January 22, 2016, Austin, TX, USA
Although I didn’t plan to be at the Texas Capitol on the 43rd anniversary of Roe vs. Wade to hear comedian Lizz Winstead, Senator Kirk Watson, activist Amy Hagstrom Miller and others impassioned about Reproductive Justice speak, the stars aligned to bring me there. Wearing orange, armed with signs I made to protest in that same building back in 2013–La Lucha Sigue Y’all!–with a friend and clinic-worker by my side, I listened, as the wind whistled, and carried our whoops and hollering across the rolling lawns of the Capitol grounds.
Fate has seemed time and again to draw me into abortion. Many, many people who support the right to choose clarify that they are pro-choice, but not pro-abortion. I cannot claim the same. Abortion, its cloaked and infamous history, everything about it, calls to me, in the depths of my soul, as a human right I cannot stop fighting for. After leaving my local abortion provider’s office last January to focus on domestic violence full-time, last summer I began to feel the void again. Maybe it was memories from the Capitol, maybe the heat got to me, but I was finally recovered enough from the massive burnout I suffered after the devastation of HB2, to pour myself into abortion again.
Now I serve as one of two Outreach & Volunteer coordinators for The Bridge Collective, the only practical support network in Central Texas for people seeking abortion care. We as a collective, and through our network of volunteers, provide accommodation and transportation to people traveling within 100 miles of Austin (roughly a two-hour drive each way) to terminate a pregnancy. To give you an idea of what that means, check out the maps below. The orange markers are all of the abortion clinics we don’t serve, the purple ones are clinics we do, and the red markers are towns within 100 miles of Austin.
Covering the vast swaths of land between tiny Texas towns that dot the landscape, you’ve got a lot of time to think. And while for our clients that time may be spent confirming their decision, or contemplating all of the other responsibilities and stressors in their lives, for the drivers, inequality is always on our minds.
But that’s true for a lot of Texans, in a lot of battles, over abortion, voting rights, segregation, police brutality, healthcare or lack thereof, classism, shelters for domestic violence survivors and the homeless, etc. etc. etc.
Abortion has always been an issue that sparks a fire in me. I’ve written numerous times about bodily autonomy and the policing of bodies and abortion, but I’m glad that the political discourse around abortion, at least in my circles, has finally started to be intersectional (almost) all the time. The argument that “if men could get pregnant” may finally be shifting to “if cismen could get pregnant” because men can and are getting pregnant. No longer are White Feminists talking only about a woman’s right to choose, although that is still the dominant rhetoric. It’s heartening to hear frank, public discussions of WHO is affected by these ridiculous, restrictive laws, and how those of us with white or class or able privilege can help people suffering from racism, classism, ableism and transphobia. So while many pro-choice arguments still look like this:
or this better, more racially inclusive infographic
I’m grateful that many of the memes and much of the discourse has shifted to be more wholly inclusive of all people who can become pregnant, like this:
It seems like more and more people, pro-choice people, are finally starting to show up for ACCESS to abortion, because Roe v. Wade means nothing to people who can’t afford, or get to, their appointments. Because we all know the wealthy will always find a way to terminate a pregnancy that is unwanted.
But even if someone does have the funds, and the transportation to terminate a pregnancy, that doesn’t guarantee there is a clinic near them that will have an available appointment soon, or even before they pass the 12-week mark, or their state’s legal limit for termination. Nor do money and transportation promise that the patient has the “proper identification” or the right to take time off work (at least twice in Texas) or childcare or wouldn’t face a barrage of racist and insulting questions about their gender or immigration status. No wonder so many people in Texas and elsewhere are illegally purchasing abortifacients online, or self-inducing terminations.
And while we may have to deal with media-supported abortion shaming and the clinic violence that is a consequence, and some ridiculous gubernatorial shenanigans and blatant sexism in our legislature, at least, unlike North Carolina, we don’t have to send the forced ultrasounds patients get to lawmakers. The documentary Trapped shows what it’s like from an abortion provider’s POV. We’re not the only one’s failing… yay? There have been some bright spots nationally in abortion laws though, like Louisiana & North Dakota, and some upcoming elections could prove to be critical as well.
Back at the Texas Capitol though, on January 22, 2016, our activists were just kicking off the Texas Truth Tour, to get to DC before March 2nd, in time for the landmark Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case challenging the
ominous omnibus HB2 bill that has been so devastating to abortion care in Texas. For more on how the SCOTUS ruling will impact the nation, check out this piece from Colorlines.
You can help Texans get to the Supreme Court by texting ‘Fight Back’ to 97779 and follow their journey using #FightBackTX #StopTheSham and #WWHvHellerstadt, and other conversations around abortion rights and access with #DrawTheLine #WeWontGoBack #ShoutYourAbortion #7in10forRoe #RepealHyde #RepealHelmes #1in3Speaks #ReclaimRoe and #reprojustice. For more from the Draw The Line campaign hear these actors speaking out. Also, check out the incredible amicus briefs filed for the Supreme Court’s consideration, and Obama’s take on all of it.
Do people really need to be reminded what life was like before Roe? Apparently so. We’ll only have to look to El Salvador in the near future to see what a healthcare crisis of that magnitude looks like.