In response to the passage of pro-life fetal heartbeat bills in states like Georgia, Alabama, Ohio, and Missouri, a coalition of progressive groups showed up in front of the south entrance of the Texas capitol building yesterday to rally in favor of abortion access and taxpayer-funding to organizations like Planned Parenthood.
These groups included Progress Texas, the ACLU, NARAL, and the Texas Handmaids, a group of women who dress up as characters from the fictional dystopian television show, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” as a way to protest against pro-life causes.
The first event was a morning discussion focused on policies affecting women of color in Texas sponsored by the Afiya Center. This was followed by a street-side rally in front of the capitol with NARAL, the ACLU of Texas, and other coalition members of the Trust Respect Access campaign.
Former Democrat gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis also attended to rally progressive activists. During her speech, Davis said, “This legislature is going to continue to try to intrude upon women’s reproductive freedoms, and it’s going to be incumbent upon all of us to stop that.”
Davis further claimed that “bodily autonomy is an American value.”
The Texan interviewed several women who were attending the final rally of the day sponsored by the Texas Handmaids, East Dallas Persistent Women, and the National Council of Jewish Women.
Donna Hall, a native of Austin, said, “This is important to me because I believe women have the right to bodily autonomy…we are not brood-mares for the state.”
When asked about the fetal heartbeat bills that have been in the news the past few weeks, Hall said she thought they were merely another way to control women.
In response specifically to Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, who signed a near total ban of abortion into law last week, Hall stated, “As a woman, she’s a traitor to women. If she believes women should be at home and pregnant, why is she the governor and trying to rule what other women do?”
In a public statement after signing the Alabama Human Life Protection Act, Ivey said, “I now urge all members of the Alabama Legislature to continue seeking the best ways possible to foster a better Alabama in all regards, from education to public safety. We must give every person the best chance for a quality life and a promising future.”
Another woman who attended the rally, Blake, is a transplant to Texas from the northeast. She said she was in attendance because this was a very personal issue for her.
“As somebody who had to go through an experience and make that decision, I was glad I was at least able to make that choice…my health would have suffered had I gone through with the pregnancy.”
Heartbeat legislation similar to what was passed in Georgia was filed in the Texas House with over 60 legislators in support. The bill, however, was referred to the Public Health Committee, chaired by Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston). Thompson is a well-known pro-choice legislator and never scheduled a committee hearing.
The heartbeat bill’s author, Rep. Briscoe Cain (R-Deerfield), stated that his office filed all of the necessary paperwork to receive a hearing and lamented that his bill had been referred to a committee chaired by a Democrat.
The actions of states like Alabama, Georgia, Ohio, Louisiana, and Missouri to further restrict abortion come in the wake of New York’s recently signed law, which effectively allows abortion at any stage of pregnancy and removes abortion from that state’s penal code.
On Friday, the House passed SB 22, a bill that further prevents abortion providers like Planned Parenthood and affiliated entities from receiving Texas taxpayer-funding or entering into tax partnerships with local governments. The bill language does not apply to hospitals licensed under the Texas Health and Safety Code, state hospitals, or teaching hospitals.
In response to the passage of SB 22, Elizabeth Ballew, an event organizer with the Texas Handmaids, said, “The Texas Legislature is taking away access to education, prevention, and community resources. This will negatively impact communities across the state of Texas.”
Texas Values, an organization that lobbies for religious freedom and pro-life causes, released a statement regarding the pro-life bills being heard this session.
“Unborn children in Texas can still be killed inside the womb. Some governmental entities in Texas still financially support abortion providers like Planned Parenthood. Our efforts will continue to support protecting unborn children and ending any government use of taxpayer dollars or subsidies for abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood.”
The bill to further prohibit taxpayer funding to abortion providers and their affiliates awaits a potential signature from Governor Greg Abbott.
If signed into law, it would be the most significant pro-life legislative success of the session.