We’d like to introduce Allison Morgan, our new case manager! Allie is originally from the East Coast, but has lived in Portland for the past five years. She loves the […]

April 28, 2021 // Evan Billups // No Comments //

We’d like to introduce Allison Morgan, our new case manager! Allie is originally from the East Coast, but has lived in Portland for the past five years. She loves the outdoors and will say yes to pretty much any outdoor activity. Allie also enjoys reading and tending to her many houseplants.

Where are you from?
I’m in Portland. I’ve lived in Portland for 5 years, but I’m from New Hampshire. I grew up on the East Coast in New York and in New Hampshire, went to college in New York, and then I moved to Bend after college. So I lived in Bend for a little bit and now I’m in Portland.

What brought you to Bend?
I got an internship at a chimpanzee sanctuary.

Woah that’s cool!
Yeah it was really cool! Basically the internship you stay on-site at the sanctuary and so I was only there for like 6 weeks, but I just kept staying until a job opened up. And then I lived there and worked there for three years.

What were you doing there? What was your interest in the chimpanzees?
I studied neuroscience and behavior in college and so I think that I thought that maybe I was going to do more like psychology stuff, but I struggled with certain types of research. I learned about chimpanzees still being in labs in the U.S. and I was like, “What?” And then I just got into this rabbit hole of really being interested in animals, I was like, “Why are there so many chimpanzees in the U.S.? This is kind of wild that there are thousands in the U.S. in captivity!” 

So we took care of them and were trying to manage their stress. A lot of them experienced emotional trauma in similar ways to the way people do, and just from abuse living with humans and being neglected and abandoned. So they were kind of high-maintenance chimpanzees in a way.

So then after Bend, what brought you to Portland?
So then I actually worked in Nigeria with chimpanzees and monkeys for a year and a half. I worked at a sanctuary in Nigeria and they had hundreds of drill monkeys and then they have like, I can’t remember how many chimpanzees, and some other random animals too that get dropped off.

Wow! I feel like you’ve lived such an exciting life!
Yeah, it’s how my brain works. I just get started thinking about things and then I get so interested and I’m like I have to learn more, I have to do something about this! 

What was your interest in the egg donation world?
I moved to Portland because I wanted to work in social services and try to do like social work. So I worked with homeless youth for 4 years at Janis Youth and then Outside In. But what I’ve been really interested in is reproductive health specifically, so I started volunteering last year with a reproductive justice organization and we focus on supporting people around abortion. But I’ve just become really serious and interested in the many ways people can have the families that they want to have. Sometimes that means having an abortion, sometimes that means using Assistive Reproductive Technology. All of these options should really be more available to the people who need them and I guess I just really want to understand the full spectrum of reproductive healthcare that is possible and help people understand what their options are.

I’ve gotten to know more people with “non-traditional” families, and I like being able to think about all the options of what a family can be.

So did you end up working in social services other than this before this job?
Yeah I worked at Janis Youth programs and then Outside In, I managed the drop in program for homeless youth. So that’s people ages 16-24 experiencing homelessness. This comes back to family a little bit too, because a lot of people who maybe didn’t feel supported by their families for lots of different reasons; maybe their family just couldn’t financially or emotionally support them, or maybe because they were coming out as gay or trans or had any other set of beliefs that their parents couldn’t support. It makes me think about how people find their chosen family and need different types of support. 

Things that I want to learn about further are just like how we can support young people to be open-minded about family ideals, but still feel really connected to people both in their direct family unit as well as people who share their culture, whatever that means to them. Sometimes a culture is a place, sometimes it’s something different.

When you applied to this job were you specifically looking for things in egg donation/reproductive health or did it sort of just catch your eye because it was related to that?
I think I was really hoping to do something around reproductive health and it is a pretty broad field in a sense, but still – I don’t have a Masters degree and I’m not like a doctor obviously, so there are only so many jobs.

What part of this job are you most excited about?
I think I am excited to learn about what is possible and the details of what is scientifically and medically available and be able to explain those processes to more people. And the other thing that I’m interested in too is if there’s any way to reduce the stigma of having to go to a fertility clinic at all, like using Assistive Reproductive Technology, using egg donors, using surrogates. Just thinking about ways to help reduce that stigma for folks. That’s obviously hard and there’s a lot of, not secrecy, but confidentiality that you’re keeping with people, and you’re super respecting that they might not tell anyone. But at the same time, I want to live in a world where we can be open and honest, and be having discussions of race because I think that’s really important too.

Yeah, there is a stigma around egg donation, more so even than surrogacy. It’s definitely been interesting for me to learn more about it, as I was also relatively new to this world when I came in.
Yeah, I’m just really happy to learn more about it and just be thoughtful on what I don’t know and just like how I can never know how other people are approaching it and how they feel about their process. There are just so many of these things that feel really human, but we still have been raised with potentially different mindsets. I just want to have a lot of cultural humility of like I really don’t know.

It can definitely be a sensitive thing, but I like having different kinds of conversations and thinking about family and communities of care… I like talking to all different people an trying to feel out what they need from me to feel comfortable in a conversation – it’s important to me.

Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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