlefield:As she feared, the so-called heartbeat bill was passed into law. And unlike the versions that came before it, it’s taken effect.
Ike Sriskandara…:For five and a half months, millions of Texans have been living Janet Porter’s dream. How did the courts, which once struck down the so-called heartbeat bans allow that to happen? That’s next on Reveal.
Al Letson:Hey, hey, hey. It’s time for another Al’s Podcast Pick. And this one is for Reveal listeners who speak Spanish. It’s called Radio Ambulante. Every week they tell stories from Latin America and US Latinx communities, moving, surprising, deeply reportive stories about love and migration, youth culture and politics, about the big questions and the unique voices that are shaping the region today. You can find Radio Ambulante wherever you listen to podcasts. New episodes drop every Tuesday.
Ike Sriskandara…:From the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Ike Sriskandarajah in for Al Letson. We just heard how anti-abortion rights activists have used the claim that an embryo is a person with a beating heart as a marketing tool to advance so-called heartbeat bills. The bills ban abortion at around six weeks of pregnancy, way before what our current laws say.

Under Roe V. Wade, abortion is a constitutional right up until the point that a fetus can survive outside the womb. Versions of the so-called heartbeat bill have passed into law in about a dozen states, but none of them had been allowed to take effect until Texas. And it has to do with the way the enforcement part of the law was set up. Instead of the state punishing people for performing abortions, the law was written so that any private citizen could enforce the law. And this is a pretty radical idea, but it’s a big part of what has allowed the law to stand, at least for now. Reporter Amy Littlefield has been investigating how this legal strategy came about, with the help of a team of law and journalism grad students at the University of California, Berkeley. It turns out it all started in the parking lot of a Chick-fil-A.
Amy Littlefield:It’s a gray December day in the heart of Texas and Mark Lee Dixon is on the road again in his white Ford F-150 pickup truck.
Mark Lee Dixon:This morning, I left Chandler, Texas and heading to Wichita Falls, Texas.
Amy Littlefield:He’s talking to me on the phone while he drives. Mark has been called a traveling salesman for the anti-abortion rights movement. And while he may not have realized it at first, he’s been laying the groundwork for the first so-called heartbeat law to withstand legal challenges and actually go into effect.
Mark Lee Dixon:Well, right now my truck has 246,409 miles on it.
Amy Littlefield:Wow. Mark grew up in east Texas. His grandfather ran a Right to Life group there and used to display models of fetuses at the county fair.
Mark Lee Dixon:And I remember looking at those thinking that I was that size at one time and really had a huge impact on me.
Amy Littlefield:Now Mark’s running his grandfather’s organization. In 2019, Mark’s getting worried that an anti-abortion law in Louisiana might force the clinic where he goes to protest in Shreveport to relocate to Texas. And he’s come up with a plan, he’ll convince Texas cities to ban abortion by declaring themselves sanctuary cities for the unborn.
Mark Lee Dixon:I was staring in this ordinance at a Chick-fil-A in Longview, Texas.
Amy Littlefield:So this ordinance he’s drafted would ban abortion within the city limits of Waskom, population 2000. Waskom sits just across the border from Louisiana. There’s just one problem, Roe V. Wade, which established a constitutional right to abortion in 1973. Mark knows that these ordinances will be challenged in court and could wind up costing towns a lot of money to defend.
Mark Lee Dixon:I was thinking about the unborn, but I was also thinking about the born, as well as those city council members, good people. I didn’t want to see them sued into oblivion.
Amy Littlefield:So he’s at this Chick-fil-A trying to figure out how to outlaw abortion without bankrupting towns. And he gets in touch with Texas state Senator Brian Hughes. Hughes has received thousands of dollars in donations from anti-abortion groups over the years. His district includes Waskom.
Mark Lee Dixon:And so he introduced me to a friend of his, Jonathan F. Mitchell, former Solicitor General for the State of Texas.
Amy Littlefield:So they all hop on a conference call.
Mark Lee Dixon:And us three looked at this together.
Amy Littlefield:Jonathan is a powerful, well-connected attorney. He clerked for late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, worked in the administration of George W. Bush, and volunteered for Trump’s transition team. Abortion isn’t his only issue. He’s fought unions, affirmative action, and same sex marriage.
Mark Lee Dixon:He said he had an idea of how to allow for this Waskom ordinance to survive a legal challenge, that make it safer for the city of Waskom to pass.
Amy Littlefield:This is where that strategy of private citizens enforcing abortion bans comes into play. Jonathan’s idea is to write the ordinance so that the government isn’t responsible for enforcing the ban. Instead, private citizens would be able to sue anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion. So the doctor, clinic employees, even the Lyft driver who takes someone to an abortion clinic could all be sued, and citizens would be awarded at least $2,000 in damages. It almost sounds like this ordinance would be creating a corp of abortion bounty hunters.
Mark Lee Dixon:What happened from there is the private enforcement was added to the ordinance. And the rest is history.
Amy Littlefield:Now this is a radical idea, but also a clever one, because if you’re an abortion rights group trying to challenge the abortion ban, who do you sue? If you sue the government, city officials can say, hey, we’re not enforcing this ban so can’t be held responsible. So then that leaves group’s fighting this law playing whackamole with any private citizen who decides to sue. This novel strategy comes from another radical idea Jonathan has, something he calls the writ-of-erasure fallacy. Jonathan said he’s declining all interviews because of ongoing lawsuits. But in 2018, he presents his idea at a conference of the conservative legal group, the Federalist Society.
Jonathan Mitche…:We have a terrific lineup, five bright, young legal scholars who will present-
Amy Littlefield:Picture a baby-faced, clean shaven lawyer in his early forties. He’s arguing that the court don’t really have the power people think they do. And when they strike down a law, it’s a fallacy to believe the law has been erased.
Jonathan Mitche…:Judicial review does not empower the courts to formally revoke or suspend legislation. It allows the court only to decline to enforce a statute in a case before the court and allows the court to enjoin the executive from enforcing that statute.
Amy Littlefield:In other words, courts can only stop the state from enforcing a law. They can’t erase the law from the books. This is a shocking idea, even to people at this conservative legal conference.
Richard Epstein:Let me start with Jonathan, my former student. And Jonathan always puts the fear of God in me because, God forbid, he should be right on this particular question.
Amy Littlefield:This is legal scholar, Richard Epstein, a huge rock star in conservative circles. Epstein is about to bring up a really good point. If Jonathan is right and laws struck down by the courts never really go away, then that same concept could be used to resurrect all kinds of laws. He calls them landmines.
Richard Epstein:And I think most people would say that this is an enormously dangerous type situation, because what it does in effect is it kind of keeps the landmine alive. Jonathan, I think, is well aware of this particular problem.
Amy Littlefield:Just think about it. If Jonathan is right and old laws don’t go away, the laws that criminalized same sex relationships or required racial segregation in schools, or a slew of other laws that courts have overturned, those are all just on pause waiting for the next judge to come along and hit unpause.
Richard Epstein:God forbid, anybody should ever use this.
Amy Littlefield:But people in Texas are actually using this. In June 2019, a city council of five white men in Waskom, Texas approved the first sanctuary city for the unborn ordinance by a vote of five to zero. The ordinance calls Roe V. Wade illegitimate. But even more telling, it refers to abortion as murder, harkening back to old Texas laws that considered abortion a crime, laws that Jonathan argues are still on the books, just paused. More Texas cities would soon follow suit.
Speaker 10:A Panola County city, Gary, declaring itself, a sanctuary city for the unborn.
Amy Littlefield:Many of them are tiny communities like Gary, Texas, population around 300. None of these towns has an abortion clinic. But in fall of 2020, Mark takes his ordinance to a city that does. Lubbock, Texas is a city of just over 250,000 people. It sits several hours northwest of Dallas in a solidly red part of the state. And on the day of the hearing, in the midst of the pandemic, a lot of people turn out to testify.
Speaker 21:So in the city of Lubbock, as we look at 277 lives lost to COVID, how many are you willing to see loss to abortion? Designating Lubbock as a sanctuary city would protect the tiniest and most vulnerable citizens from a certain death.
Speaker 22:I’m older than most people in this room, I’ve never heard of such an overreaching ridiculous ordinance like this.
Amy Littlefield:The city council members also don’t like the ordinance. Council member Randy Christian tells the crowd that he abhors abortion, but he’s been talking to legal scholars who warn the ordinance is unconstitutional.
Randy Christian:Prepare for legal action to be taken against our city that well could cost the taxpayers hundreds and thousands of dollars.
Amy Littlefield:Council member, Latrell Joy.
Latrell Joy:I’m a lawyer, licensed by the state of Texas, and I took an oath to uphold the laws of the US Constitution. I think you need to understand that we cannot do what this ordinance is proposing.
Amy Littlefield:Jonathan Mitchell, who’s argued cases in front of the Supreme Court has offered to represent the city pro bono if it gets sued, but it’s not enough to convince the council members.
Randy Christian:All those in favor of that motion, please say, aye. All those opposed to that motion, please say, aye.
Speaker 25:Aye, aye.
Randy Christian:Motion fails seven to zero.
Amy Littlefield:But then Mark and a group of residents rally to put the ordinance on the ballot. In May of 2021, the voters in Lubbock pass it and it succeeds in shutting down abortions at the only clinic within hundreds of miles, Planned Parenthood. The strategy is working. By last summer, more than 30 cities have passed Mark’s ordinance. Then he gets to Edinburg near the Mexican border.
Speaker 10:All three members of Edinburg city council agreed with Mayor Molina’s desire to make Edinburg the first sanctuary city for the unborn in the Rio Grande Valley.
Mayor Molina:I want you to know as the mayor, and I’m only one vote, we vote as a team, but you do have my commitment that you will get this done.
Amy Littlefield:Texas is known for its conservative politics, but there’s a robust reproductive justice movement here led by women of color and they spring into action.
Zaena Zamora:Do have Zaena Zamora.
Amy Littlefield:At a public hearing, Zaena Zamora is the first supporter of abortion rights to speak. She’s Executive Director of Frontera Fund. The group helps people in south Texas access abortions. People often call the fund for financial or logistical help.
Zaena Zamora:And over 20% of our colors were people and citizens of Edinburg.
Amy Littlefield:She’s a soft spoken woman and she’s nervous. Her teenage son is standing behind her.
Zaena Zamora:These anti-abortion ordinances and the language used to describe those seeking abortion further stigmatizes and shames people for making the best decisions for themselves and their families. The decision of whether or not to become a parent is one of the most important decisions a person can make. No matter what your view is on abortion, nobody has the right to interfere with that decision.
Amy Littlefield:The turnout Zaena helped organize is beyond what she was expecting and people really bear their souls. A warning to listeners here, this next clip is about sexual violence.
Speaker 29:I’m not here with any group. I’m here on my own. I’m a resident of Edinburg. My dad raped me for the first 12 years of my life. And thank goodness, I didn’t get pregnant. But if I did, I should have the choice to abort because I would not raise my brother son or my sister daughter.
Speaker 30:Right now, I’m here to say that my abortion saved my life.
Speaker 31:Conservatives, like people here, constantly preach about government overstepping and invalidating personal freedoms. Well, I’m here to tell you that is precisely what each and every one of you who are considering this ordinance are doing.
Amy Littlefield:The testimony goes on for three hours. Then the city manager warns against passing the ordinance. He says he is worried about the impact it could have on the city. All of the council members back down and Richard Molina, the mayor who is gung ho about banning abortion in the city, realizes its over.
Mayor Molina:If nobody makes a motion and that means that this dies, counselor?
Speaker 47:That’s correct. A motion is required for the city counsel to take action.
Mayor Molina:Okay, so then there’s no action. This item dies and we’re moving on to the agenda.
Speaker 47:That’s correct.
Mayor Molina:Okay, let’s move on then.
Amy Littlefield:This victory feels amazing to Zaena because it’s so rare.
Zaena Zamora:This is my community and my community showed up and it showed up for us, showed up for people’s abortion rights.
Amy Littlefield:Zaena won this battle, but she and other abortion rights supporters are losing the war. This is where Janet Porter’s heartbeat bill comes back into the picture.
Brian Hughes:This bill will protect the lives of our most precious Texans starting at the moment that little heart is beating.
Dr. Blair Cushi…:That’s Brian Hughes, the Texas state Senator who brought together Jonathan Mitchell and Mark Lee Dixon during the phone call at Chick-fil-A. They’re the architects of the ordinances that use citizen enforcement to ban abortions at the local level. That’s given them a roadmap to do the same at the state level. So Hughes is introducing a bill that mashes up the emotional punch of Janet’s heartbeat bill with the enforcement strategy of the ordinances, and he’s repeating Jonathan’s radical legal theory while doing it.
Brian Hughes:The statutes protecting little babies from abortion that existed in 1973 are still alive and well.
Amy Littlefield:Those laws criminalized abortion and Hughes is saying that they could come back.
Brian Hughes:And as the Supreme Court allows us, those statutes are still very much enforceable.
Amy Littlefield:The Texas six-week abortion ban known as SB 8 gets signed into law. Abortion rights groups challenge it in court. And remember, each time a so-called heartbeat bill has been challenged, it’s been blocked. But Texas is overseen by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. That court is solidly conservative. One third of active judges were appointed by Trump. And while he doesn’t argue this case at the court, Jonathan Mitchell has a great track record before the Fifth Circuit. We found 19 cases that he argued there himself and he only lost one. A few of the cases are still pending. The Fifth Circuit refuses to block SB 8 and Jonathan gets his chance to defend the law at the Supreme Court. Justice Sonya Sotomayor challenges his notion that the state is not involved in this law because it’s outsourced enforcement to private citizens.
Justice Sotomay…:Are you suggesting that states can hire agents to do unconstitutional acts?
Jonathan Mitche…:No, they cannot hire agents.
Justice Sotomay…:So how can the state designate a private individual to act under its laws to violate a person’s constitutional rights?
Jonathan Mitche…:There’s not an agency relationship here, Justice Sotomayor.
Justice Sotomay…:It’s saying to it, you under this law, our law, you can act.
Amy Littlefield:But the court allows the law to remain in effect while legal challenges play out. In her most recent dissent, Sotomayor writes, “This case is a disaster for the rule of law and a grave disservice to women in Texas who have a right to control their own bodies.” The court’s decision to let the law stand for now has emboldened anti-abortion rights, activists, including heartbeat bill creator, Janet Porter. She just filed paperwork to run for Congress.
Janet Porter:If a heartbeat is detected, the baby is protected. Soon the nation will follow.
Amy Littlefield:So far, politicians in at least half a dozen states are trying to follow Texas’s lead.
Al Letson:That was journalist Amy Littlefield. Our story was produced by Katherine Mieszkowski. Law and journalism grad students from the University of California, Berkeley also helped us dig through legal cases and video archives to tell this story. The first month after the six-week abortion ban went into effect, abortions in Texas dropped by 50%, but clinics in other cities like Wichita, Kansas are being inundated with patients from Texas. That’s next on Reveal.
Ike Sriskandara…:From the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Ike Sriskandarajah in for Al Letson.

It’s December 2021, about six months after Zaena Zamora and other activists beat back that so-called sanctuary city ordinance in Edinburg, Texas. They won the battle, but lost the war.
Zaena Zamora:All right, so I just got off a call with a caller who is traveling to Wichita, Kansas from the Rio Grande Valley.
Ike Sriskandara…:SB 8, the heartbeat bill is state law. Zaena’s organization, Frontera Fund is still helping people who need abortions, but now help more often means booking travel out of state.
Zaena Zamora:Oh, that’s a long flight though.
Ike Sriskandara…:Remember the Rio Grande Valley is at the southernmost tip of Texas. Wichita, Kansas is over 800 miles north. There’s no major airport here, so patients have to take at least two flights to leave the state, and that’s if they have legal status. There are interior border checkpoints on roads and at airports. Zaena says, if you’re undocumented, travel is difficult, if not impossible.
Zaena Zamora:Man, the flights are expensive.
Ike Sriskandara…:And then there’s the cost.
Zaena Zamora:And this trip is going to cost us $770.21. So now I have to look for hotels.
Ike Sriskandara…:Another $220. All in all, it takes Zaena 25 minutes and about a thousand dollars to book a flight and a hotel for one person.
Speaker 39:And folks from the flight deck. Welcome to 4367 to Wichita.
Ike Sriskandara…:There are thousands of people who are looking for help. To really understand how this Texas law is affecting abortion access, we had to leave Texas. So we sent Reveal producer Nadia Hamdan to a clinic in Wichita.
Nadia Hamdan:So what are we doing here today?
Dr. Christina B…:Today is a busy, busy clinic day, pre-holiday, which can be hit or miss in terms of busy. And we are on an absolute hit day.
Nadia Hamdan:The Trust Women Clinic in Wichita, Kansas used to see maybe one or two Texas patients a month. Now, it’s more like two dozen. And today, Dr. Christina Bourne is the only doctor available to see them.
Dr. Christina B…:I feel like we see a lot of folks who’ve been driving all night, who have slept in their cars, things like that.
Nadia Hamdan:Over the next 10 hours, she’ll see 30 patients.
Dr. Christina B…:We’re seeing a lot more later cases because folks have to travel more, process the fact that they likely can’t get care in their own state.
Nadia Hamdan:The fact that people in Texas are flocking to Kansas for abortion care is kind of remarkable. Yes, Kansas allows an abortion up to 22 weeks, but that doesn’t mean it’s some liberal bastion. In fact, this clinic was infamous.
Speaker 42:The confessed killer of an abortion doctor in Kansas defended his actions today at his sentencing.
Nadia Hamdan:It was Dr. George Tiller’s clinic. He was a well known abortion rights advocate and one of the only doctors in the country to perform abortions after 25 weeks, until he was murdered in 2009, when an anti-abortion activist shot him one Sunday morning at church.
Speaker 42:He said the killing was justified to save the lives of unborn children.
Nadia Hamdan:Today though, this once infamous clinic has become an unexpected refuge.
Dr. Christina B…:Great. That’s okay. We’ll take a look at it real quick.
Nadia Hamdan:It’s not long before Dr. Bourne gets pulled away into an exam room. It’s the last time I’ll get a chance to speak to her for the rest of the day. So I step out into the main room where clinic director, Ashley Brink is managing the flow of patients. She’s wearing a mask that says, abortion is normal. A t-shirt that says abortion is essential healthcare.
Ashley Brink:So I mean, it’s the epitome of autonomy. If we can’t control our future, our reproductive health, then we’ve lost. So we’re just trying to keep it together and hold it together here.
Nadia Hamdan:I’m sure you can hear the pop music playing in the background. It’s clear the staff is doing their best to keep people’s spirits up.
Ashley Brink:We are one org, but there’s orgs all over the country who are kind of also holding up the abortion sky right now and we’re just a piece of that pie.
Nadia Hamdan:Trust Women has added six more doctors into its rotations since September to keep up with demand. That’s a total of 17 doctors and they’re traveling here from all over the country. They’re coming from places like California, Florida, and yes, Texas. Not a single one lives in Kansas. Clinic staff tell me, doctors here have dealt with a lot of harassment. It’s easier to recruit doctors who come and go.
Ashley Brink:And so this is kind of their secondary job, I guess. So they travel when they can and that’s when we set up their schedule is when they have availability.
Nadia Hamdan:A surgical abortion usually takes about three to five minutes, but even so patients are often told they’ll be waiting for six to eight hours. The clinic’s normally open until five, but they’ve been closing later and later.
Speaker 44:Don’t leave here until 8:30 on Friday.
Nadia Hamdan:And the late nights are just one thing the staff have had to get used to. There’s also the gauntlet of protestors outside, the parked truck with a giant picture of a decapitated fetus, the Manila envelope at the front desk with bomb threat instructions. Another example, in Kansas, the person counseling a patient about their decision to have an abortion can’t be the doctor performing the procedure.
Alexandria Paaz:This is the room. Patients sit here. I sit here. Here’s my certificate.
Nadia Hamdan:Clinic staffer Alexandria Paaz shows me the special room for this required counseling. I can see a bunch of these certificates covering part of the wall. And can you describe what this is, the credentials of ministry?
Alexandria Paaz:Pastoral. We have to be certified like an ordained, I guess, minister.
Nadia Hamdan:Yes, a minister. Now Alex and other staff could have gotten licensed in psychology or social work, but that’s expensive and time consuming. The shortest path to becoming a legal counselor is to enter the clergy. So half a dozen Trust Women staffers got themselves ordained.
Alexandria Paaz:Yeah. This board is starting to fill up. Both boards are starting to fill up.
Nadia Hamdan:By noon, the clinic’s big white board is filling up with surgical procedures. Another board is filling up with medication abortions. Those are the patients who are earlier in their pregnancies and aren’t having surgery. Instead, they’ll take some pills. I noticed one patient opens her exam room door to ask how much longer she needs to wait. Another patient begins to moan as a nurse struggles to find a vein for her IV. Another is rolled out from the operating room, still drowsy from the pain meds. And new patients keep arriving. Clinic director, Ashley Brink makes sure to check in on them. Are
Ashley Brink:Are you still doing okay in there, sweetie? Yeah. Doctor’s finishing up a procedure. She’ll be right in, okay. Do you need anything?
Nadia Hamdan:The clinic asked everyone if they wanted to share their experience with a reporter, me, during their visit. It’s not really surprising that no one agrees. But I’m standing next to Ashley when I overhear that one of the patients being prepped is from Southeast Texas.
Ashley Brink:So did I see that the woman that was sitting here-
Nadia Hamdan:She was from Texas.
Ashley Brink:Yes.

So she actually came in on Friday a little bit later in the day and based on her gestational age, we were unable to see her that same day.
Nadia Hamdan:Gestational age just means how far along someone is in their pregnancy. This patient is 16 weeks, early in her second trimester.
Ashley Brink:We’ve seen some higher gestations because people are waiting, have to wait three weeks, a month to get an appointment.
Nadia Hamdan:The higher gestational age means this patient now needs a different kind of surgical procedure. And while the procedure itself only takes 10 to 15 minutes, it’s going to take a lot longer to prep her body.
Ashley Brink:[crosstalk] weekend, so we were able to get her a hotel. And so she came in and she’ll get her abortion today, and then she’ll go back to Texas.
Nadia Hamdan:I don’t know this patient’s story, but I do know that anyone from Texas sitting in this clinic has had to navigate both Texas and Kansas abortion laws. That means an ultrasound, a counseling session, a mandatory 24-hour waiting period, a second appointment with the same doctor, potentially another ultrasound, four to 13 hours of travel, another ultrasound, another counseling session, another six to eight hours of waiting and up to $2,400, sometimes more just for the procedure. And that’s for someone who is able to get an abortion here. A lot of people won’t. The staff at Trust Women told me that about a quarter of patients never show up for their appointments.
Ashley Brink:We’re doing the best we can to help as many people as possible. But I think the hardest is that we know that we can’t help or save everybody. And so it’s hard.
Nadia Hamdan:As I listen to her, Ashley’s mask and t-shirts stare back at me. Abortion is normal. Abortion is essential healthcare. How do you respond to the opposition that tend to say the minute there’s cardiac activity, according to you, for them a heartbeat, they’re saying, that means now I’m caring for two patients instead of one.
Ashley Brink:You can believe what you want to believe. But at the end of the day, again, the only thing that matters to me is that the person in front of me is getting the care that they want, that they need, and that they deserve in a respectful non-judgmental way.
Nadia Hamdan:Ashley says her staff will keep showing up, keep playing music, keep holding up that sky for as long as they can.
Ike Sriskandara…:That was Reveal’s Nadia Hamdan. Right now, the Supreme Court is debating the fate of Roe V. Wade. Clinic staff in Wichita are all but sure it will be overturned. A decision is expected by this summer.

Our lead producer for this week’s show was Katherine Mieszkowski. She had help from Nadia Hamdan. Cynthia Rodriguez edited the show along with Casey Minor. Reveal’s features editor, Nina Martin, and reporting fellow Grace Oldham collaborated with the team of law and journalism students at UC Berkeley’s Human Rights Center and Investigative Reporting Program.

Special thanks to Texas-based freelance reporter Mary Toma. Victoria Baranetsky is our general counsel. Our production manager is Amy Mostafa. Score and sound designed by Jim Briggs and Fernando Arruda. They had help this week from Steven Rascon, Katherine Stier Martinez and Jess Alvarenga. Our digital producer is Sarah Merck. Our CEO is Kaizar Campwala. Sumi Aggarwal is our editor in chief. And our executive producer is Kevin Sullivan. Our theme music is by Comarado Lightning.

Support for Reveal is provided by the Reva and David Logan Foundation. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, the Hellman Foundation, the Democracy Fund and the In As Much Foundation. Reveal is a co-production of the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX.

I’m Ike Sriskandarajah. And remember, there is always more to the story.
Al Letson:If you like what we do and you want to help, well, it’s pretty simple. Just write us a review on Apple podcast. It’s easy and only takes a few seconds. Just open the Apple podcast app on your phone, search for Reveal then scroll down to where you see, write a review, and there tell them how much you love the host. Your review makes it easier for listeners to find us, and well, it really does make a difference. And if you do it, you will get a personal, thank you for me, like right now. Like thank not him, not … you. Yes, you. thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. All right.
Speaker 46:From PRX.

Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior reporter and producer for Reveal. She's also been a senior writer for Salon and Fast Company. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Mother Jones, Slate and on NPR's "All Things Considered."

Her coverage has won national awards, including the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award two years in a row, an Online News Association Award, a Webby Award and a Society of Environmental Journalists Award. Mieszkowski has a bachelor's degree from Yale University. She is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.

Nadia Hamdan (she/her) is a producer for Reveal. Previously, she was a public radio reporter with NPR station KUT 90.5 in Austin, Texas. Hamdan's reporting has been heard on NPR's “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered,” WBUR’s “Here & Now” and the BBC’s “World Service,” among other programs. She's won numerous awards for her reporting, including a national Public Media Journalists Association Award, two regional Edward R. Murrow Awards and multiple Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Awards. Hamdan was awarded a Texas Gavel Award from the State Bar of Texas for a podcast on why sexual assaults are so hard to prosecute in Austin. She once conducted an entire interview while riding a mule through downtown Austin, where she is based.

Cynthia Rodriguez

Cynthia Rodriguez is a senior radio editor for Reveal. She is an award-winning journalist who came to Reveal from New York Public Radio, where she spent nearly two decades covering everything from the city’s dramatic rise in family homelessness to police’s fatal shootings of people with mental illness.

In 2019, Rodriguez was part of Caught, a podcast that documents how the problem of mass incarceration starts with the juvenile justice system. Caught received an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award for outstanding journalism in the public interest. Her other award-winning stories include investigations into the deaths of construction workers during New York City's building boom and the “three-quarter house” industry – a network of independent, privately run buildings that pack vulnerable people into unsanitary, overcrowded buildings in exchange for their welfare funds.

In 2013, Rodriguez was one of 13 journalists to be selected as a Knight-Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan, where her study project was on the intersection of poverty and mental health. She is based in New York City but is originally from San Antonio, Texas, and considers both places home.

Nina Martin (she/her) is the features editor for Reveal. She develops high-impact investigative reporting projects for Reveal’s digital and audio platforms and television and print partners. Previously, she was a reporter at ProPublica, covering sex and gender issues, and worked as an editor and/or reporter at San Francisco magazine, The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Post, the International Herald Tribune, Health magazine and BabyCenter magazine. Her Lost Mothers project for ProPublica and NPR examining maternal mortality in the U.S. led to sweeping change to maternal health policy at the state and federal levels and won numerous awards. Martin is based in Reveal’s Emeryville, California, office.

Amy Mostafa (she/they) is the production manager for Reveal. She is a UC Berkeley School of Journalism alum, where she focused on audio and data journalism as a Dean's Merit Fellow and an ISF Scholar. She has reported on science, health and the environment in Anchorage for Alaska Public Media and on city government in Berkeley and San Francisco for KQED. Her work also has appeared on NPR, KALW and KALX. Mostafa holds a bachelor's degree in English literature and public policy. She has most recently reported on housing and aging in the Bay Area. She is based in Reveal’s Emeryville, California, office.

Sarah Mirk (she/her) is a digital engagement producer for Reveal. Since 2017, she has worked as an editor at The Nib, an online daily comics publication focused on political cartoons, graphic journalism, essays and memoirs about current affairs. She works with artists to create nonfiction comics on a variety of complex topics, from personal narratives about queer identities to examinations of overlooked history. Before that, Mirk was the online editor of national feminist media outlet Bitch, a podcast host and a local news reporter. She is also the author of several books, including “Year of Zines,” a collection of 100 handmade zines, and “Guantanamo Voices,” a collection of illustrated oral histories of the world’s most infamous prison. Mirk is based in Portland, Oregon.

Jim Briggs III is the senior sound designer, engineer and composer for Reveal. He supervises post-production and composes original music for the public radio show and podcast. He also leads Reveal's efforts in composition for data sonification and live performances.

Prior to joining Reveal in 2014, Briggs mixed and recorded for clients such as WNYC Studios, NPR, the CBC and American Public Media. Credits include “Marketplace,” “Selected Shorts,” “Death, Sex & Money,” “The Longest Shortest Time,” NPR’s “Ask Me Another,” “Radiolab,” “Freakonomics Radio” and “Soundcheck.” He also was the sound re-recording mixer and sound editor for several PBS television documentaries, including “American Experience: Walt Whitman,” the 2012 Tea Party documentary "Town Hall" and “The Supreme Court” miniseries. His music credits include albums by R.E.M., Paul Simon and Kelly Clarkson.

Briggs' work with Reveal has been recognized with an Emmy Award (2016) and two Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards (2018, 2019). Previously, he was part of the team that won the Dart Award for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma for its work on WNYC’s hourlong documentary special “Living 9/11.” He has taught sound, radio and music production at The New School and Eugene Lang College and has a master's degree in media studies from The New School. Briggs is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.

Fernando Arruda

Fernando Arruda is a sound designer, engineer and composer for Reveal. As a multi-instrumentalist, he contributes to the original music, editing and mixing of the weekly public radio show and podcast. He has held four O-1 visas for individuals with extraordinary abilities. His work has been recognized with Peabody, duPont-Columbia, Edward R. Murrow, Gerald Loeb, Third Coast and Association of Music Producers awards, as well as Emmy and Pulitzer nominations. Prior to joining Reveal, Arruda toured as an international DJ and taught music technology at Dubspot and ESRA International Film School. He worked at Antfood, a creative audio studio for media and TV ads, and co-founded a film-scoring boutique called the Manhattan Composers Collective. He worked with clients such as Marvel, MasterClass and Samsung and ad agencies such as Framestore, Trollbäck+Company, BUCK and Vice. Arruda releases experimental music under the alias FJAZZ and has performed with many jazz, classical and pop ensembles, such as SFJAZZ Monday Night Band, Art&Sax quartet, Krychek, Dark Inc. and the New York Arabic Orchestra. His credits in the podcast and radio world include NPR’s “51 Percent,” WNYC’s “Bad Feminist Happy Hour” and its live broadcast of Orson Welles’ “The Hitchhiker,” Wondery’s “Detective Trapp,” MSNBC’s “Why Is This Happening?” and NBC’s “Born to Rule,” to name a few. Arruda also has a wide catalog of composed music for theatrical, orchestral and chamber music formats, some of which has premiered worldwide. He holds a master’s degree in film scoring and composition from NYU Steinhardt. The original music he makes with Jim Briggs for Reveal can be found on Bandcamp.

Steven Rascón (he/they) is a production assistant for Reveal. He is pursuing a master's degree at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism with a Kaiser Permanente Institute for Health Policy Fellowship. His focus is investigative reporting and audio documentary. He has written for online, magazines and radio. His reporting on underreported fentanyl overdoses in Los Angeles' LGBTQ community aired on KCRW and KQED. Rascón is passionate about telling diverse stories for radio through community engagement. He holds a bachelor of fine arts degree in theater arts and creative writing.

Kathryn Styer Martínez

Kathryn Styer Martínez (she/ella) is a production assistant for Reveal. She studies audio and photojournalism at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. She is also a Greater Good Science Center reporting fellow, focusing on Latino well-being.

Martínez was the 2020-21 Toni Randolph reporting fellow at Minnesota Public Radio, the 2019-20 New Economy Reporting Project fellow and the former director of KGPC-LP FM, Peralta Community Radio. Her work has appeared in El Tecolote, The Oaklandside, MPR News, National Public Radio, Outside Online, Talk Poverty, New Life Quarterly and Making Contact.

She earned bachelor’s degrees in Raza studies and political science from San Francisco State University.

Jess Alvarenga (they/she) is a former associate producer for Reveal. They are an audio producer and documentary filmmaker from the American South. Meeting at the intersection of art and journalism, they use storytelling as a way to document and reimagine immigrant narratives, particularly those of the Central American diaspora. In 2017, Alvarenga was awarded an individual artist grant from the Houston Arts Alliance and the City of Houston for their work on the city’s Central American population. They have a master’s degree in journalism from UC Berkeley.

Kevin Sullivan is a former executive producer of Reveal’s public radio show and podcast. He joined Reveal from the daily news magazine show “Here & Now,” where he was senior managing editor. There, he helped lead the expansion of the show as part of a unique partnership between NPR and WBUR. Prior to radio, Sullivan worked as a documentary film producer. That work took him around the world, with stories ranging from reconciliation in Northern Ireland to the refugee crisis during the war in Kosovo.

Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Sullivan launched an investigative unit for CBS in Baltimore, where he spearheaded investigations on bioterrorism and the U.S. government’s ability to respond to future threats. He also dug into local issues. His exposé of local judges found widespread lax sentencing of repeat-offender drunken drivers. Other investigations included sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests, and doctors who sold OxyContin for cash. Sullivan has won multiple journalism awards, including several Edward R. Murrow awards, a Third Coast / Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Competition award and an Emmy. He has an MBA from Boston University.

Ike Sriskandarajah

Ike Sriskandarajah is a senior reporter, producer, and fill-in host for Reveal. He has worked on projects that have won an Emmy, two medals from Investigative Reporters and Editors, and awards from Third Coast, the Education Writers Association, and the New York Associated Press Association. He was a narrative audio producer at The New York Times, making investigative episodes for "The Daily." Sriskandarajah is from Wisconsin and reports from New York City.

Amy Littlefield

Amy Littlefield (she/her) is a freelance investigative journalist who focuses on reproductive health care. She is the abortion access correspondent at The Nation magazine. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Insider, The New Republic, and many more outlets. She worked as a news producer at the TV/radio program Democracy Now! and as an investigative reporter at Rewire News Group. She lives in Boston.

Casey Miner is an award-winning narrative audio editor, producer, and writer who's worked with outlets including Wondery, Reveal, 70 Million, The Stoop, NPR, Slate, Pop-Up Magazine, and Mother Jones. She has led creative teams for Al Jazeera and KALW; taught audio production and narrative structure at the University of California, Berkeley; and launched and hosted The Specialist, a podcast about work we don't think about and the people who do it. Projects she's worked on have been recognized by the Peabody Awards, the Emmy Awards, the National Association of Black Journalists, and the Society of Professional Journalists, among others. She is also a founding member of the Editors Collective, where she trains new editors and connect them with others in the audio storytelling industry.