Passionate Voices on Both Sides of Abortion Debate at Texas State Capitol

by Samira Noorali
ITL Staff Writer

A passionate swarm of demonstrators lined up at the gates of the Texas State Capitol in Austin early yesterday morning to express their support for or opposition to the anti-abortion bill. Some pro-life supporters carried signs with dire messages like “The American Auschwitz is Planned Parenthood,” while the opposition chanted, “Not the church, not the state, women will decide our fate” in the Capitol rotunda.

On June 25, 2013, Texas Senator Wendy Davis made national history with a brazen eleven-hour filibuster, which helped Democrats defeat the new anti-abortion measures. The bill was declared dead after pro-choice protestors began screaming and prevented Senate votes from being cast before the midnight deadline. Not long after the legendary filibuster, the Texas House passed the harsh measures, and the bill was due for a vote in the Senate once again. While the bill was poised to pass with flying colors, the events at the first session stirred up citizens on both sides of the debate.

“The hijacking of the legitimate legislative process woke us up,” said Karen Garnett, Executive Director of the Catholic Pro-Life Committee. She and Catholic Charities’ Social Awareness Officer, Joshua Clemmons, had traveled to the Capitol from Dallas to voice their fervent opinions along with other supporters. Although the bill will gravely limit access to abortion clinics and leaves no room for abortion after 20 weeks even in cases of rape and incest, Garnett believes the bill will create an overall benefit to women. “This bill encourages better medical practices for the safety of women. Some clinics are not up to FDA guidelines. There are even some doctors authorizing telemed abortions by cell phone.”

Garnett’s group included a senior in high school, Alexandra Sanchez, who was ready and eager to speak for the prolife cause. With her mother standing next to her, Alexandra explained that there were serious complications in her mother’s pregnancy. However, her mother ignored medical advice, chose to continue the pregnancy and eventually gave birth to a healthy Alexandra. “I just think that life is important,” the high schooler said candidly. Joshua Clemmons echoed that notion saying that “life is the #1 social justice issue” as far as he is concerned.

Controversial Abortion Bill Looms

Those on the pro-choice side of the debate demonstrated equal passion. With ample representation from Planned Parenthood, Harris Democrats and other citizen groups, boisterous pro-choice cheers and chants boomed from the rotunda into the hallways. Harris Democrats Intern, Jeff Syptak, in his personal capacity, stated that the Harris Democrats were committed to fighting the bill and even had a presence at the debates last week. Syptak proudly stated that multiple Harris Democrats members had signed up for participation at the hearing that day through the organization’s website.
Ryan Hill who works for a Dallas-area labor union also voiced an opinion regarding the bill, stating that it is “a legislative attack on women and is no different from the attacks on workers and immigrants.” Hill and an accompanying friend left Dallas at 1:00am and arrived in Austin at 4:00am in order to guarantee themselves a seat in the senate gallery. He waited in line for ten hours and fought sleep as he explained that the rights of women, workers and immigrants are all linked.

While discourse at the event was peaceful, some in the pro-choice group expressed disapproval when a prolife minor who appeared to be under the age of thirteen engaged in active protest by carrying a sign that read “It is a poverty to decide a child must die so you may live as you wish.” The child was accompanied by an adult woman, which prompted a few on the pro-choice side to say the child was being “exploited.”

After the senate session, pro-choice protestors staged a night march carrying a large banner that read “In it for the long run.” However, they were unable to prevent the inevitable. Governor Perry issued this press release at 6:07am: “Today the Texas Legislature took its final step in our historic effort to protect life. This legislation builds on the strong and unwavering commitment we have made to defend life and protect women’s health. I am proud of our lawmakers, and citizens who tirelessly defended our smallest and most vulnerable Texans and future Texans.” Despite its conclusive tone, the senate vote is hardly the end of the battle according to Planned Parenthood. It tweeted, “The fight for women’s rights isn’t over. RT if you’re still standing, and in it for the long run.”