On March 2, a coalition of organizations, including the Center for Reproductive Rights, Whole Woman’s Health, Planned Parenthood, NARAL, Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, and several other groups, rallied on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court as Justices heard oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. This case on abortion rights is one of the most significant before the court in almost 25 years.
HB2, the extreme anti-abortion law passed by the Texas Legislature in 2013, has only proven to close clinic doors across the state and prevent women from seeking abortion care. Activists in Texas have been fighting for several legislative sessions against continued abortion restrictions and defunding.
Amongst the crowd in DC, we were proud to be represented by seven amazing Planned Parenthood activists from various communities across the state:
- Elena: A freshman at Rice University and the Advocacy Coordinator for Rice for Reproductive Justice, the Planned Parenthood Generation Action chapter.
Victor: A junior at Texas A&M University who is active in the reproductive health and justice movement by serving as the Social Media Officer for the Feminists for Reproductive Equity & Education (FREE).
- Cheryl: A volunteer at our Waco health center, serving as a clinic escort and supporting our patients. She is involved in our advocacy efforts where she has provided testimony to local elected officials and organizes volunteers to lobby members of the Legislature.
- Staphany: A student leader who immediately became involved with Planned Parenthood in 2013 becoming fed up with the Legislature’s relentless attacks during the HB2 debate in Austin. She is a Mexican-American, first-generation college student.
- Barbie: Barbie began volunteering with Planned Parenthood in San Antonio after Governor Abbott and the Legislature cut access to breast and cervical cancer screenings. For Barbie, attacks on women’s health are personal. Her mother was able to detect and cure her cancer thanks to clinics like Planned Parenthood.
- Lisa: A member of our Austin volunteer leader team. She is committed to showing up and speaking out because Planned Parenthood provides excellent health care for all women and their families. Lisa attended the DC rally because “the U.S. Supreme Court has the opportunity to correct the harm and cruelty the Texas Legislature created when they voted to enact this law.”
- Kolby: A member of our Austin volunteer leader team. Since moving to Austin four years ago, he has been involved as a volunteer and is constantly reminded of the changes that have been enacted by so many of the incredible activists in his community.
For these organizers and activists, the rally represented a near culmination of a fight — a fight that is so important to Texas women and families. The Texas Legislature has passed extreme, harmful anti-abortion bills and restrictions over the past five years. Victor said that, “being in front of the Supreme Court made me confident that our voices may finally be heard.”
Rally attendees heard from various speakers, including leaders of major advocacy organizations, abortion fund staff, medical experts, community activists, and student leaders from the rest of the country. Nearly all of the speakers shared their personal abortion and healthcare stories to over 2,000 people in attendance. “To hear some of the stories told was to truly get back to the heart of the issue at stake – women and others benefited by the services offered by clinics are more than capable of making the decision to seek care,” Kolby shared. The stories were a reminder to our team that reproductive rights are human rights — and these stories are real, and happening in communities every day.
Following the rally, the volunteers visited some of our favorite champions, U.S. Representatives Marc Veasey, Filemon Vela, and Joaquin Castro, to thank them for their continued leadership in protecting access to women’s health. They reminded our members of Congress that #WeWontGoBack because the stakes in this case are way too high for Texas women – and women deserve full access to reproductive and abortion care.
Now that our seven activists have returned home, they are more energized than ever to continue this important fight in their communities. Barbie reminded us that our work is not done, saying “there’s a lot more to be done — to educate, to advocate — to show people that we are not backing down. We won’t go back to unsafe illegal abortions.” Cheryl will continue serving as a clinic escort in Waco because so many women “haven’t gotten to a place in their lives where they can devote resources to protecting their rights and their lives. I have the time and passion to help them do so.”
At Planned Parenthood, we know that our organization and our work is only as strong as our supporters and volunteers. We are thankful to have Lisa, Cheryl, Elena, Staphany, Barbie, Kolby, and Victor in our Planned Parenthood family. Thank you for your tireless dedication and activism to Planned Parenthood and our collective reproductive health movement.