Samantha Romero is a queer, Latinx reproductive justice organizer and LGBTQ+ advocate. Samantha is most notable for her work with the West Fund, the Texas Senate District 29, and community organizations which seek to educate and bring awareness to reproductive rights and LGBTQ+ issues.
Samantha Romero was born and raised in El Paso and went on to pursue higher education at UTEP. Shortly after graduating with a bachelor’s degree, Samantha found out she was pregnant. At the time, Samantha and her partner were both underemployed and financially insecure. The couple knew they were not able to support a child. Samantha kept her pregnancy from everyone besides her partner, and not wanting her parents to find out through their insurance, Samantha and her partner went to a clinic in an effort to confirm the pregnancy. At this clinic, Samantha was only informed about adoption and child-rearing as her options:
“I was lied to. They talked about beliefs that weren’t mine. They spoke down to me about love, the cosmos, and the beauty of life. Except, they weren’t talking about my life. Thankfully I was old enough to not be so impressionable. I was mature enough to know what I wanted my future to look like. I was wise enough to know myself, my mind, and my body” (Samantha Romero, Repro Power Speak Out).
After Samantha made the decision to have a medical abortion, she was able to seize opportunities that helped to advance her career. Since then, Samantha has been involved in community-based work and advocacy in efforts to fight for reproductive justice.
In November of 2015, Samantha participated in the UTEP fashion show ‘Justicia: Modeling Our Stories’. The Texas Freedom Network chapter at UTEP organized this fashion show in an effort to celebrate reproductive justice and LGBTQ equality. The fashion formed part of Illuminate RJ, a statewide project that aimed to lift the narrative around abortion. At this fashion show, models walked the runway while their stories played over speakers for the audience to hear. Samantha shared her abortion story and spoke of her intention to normalize these discussions: “Unfortunately, there currently isn’t a safe space for women to feel comfortable with sharing their abortion story. This is a problem because women shouldn’t have to feel that burden or that shame. Reducing the stigma and reminding people that abortion is an option, and a constitutional right is what I hope to achieve by sharing my story” (Samantha Romero, Modeling Our Stories).
In September of 2017, the Repro Power El Paso Speakout Event took place at The San Carlos Building in downtown El Paso. Repro Power El Paso is part of a multi-city initiative led by the West Fund, the Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity, the Texas Equal Access Fund, and NARAL Pro-Choice Texas to build a groundswell of support for abortion access and reproductive justice in local communities. At the Speak Out Event, El Pasoans shared their experiences with accessing abortions and reproductive injustice through personal storytelling and works of art. Samantha, who at the time was the President of the West Fund, spoke at this event, sharing her story about abortion and the need for accessible reproductive healthcare. Samantha touched base on how, because of her abortion, she was able to achieve things she might not have otherwise: “I got to move across the state and work for Battleground Texas and the Wendy Davis campaign; I’ve attended and traveled to different conferences in and out of the state on community activism; I’ve returned to school to work on my Masters; and I now have an awesome job for a badass state advocate” (Samantha Romero, Repro Power Speak Out).
In December, the Texas Freedom Network Education Funds (TFNEF) and program for young activists, Texas Rising, hosted a series of Lies into Laws Forums on college campuses around Texas to empower students to call out lawmakers who are turning lies into harmful laws. These events took place at campuses located in El Paso, Austin, Dallas—Fortworth, Houston, Rio Grande Valley, San Antonio, and San Marcos. Featured experts, advocates, and students talked about the impact of Texas laws that target and harm women, LGBTQ+ individuals, immigrants, and people of color. Within these discussions, panelists also offered ways in which students can fight back. At the Lies into Laws event that took place at UTEP, Samantha participated as one of the event’s panelists. She emphasized the connections between and among issues affecting young people: “The least you can do is understand how movements are related and how they connect with each other… Being involved and informed to support each other across movements is very, very important because we cannot do it alone” (Samantha Romero, Lies into Laws 2017). Samantha also discussed some of the issues which still reside in the Borderland, despite its overwhelmingly democratic presence: “El Paso is a strongly democratic party but that by no means means that we are progressive… I think a lot of it does have to do with our culture and religion, so there are a lot of conversations we are just not having as a community and on an individual level. In the end, we are only perpetuating the cycle of shame and stigma” (Samantha Romero, Lies into Laws 2017). Samantha went on to applaud Repro Power for hosting their Speak Out event which encouraged necessary conversations about reproductive health and sexuality.
In January of 2018, an NBC news article was released shedding light on the reality of abortion accessibility and its effects on the LGBTQ+ community. Abortion is commonly thought to only affect heterosexual individuals, which leads to barriers in access. Samantha was featured in this article, spreading awareness on the misconception and the ways it has impacted her: “When I talk about my abortion, people assume I’m straight. When I talk about being queer, people don’t imagine that I’ve had an abortion before. It’s hard to live with both identities in a way that I feel other people can understand” (Samantha Romero, NBC 2018). “I’m not disqualified from being queer because I’ve had an abortion,” she stressed. In addition to misconceptions about LGBTQ+ people and their reproductive health care, financial barriers and a lack of healthcare add to the barriers they face when seeking an abortion. Samantha added that to pay for her abortion, she used money that she had been saving to move in with her partner at the time: “Everything I saved went towards my abortion. I don’t know what I would’ve done if I didn’t have the money” (Samantha Romero, NBC 2018).
In 2020, Samantha graduated from UTEP with a Master's in Sociology. She recently held a position as the Director of Special Projects at the Office of Texas State Senator Jose Rodriguez, which ended in January of 2021. Additionally, Samantha has led the Senate District 29 LGBTQ Advisory Committee. Through the intersectionality of her own story, Samantha has not only created representation for queer Latinx individuals within her work but has also increased awareness of important topics within the El Paso community. On a communal and political level, Samantha has brought necessary action, education, and advocacy for reproductive justice and LGBTQ+ rights within the Borderland and the rest of Texas.