Protest Against Extreme Anti-Abortion Law in Texas
"It was like a dam burst open"

June 30, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

Texas governor Rick Perry, a straight up Christian fascist, recently called the Texas House of Representatives into a "special session" to enact Senate Bill 5, one of the most sweeping and restrictive anti-abortion bills in the country. SB5 is part of what Sunsara Taylor referred to in her recent interview with Revolution as an "avalanche of legal restrictions." As she noted, "The last two years have seen record restrictions on abortion access, and this year has already seen 278 new restrictions introduced around the country." Among its many other hateful measures, SB5 would have the devastating affect of reducing the number of Texas abortion providers from 42 to 5; leaving facilities in only the state's four largest counties. It would ban almost all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and would add unnecessary and even harmful requirements to how doctors prescribe and administer abortion-inducing drugs.

Hundreds of people flooded the statehouse June 26 in Austin, Texas to fight against Senate Bill 5. If signed into law, the measure would close almost every abortion clinic in Texas. Photo: AP

So when a number of pro-choice organizations in the state called for a "citizen's filibuster," for a critical mass of people to come to Austin and tell their stories—to run down the clock to prevent this legislation from being approved—it was like a dam burst open. Word spread rapidly on social media, and on Thursday, June 20, the Texas statehouse was flooded with hundreds of pissed-off, orange-clad, pro-choice women and men, ready to do battle.

Over 700 individuals signed up to testify against SB5. One after the other, for 12 hours straight, people got on the mike, citing personal experiences of how their lives were impacted positively when they had the option to terminate pregnancies, and negatively when they did not. At around midnight Representative Byron Cook moved to cut off the session, saying that the testimony was becoming "repetitive." As a testifier was escorted away from the podium by a state trooper, chants rose up: "Let her speak!" A woman testified, "Our words are not repetitive. Our government's attacks on our choice, on our bodies, is repetitive!" By early Friday morning, the House vote had been successfully blocked.

The session was to reconvene on Sunday, so a call went out again to mass on the Capitol. All day long people kept arriving, and by mid-afternoon, Planned Parenthood had distributed the last of their 1,000 orange "Stand With Texas Women" t-shirts. This time there was no testifying, but people came to witness the debate. The chambers were constantly full, and three lines of people spiraled around the massive rotunda balconies, waiting to get a seat. Hundreds once again stayed into the night. By Monday morning the Republicans called a vote, and the measure was passed in the House of Representatives. As Republicans applauded themselves, they were quickly drowned out by chants of "Shame, Shame, Shame!" which spilled out into the hallways as several people were escorted out by the pigs.

When I heard about what had happened on Thursday, I printed up a few hundred of's call for the Summer 2013 Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, and the Abortion on Demand & Without Apology statement, grabbed a bunch of Revolution newspapers, and drove over to Austin.

A Breath of Fresh Air

What I encountered was a breath of fresh air! Most of the protesters were women, and a lot of them were veterans of the movements of the 1960s and '70s, with a good section of young people in their twenties and early thirties. For many of them, this impending loss of the right to choose was like a wakeup call, an OMG! moment—like they had long watched the erosion of women's rights, but with the hope that the "democratic process" eventually would serve the will of the majority. And looking at the Republican lunatics as so ridiculous as to be unbelievable—until now. It was really hitting people upside the head: "This is really happening!" and they just HAD to do something. But no one had expected the outpouring that was taking place.

I felt in the middle of something historic—being right on the battleground—not just over the state vs. women, but reality vs. absurdity. Here we were listening to the anti's in power exposing their unbelievable ignorance and stupidity, like the Republican sponsor of SB5, Jodie Laubenberg, who argued that a proposed exemption for rape victims was unnecessary because "in the emergency room they have what's called rape kits, where a woman can get cleaned out." Stranger-than-fiction arguments abound: Texas Representative Michael Burgess advocated banning abortion at an even earlier stage of pregnancy, because of what he sees on sonograms: fetuses at 15 weeks masturbating: "If they're a male baby, they may have their hand between their legs. If they feel pleasure, why is it so hard to believe that they could feel pain?" I felt a sense of pride in the people who countered all that with determination and confidence, based on a foundation of science.

I was impressed especially with the youth. One college student who had testified on Thursday recounted to me her statement, a straightforward exposition that abortion is a simple medical procedure that she has a right to and will fight for. A young clinic escort said, "We really have to stop apologizing." And not just the youth: A white-haired woman exclaimed that she couldn't believe that we have to fight this battle all over again—that she thought we had resolved this in the '70s. When I said that the one thing we didn't do then was what still needs to be done—make revolution—she wanted to find out more about it, saying something like, "Communism—why not?"

I can't count all the people who thanked me for the statements. I distributed them on the lines and in the hallways, and when I was rushing to get them out in the chambers during a recess in the hearings, an older woman called out to me to take her card because she was excited about the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride and was thinking about participating in some way. Another pointed to "Forced motherhood is female enslavement," saying, "This is so true!" Many told me that they liked the slogan "Abortion on Demand and Without Apology." A woman in her thirties told me, "This is such a great idea—a way to 'cohese' people on a national level."

A group of women, as they were being let into the chambers, yelled out to me, "We'll be sure to send money!"

Some of those who lived through the freedom rides of the past were well aware of the danger posed to the riders. One man made a donation, sort of half-jokingly asking, "Are they gonna have bullet-proof windshields?" He and others expressed appreciation for the courage of this group of riders.

A lot of people said they would go online and sign the statement, but one man did so on the spot, with the comment: "If you were ever loved by a woman, as a man, you should show some type of support."

I got out a few issues of the paper as well as BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! cards. I found that as people are engaging this fight, they wanted to see what the ultimate solution might be.

UPDATE—On Wednesday morning, the Texas Tribune reported that SB5 had been "killed" by a marathon filibuster by Texas Senator Wendy Davis and by "an impassioned throng of protesters." Lt. Governor David Dewhurst (another Christian fascist) said his moves to prevent abortion had been sidetracked by an "unruly mob." And Governor Rick Perry is threatening to call another "special session" to push through the attacks on women concentrated in SB5.

The summer is heating up.



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