Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Just Lost: Texas Women Are Down but Not Out

This past weekend, my girlfriend and I had self-care Sunday, where we listened to Selena and cleaned my apartment because it was necessary. The verdict of the Trayvon Martin case was basically the last straw after so many instances in the past month of our government’s disregard for human rights.

If you are a Texan, the past few weeks have been especially heartbreaking for you because Texas Republicans suck and finally managed to push their ideals down Texans’ throats. After Gov. Rick Perry signed HB2 into law this morning, Texas is now one of the most restrictive states when it comes to abortion rights. HB2 outlaws abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, shuts down all but five abortion clinics in the state and tightens guidelines when it comes to abortion drugs. It’s a law that undoubtedly affects so many in the state: low-income, working class, people of color.

Source: Callie Richmond

HB2 is a continuation of Texas’s already very restricted access to healthcare. In 2011, during the last legislative session, Texas cut funding to any clinics that had ties to abortion services or providers (even though the funds did not go directly toward abortions) as well as non-abortion affiliated clinics, resulting in nearly half of women’s health clinics around the state to close. Also, Gov. Rick Perry rejected additional Medicaid funds from Obamacare. So getting affordable and safe healthcare in Texas was already hard enough without this new bill.

Now, HB2 requires abortion clinics to meet the same standard as Ambulatory Surgical Centers (same-day surgery centers), which will force 37 of 42 abortion providers to close. These clinics don’t just provide abortion services, but vital healthcare services needed by many in the queer communities including STD screenings, cancer screenings, HIV testing, and pregnancy testing. With only five open abortion clinics between San Antonio, Austin, Houston and Dallas, it makes it significantly more difficult for folks living in rural and border towns to make a multi-day trip to one of these major cities at least three hours away.

Texas isn’t the only state in the battle for reproductive justice—it seems like restricting reproductive rights is a trend these days. North Carolina legislature is currently trying to pass their own stringent abortion laws by attempting to attach them to unrelated bills. In Wisconsin, a judge blocked a new abortion law that “bans doctors who lack admitting privileges at nearby hospitals from performing abortions.”

Sen. Wendy Davis and her snazzy Mizuno shoes became superstars overnight after her 11-hour filibuster in late June. But we also need to give props to a team of kickass women of color in the House of Representatives (Dukes, Farrar, Gonzalez, Allen, González, and Thompson) who were key players in the battle against SB5 that helped delay the vote on the bill, ultimately helping to kill the bill for a period of time.

And we also have to applaud the Texans who organized, protested, shared their testimony and made their voices heard at the capitol. What actually killed the abortion bill the first time around was the citizen’s filibuster: the pro-choicers sitting in the gallery and waiting outside in the rotunda—“the unruly mob”—made so much noise they drowned out and delayed the vote. I’ve lived in Texas all my life and it’s been a red state for as long as I can remember. Rick Perry has been the governor since I was 9. (I was in third grade!) So when I saw people actually speaking out and protesting against the Texas government, it was amazing.

Source: John Anderson

Source: John Anderson

Wendy’s filibuster, with the help of the citizen filibuster, killed the bill by delaying the vote until after the first special session officially ended. Unfortunately it didn’t stop there, because Perry called for a second special session. This time around there were more anti-abortion people (blue shirts) present at the capitol than there were at the time Wendy filibustered. Testimonies were made by both sides of the argument (including some outrageous ones from men) at the committee hearings. The Texas House debated HB2 for 10.5 hours before it was eventually passed to the Senate. While the Senate debated SB1, Texas DPS confiscated tampons, and not guns, for safety purposes of course. It didn’t matter, Texas’s view of safety is skewed. After all, the abortion bill finally passed and the message was a clear abrasive assault on Texans’ choice.

During my time at the capitol protesting SB5 during the citizen filibuster and at a pro-choice rally the night HB2 passed, I was happy to see the hundreds of queer faces, young women and men, and people of color wearing orange. But at the same time, I was well aware that those most affected by this legislation were not present. The women who live along the Texas-Mexico border, poor women of color, the Latin@s who make up the majority of the population in Texas, who have the highest birth rate and are the most uninsured population, were not at these protests or rallies or even thought about in our government. They live hundreds of miles from the state capitol and can’t take time off of their job to share their testimony. I was also sad to see the lack of Spanish-speaking media (or mainstream media) coverage during the events at the capitol which is probably the only way these groups would know what was happening.

Even though this bill still passed, I felt there was an awakening in Texas. Activism and awareness were stirred in many Texans’ hearts and it sprung up new organizations like the Feminist Justice League. This is just the beginning.

Avatar of Yvonne

Associate Editor at Autostraddle. Dallas-based freelance writer with a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Texas at Austin. Former Associate Editor at L Style G Style magazine, published by the Dallas Morning News and The Alcalde. Passionate about Mexican food, Selena and breakfast tacos.

Yvonne has written 18 articles for us.

15 Comments

  1. Thumb up 5

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    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this. I attended the Rally at Dallas city hall. I heard Cecile Richards, Royce West, and Kirk Watson speak, among others. I truly hope this devastating legislation will start an unstoppable movement, culminating in sweeping changes in upcoming elections. I’m cautiously optimistic that this great state could become a swing state. As a cervical cancer survivor, I have to believe that this bill will get caught up in lawsuits that will prove it does not stand up to constitutional muster, because if these clinics are forced to close, women will die. They won’t get the family planning services, cancer screenings, pre-natal check-ups, and basic medical care that they need. Perhaps it’s slightly easier to believe this in my little blue island of Dallas county where every single representative I have is a Democrat. I truly loathe Perry, and I will never understand someone who claims to be pro-life, and Christian, yet has stated that he’s never once lost sleep over the 200+ executions he has signed off on. This movement that his hate has inspired, it must be a catalyst for change.

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    On the heels of Rick Perry signing this into law today, Texas Republicans introduced legislation to ban abortion after a heartbeat can found, which would effectively mean after six weeks. This shit is far from over.

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    My question: If a majority of Texans support the ban (62% according to a UT/Tribune poll) – do the rest of us across the country have grounds to call it legislators “pushing their ideals down Texans throats”?

    I would not support this law (we recently had something similar pass in Alabama), but many other people do. As only around 2% of abortions occur after 20 weeks, the larger concern to me is lack of access. The core issue, of course, is whose rights are paramount during a pregnancy (or who has rights at all). How should this be fairly handled if not by public opinion?

    I’m genuinely curious about the answer to this question. I’m a libertarian and for me, the individual whose rights should be protected are the woman’s, up until viability. After all, that’s the standard Roe v. Wade established.

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        I mean, I don’t see why a woman is legally obligated to carry a child to term inside of her, especially given that no equivalent obligation exists for men. But I write that off as biology being sexist.

        I assume most people around here agree that the best way to “stop abortion” is to reduce unwanted pregnancies by addressing underlying cultural issues. But, in the American present, is it a valid argument, given our Constitution/laws/etc, to say men don’t get to vote on reproductive rights? (That’s how I read your comment.)

        I’m not asking a question of the ethics or morality of access, because I agree with you. I’m just wondering if it’s valid to override the popular opinion on how best to protect individual rights That is, for some of us, the woman is the only relevant individual, whereas for others the fetus or possibly the man involved have rights. But there is no clear-cut scientific evidence indicating at which point someone is “an individual,” so people just kind of arbitrarily decide that, and that opinion creates abortion policy.

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          I suppose the problem lies in things like it may still be a heck of a lot easier for men to vote, period… (I could be wrong, but I wouldn’t be shocked. It took till 1920 for us to get the right in the first place!)

          I’m not sure if physical biology itself can be sexist. I mean, yeah, traditionally-female bodies do get periods and pregnancy and annoying stuff that traditionally-male bodies don’t, and *people* often tend to place an annoying amount of importance on the differences. But sexism or any -ism kind of requires a thinking mind, and “biology” is more a concept or a way of describing something…

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          i think this theory assumes that the system itself is somehow just or fair, and as long as a thing fits into the system, that thing is okay. you present a perhaps accurate interpretation of the system, but the system itself is corrupt & biased and deserves interrogation. i feel like that’s been the theme of this week! prop 8 was popular opinion. same-sex marriage was against popular opinion until about six months ago. slavery was popular opinion in the states where slavery was legal. the government and the laws we follow were created by white men hundreds of years ago and they were designed to preserve white male power for hundreds of years. and it’s still working!

          you mention that the man might have rights — the men who are pushing these bills forward aren’t concerned with the man having rights on a personal level regarding whether or not they have a say in their female sexual partner’s abortion. if that was their concern, they’d just make a law requiring both parents consent before an abortion can take place (which i’d still be opposed to, sidenote). this is about politicians knowing that abortion is an easy issue from which to garner massive financial support from conservative religious groups.

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          “Biology is sexist” is a joke… It’s kind of like the comment that if men could get pregnant abortion would be illegal everywhere. As it stands, obviously only women can, so that generally disincentives men from trying to really figure out the implications of pregnancy or abortion for women.

          Riese- I agree with all your points. I’m in a libertarian fellowship program and, interestingly, abortion is the one truly divisive issue we’ve discussed. Again, that’s because of a lack of agreement on at what point one becomes an individual with rights. Take slavery: An inherent wrong motivated by economic factors and retroactively justified by a perversion of Judeo-Christian morality. At the end of the day, though, the humanity of blacks could NOT be denied, because people are equally biologically human no matter their race (ignoring race science here).

          Abortion is different because no one has definitively determined when “personhood” begins. And unless science does it, how can we know which position is “right”? I guess the question there is, if one is pro-choice, would one still be if it turned out a fetus could definitely think and feel pain in the first trimester, would one still be in favor of abortion? (I would, but I’m not sure that it’s a moral position to take.) Or is personhood really the point of viability? There’s no obvious answer.

          And in Texas, Alabama, etc., at the end of the day we are a republic – we elect people to make our decisions, knowing full well how they stand on these issues. The only recourse really is to leave (which many people cannot do, meaning they have to live with majority opinions, which sucks – again, no obvious answer).

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    I was there for the march around the capitol and a few of the protests. There were so many women, men, and children there, all full of emotion and trying to make a difference. It’s hard to imagine Rick Perry and co. not getting swayed by the opinions of the people. I moved from Florida to Austin a few years ago and I sometimes forget that Austin is a little liberal bubble in an otherwise(mostly) conservative state. I feel like I had more rights in Florida than I do in Texas, not factoring in the Trayvon case(please don’t take this comment to heart). I’m still shell shocked by the passing of this bill, and keep telling myself that Rick Perry isn’t running for reelection, and maybe we’ll get someone better. The women of Texas can only hope.
    I know the woman in the first picture, I think she was in jail for a few days after this photo was taken. She stood up for what she believes in.

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    So happy that AS finally wrote about this! I’ve been very involved in every step of this process and despite not being a native Texan, I could not simply sit by and let white patriarchy make decisions about how I decide to handle my ‘health care,’ because that’s the rhetoric of these bills- to better women’s health. I listened to hours of pro-lifers and GOP legislators elaborate on the horrors of abortions, but I cannot really remember any person belonging to this sect speaking in regards to how forcing women’s health clinics to become ambulatory surgical centers would increase women’s overall health. When those in favor of the bills were asked by their opposition which included physicians, Democratic legislators, and Texans (women and men), about how enforcing these new restrictions would better the lives of Texas women, no substantial answer was given, instead some tenuous statistically insignificant answer was given about the resulting deaths of women from abortions. In all of the testimonies and hearings I was privy to, the topic always led back to the ‘morality’ of abortions and when a fetus could be considered a human, which should have been of little to no importance in this case if the bills were meant to be about protecting women- the person that is actually carrying (incubating) said ‘life’.

    I in no means am trying to speak as to when life begins, but given the diction of this bill, it should be a non-issue in light of Roe v. Wade, a federal law. I was astonished by the lack of concern by the actual health benefits that would be lost as a result of so many clinics most likely being closed. Texas women, and those that identified as such, would lose a great avenue for sex education, the ability to get their yearly check-ups, availability of birth control, etc., because pro-lifers and GOP members were so concerned about a portion of what these clinics provide- abortions. So I ask, how is making women’s health clinics ambulatory surgical centers beneficial to women’s health?

    Given that this comment has probably gone on long enough, I will say that this fight is definitely not over and that it affects more than straight, cis-gendered females in Texas. As a young, educated, black, queer woman living in Texas I will continue to stand up and fight back because I am also a survivor that would have been lost without my local clinic to provide the help that I was too afraid to seek from my family and friends. Thankfully I live in Austin, and will still have access to a women’s health clinic, but what about the millions of others that fall somewhere in between the lines? Will they be made to force a life of ‘unhealthy’ living because those in power think it ‘healthy’?

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    The reduced number of clinics available is the shocking part to me.

    I have a question for Americans:

    Is it usually possible in the US to have abortions until 20 weeks? Or only in cases of severe medical conditions of the child?

    20 weeks just seems very far to me.

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