After attending the “Stand With Texas Women” rally in Austin on Monday, I think I have to reconsider my aversion to calling myself a Texas woman. The pro-choice rally, which brought together over 5,000 women, men and children to speak out against the SB5 anti-abortion bill which would shut most abortion clinics in the state, was the first I have ever attended. It will definitely not be the last.
Here’s how I ended up at the rally during what I thought would be a regular 4th of July vacation visit back to my parents’ house: after State Senator Wendy Davis successfully filibustered the bill that would enact the most restrictive abortion laws this country has ever seen, Texas Gov. Rick Perry called for a special session on July 1 because there is “too much important work [that] remains undone.” This work includes eradicating about 80 percent of Texas’ women’s health clinics that not only provide abortion services, but also provide family planning, pre-natal care, contraception, mammograms and many other resources to the thousands of Texas women across the state.
Attending the rally with my mother, a self-proclaimed “feminista,” as she calls herself, I had not anticipated the amount of people that would be shouting and clapping with me. When we arrived at 11:30 a.m., I was disappointed with the small crowd that had congregated on the State Capitol steps, expecting thousands to be rallying against SB5. My mom and I walked around, taking pictures with the police officers on horseback and laughing at the creative, funny and sassy signs that I wish I had thought of. But by noon, the crowd had grown immensely, and as people started getting closer and closer to each other, it grew more difficult to wave cool air onto my face with my little “pro-choice” fan. Pellets of sweat were seeping through my drenched, bright orange dress (orange was the color we were asked to wear to signify our support of reproductive choice). A super cute dress, but it definitely wasn’t rallying attire.
I wasn’t the only one sweating, though. Many of the speakers, performers and protesters were hot as hell, but that didn’t stop them from cheering wildly during Dixie Chicks’ Natalie Maine’s performance of “Not Ready To Make Nice.” Other inspirations included Texas ladies Lisa Edelstein of “House” and Stephanie March from ”Law & Order ”who gave incredibly empowering speeches. Last summer, I actually met Cecile Richards, the President of Planned Parenthood, at a press conference. Born a Texan but now living in New York City, Richards gave me a sense of pride in my Southern roots while she spoke in defense of the hundreds of Planned Parenthood clinics serving millions of men and women in the U.S. As a Texan who is living on the other side of the country while I finish college, I really felt in touch with my home stage again that day.
The main event was, of course, Senator Wendy Davis’s speech, where the massive crowd spent multiple minutes chanting “Wendy, Wendy, Wen” in praise of her filibuster accomplishment. Also clad in a bright orange dress, Wendy thanked the crowd for their “voices – lent to [her] – that made it possible for [her] to stand those 13 hours.”
Davis’s filibuster was jaw-dropping, but for me, the most inspiring part of the fight for women’s rights was the amount of people from multiple generations who gathered together at the State Capitol. Growing up in highly conservative areas in both Connecticut and Texas, and attending a Catholic University in New York City, I am rarely exposed to like-minded feminists who believe that what I do with my body should be my own choice. Realizing and coming to terms with the fact that I am not the only outspoken, liberal, feminist Texan in the Lone Star State was the best cheer I learned at the “Stand For Texas Women” rally!
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