Want a uterus-shaped decal with that free Plan B?

Undeterred by summer’s first nasty heat, Dallas shoppers swarmed a recent street bazaar in Bishop Arts. It was Instagram nirvana — the merchandise a mashup of funky and sweet, a youngish crowd in T-shirts and frilly sundresses, and a dozen prime selfie spots, the most popular a wall of “Tipsy Beach” posters.

At the center of the Etsy-like glut of boho-chic clothes, crafts, jewelry and home décor, one vendor offered something different: birth control options — free of charge and handed out alongside shiny silver uterus-shaped stickers.

The popup booth, run by Trust Her, is a strategy the Child Poverty Action Lab has launched to get birth control to every woman who wants it in Dallas County. The initiative is part of the nonprofit’s goal to cut child poverty in half in the next 20 years.

Bringing birth control to unexpected places — accompanied by a light-hearted vibe you’d never find in a medical setting — is a big step in providing reliable information while dissolving outdated taboos.

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Two hours watching four Trust Her staffers and one of their clinic partners talk with Bishop Bazaar browsers made clear the Child Poverty Action Lab is filling a big gap. I was flabbergasted by how excited people were to take a break from their shopping to talk about birth control.

A steady stream of people — I counted more than 150 — stopped at Trust Her’s booth at the north Oak Cliff event: couples, gaggles of young friends, 30-something professionals, parents and grandparents with youngsters in tow. The pink and lavender space, which provides information in English and Spanish, is feminine in style and decorated with whimsical artwork.

A steady stream of interested people stopped at the Trust Her booth Sunday to pick up birth...
A steady stream of interested people stopped at the Trust Her booth Sunday to pick up birth control options and information. (Azul Sordo / Special Contributor)

The women handed out condoms and boxes of Plan B, a contraceptive that can prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex if taken within 72 hours. Also popular was the pamphlet with a QR code for making a clinic or virtual appointment for birth control.

“Each person who stops is an opportunity for the team to say, ‘We are Trust Her. We provide free birth control,’ ” said Kate McCollum, Child Poverty Action Lab senior director and leader of the Trust Her reproductive and maternal health strategy.

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“Thank you, ladies, so much for doing this,” a young shopper said as she left with literature and Plan B. “You are doing God’s work.”

“Hell, yes,” another exclaimed. “Can I get some extra uterus stickers for friends?”

A mother grimaced as her teenage daughter nudged her toward the tent. She would rather have kept walking, “but I know it’s time,” she told Courtni Jones, Trust Her’s contraceptive counselor.

An older woman asked McCollum how to sign up to help. “It’s so good to see something like this in Texas. It’s so needed here.”

Trust Her director Kate McCollum (left) and Micaela Sanchez, a women's health nurse...
Trust Her director Kate McCollum (left) and Micaela Sanchez, a women’s health nurse practitioner whose clinic partners with Trust Her, distribute free contraceptives and information pamphlets at the Bishop Bazaar.(Azul Sordo / Special Contributor)

“I’m 45 and should know this, but can you explain how Plan B works?” a woman asked Micaela Sanchez, a women’s health nurse practitioner who runs one of the clinics partnering with Trust Her.

Other women, and a few men, responded, “No, I’m good” as they walked by, only to return a few minutes later. “Actually, could you answer a few questions?”

Questions came from the woman who just lost health insurance. One who is on birth control with hormones that don’t suit her. The college student who needs access, but doesn’t know how to talk to her parents about it.

These women left the booth feeling more control over their reproductive health.

If only groups like Trust Her had been around when I was a young woman. Accessing birth control — or even knowing how to start a conversation about it — seemed impossible to my friends and me. Judging from what I heard last weekend, things haven’t changed much in four decades.

The name Trust Her reflects the Child Poverty Action Lab’s foundational belief that women should be in the driver’s seat on decisions about having a family. The name has taken on a second meaning: Dallas County women say they trust the team’s guidance in making safe reproductive health decisions.

Kate McCollum restocks emergency contraceptives at the Trust Her booth. The team handed out...
Kate McCollum restocks emergency contraceptives at the Trust Her booth. The team handed out about 200 Plan B boxes in the first several hours of the Bishop Bazaar on Sunday. (Azul Sordo / Special Contributor)

McCollum’s work for eight years, the last four at the Child Poverty Action Lab, has focused on increasing contraceptive access. She said she feels strongly about doing this work in Texas, where many restrictions and struggles exist around women’s health.

Creating the popup space and information packets and hiring a contraceptive counselor are the Trust Her team’s latest wins for Dallas County women.

Earlier this month, the nonprofit celebrated the long-fought-for launch of a mobile health clinic for women on Dallas College campuses. The unit offers contraceptive counseling, screenings for sexually transmitted infections and sexual health education.

Trust Her also partners with 20 clinics — a number McCollum expects to grow to 35 by year’s end.

Trust Her aims to ensure every woman in Dallas County has access to her preferred method of contraception, regardless of her ability to pay.

Depending on insurance coverage, the yearly cost for birth control runs as high as $2,000. The nonprofit helps women determine if they are eligible to enroll in aid programs covering 100% of the cost, receive a sliding fee discount or receive free birth control from Trust Her.

Courtni Jones (center), Trust Her's contraceptive counselor, locates the birth control...
Courtni Jones (center), Trust Her’s contraceptive counselor, locates the birth control implant in her upper arm after two visitors to the booth asked if they could see how the device feels under the skin.(Azul Sordo / Special Contributor)

Trust Her’s contraceptive counseling is built on science and research. The written materials were created after the staff and the nonprofit design studio IDEO.org consulted with young people and the parents of teens.

Texas, which doesn’t require sex education in high school, ranks eighth among states with the highest teen birth rates. Trust Her’s discussions with this age group found a large number who didn’t want to get pregnant but wouldn’t consider birth control because they had heard so much false information about various options.

Staff told me they are amazed by how much fear and myth exist, much of it, unsurprisingly, generated on social media. A single experience gets blown out of proportion until stories such as “any birth control will make you infertile” are believed.

“You can’t just put up a website and FAQ and think that’s all it takes,” McCollum said. “This work requires much more individualized support.”

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Trust Her’s handouts also had to account for the December 2022 court decision that banned Texas teens from confidentially receiving birth control at federally funded family planning clinics. Those younger than 18 now have no way to secure birth control without parental approval.

McCollum knows parents fear talking about birth control will prompt more teens to begin having sex. “That sentiment comes from this place of protection and caring,” she said.

“We aren’t trying to talk to teens behind their parents’ backs. The reality is they have to have their parents’ permission.”

Trust Her rarely misses an opportunity to plant its tent at an event in Dallas County. Gone are staffers’ early concerns no one would want to talk about birth control and theirs would be “that weird booth.”

Whether in Bishop Arts, a DART-sponsored block party at Mockingbird Station or on the UT Dallas campus, the Trust Her booth has enabled those seeking help and those assisting to trade stories about the difficulties of accessing birth control.

“They see this pretty and welcoming booth,” McCollum said, “then they start talking and they realize, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m not the only one going through this. This is a safe space.’ ”

Need assistance securing birth control or want to learn more about Trust Her events and contraceptive counseling options? Go to trust-her.org.