Resisting in 2018: The promise I made at the Women’s March

One year ago, I stood with thousands of people at the Dallas Women’s March and realized the power of my voice. The strength of my convictions.

I found myself.

Before the march, I had never blockwalked, called a legislator, or spoken in public. As the daughter of an immigrant, I was raised with the idea that I needed to be grateful and keep my head down, even in — especially in —  the face of injustice. My mother never acknowledged the everyday injustices we struggled with. It was just how things were if you poor and Latino.

Latinos still have the lowest insured rate and along with other communities of color, face systemic barriers to getting the care they need and deserve. Texas mothers are dying at a higher rate than anywhere in the developed world. Black women in our state face the greatest risk of pregnancy- related and maternal death.

As I grew up in Dallas, moved to Austin for college, and then left for Colorado, I relied on Planned Parenthood for birth control and non-judgmental information about my sexual health. They were the first to raise the red flag that my family history of breast cancer meant I should begin clinical breast exams and mammograms earlier in life. But certain politicians are dead set on shutting down health centers, and blocking access to reproductive health care.

Now, I lead a community outreach program at Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas called MUJER, Mujeres Unidas Por Justicia, Educacion Y Respeto. At the Women’s March, I approached the group from Planned Parenthood about volunteering and we talked about how it seemed more common for a 15-year-old Latina teenager to tell her parents she’s pregnant than to ask for their help getting birth control. Together, we built the MUJER program for Latina women to have a safe, non-judgmental space to talk about the issues that might be stigmatized or embarrassing in other environments. And we do it over coffee and pan dulce on Saturday mornings, like generations of women in our families have done.

This year, I have been to Washington, D.C. as a patient-advocate for Planned Parenthood, I’ve made dozens of trips to Austin to protest the Texas Legislature’s attacks on reproductive and immigrant rights, and I’ve spoken in front of thousands of people at rallies and demonstrations. I’ve befriended so many incredible, passionate people. Now, I call myself an activist.

All it takes is that first step. At the Women’s March in 2017, I raised my fist in solidarity with other women and as a promise to keep fighting for more. To fight for a Texas where everyone has access to health care, regardless of gender expression, race, income, sexual orientation, religious belief or immigration status — where every Texan has the opportunity to live a healthy and meaningful life. To fight for comprehensive sex education, affordable birth control, and access to safe legal abortion.

On the anniversary of the Women’s March, what are you fighting for?

Meet the Organizer: Summer Lollie in Dallas-Fort Worth

When I was growing up in Dallas, my sister and I would often visit our cousins in Wichita Falls on weekends and during the summer. We grew up playing freeze tag and hide and seek with walkie talkies at my grandparents’ house and talking about how we would grow up to be doctors, lawyers, or the first black President of the United States. But as I got older, my sister and I saw some of our teenage cousins get pregnant and start working low wage jobs to make ends meet for their families.

While my cousins are living great lives and raising amazing children, my sister and I knew we didn’t want to make the same choices — so we took to the internet to learn about sex. We found a number of websites, some more informative than others, before landing on the Planned Parenthood website. We had heard about Planned Parenthood and the work they did in the Dallas community, so we knew it could be trusted as a good source of information on birth control and sexual health. Thanks to that resource, we were able to navigate through high school and college without an unintended pregnancy. Now, I am building a career at Planned Parenthood where I work to make sure everyone has access to Planned Parenthood’s health and education resources to control when and if they want to have children and go on to have the careers they want and participate in their communities in they way they choose.

As an organizer, I am committed to making sure marginalized populations in Texas have a voice in electing public officials who will champion the rights of women and all Texans. Before joining Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, I worked at Battleground Texas as an organizer working in east Dallas to register new voters and help Rep. Victoria Neave win her state house seat over an incumbent anti-abortion Republican. I also previously worked as an executive assistant at the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, advocating for strong safety public nets like debt-free college and Medicare for all and in Shreveport, LA, as a teacher and school personnel union organizer, fighting for strong public schools.

If you are looking to make a difference in your community, know that you don’t have to create your own movement. Prioritize one or two issues you are passionate about, and find a group that works on them. When we work together, we are more powerful!

Here in Dallas, we have regular opportunities for people to get involved in the work Planned Parenthood does to protect and expand access to reproductive health care. On November 7, we are hosting a Planned Parenthood 101 to give first-time activists a chance learn about Planned Parenthood as an organization and the different ways you can fight back against attacks on our care. Every month, we also host supporter engagement phone banks to grow our team of activists. I would love to meet you and get you plugged into the work we are doing on the ground!

To join Summer in the fight for reproductive health and rights in Dallas-Forth Worth, email her at!

Honoring Hispanic Heritage Month with Action

From September 15 to October 15, Planned Parenthood is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month! Part of honoring Hispanic heritage in this country is ensuring that we stand with Hispanic communities so they are able to access affordable, high-quality health care and live free from discrimination. In addition to providing direct medical services, Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas are driving three major community-based initiatives to increase Hispanic Texans’ access to health care.

Through the Raíz (Spanish for “root”) programs in San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston, Planned Parenthood affiliates work to build long-term, sustainable community organizing structures in partnership with the Hispanic and Latinx community. In Dallas, organizers have helped enroll people in health insurance plans through the ACA marketplace and hosted Platicas Sobre La Salud, a conference on the significant disparities in health care outcomes in Latinx communities.

Meanwhile, the Promotores de Salud program brings bilingual health education into homes across the Rio Grande Valley, in San Antonio and Houston. Promotoras are community leaders who care about about their communities, recognize barriers to health care, and are committed to helping their peers overcome health disparities and health system challenges. They share medically accurate information and clarify misconceptions about risky sexual behavior. The promotoras program is modeled off Mexican and Central American adult peer education programs that have been recognized for reducing health disparities.

Planned Parenthood Greater Texas also just kicked off a program called MUJER, or Mujeres Unidas for Justicia, Educacion, y Respeto (Women United for Justice, Education and Respect). This program, designed by and for Latinas, aims to increase advocacy and knowledge about reproductive health in Latinx communities in Dallas. PPGT provides participants, also known as MUJERes, with leadership development and organizing training opportunities so they can lead movements in their own neighborhoods and communities. MUJERes meet over coffee and pan dulce to discuss health care related issues in a safe space, alongside women who share and understand the unique challenges of a shared cultural experience. The intention is to connect the dots between the issues and how Latinas are impacted by decisions made by politicians in Austin and D.C. so the MUJERes can go on to take action.

Hispanic Texans are Planned Parenthood patients, volunteers, supporters, educators, and staff. We are proud to advocate for and with Hispanic communities to harness their political power and increase their access to health care through these programs!

#WeArePP: I’m Getting Stronger for the Fights Ahead and Ready to Create Change on my College Campus

This summer, Planned Parenthood is training volunteer leaders in the core principles of grassroots organizing at a series of Power Summits. Over the past two weekends, activists from Texas joined leaders from across the Midwest and Southwest for summits in Phoenix and Oklahoma City. Right now, our communities are facing unprecedented attacks on our health care, our rights, and our dignity. To be ready for the fights ahead, we are building muscle for a strong and united resistance.

At the summit in Phoenix, volunteers like Carleigh, 19, from Austin, got a 101 on reproductive justice and community organizing and developed tools to run their own successful campaigns. Below, Carleigh shares what brought her to Planned Parenthood, what she took away from the Power Summit, and how she will use those new skills to take action moving forward.

“In fifth grade, my classmates and I were brought to the cafeteria to watch a video on puberty. It was one of those educational videos filmed in the late 90s — cheesy sound effects, denim overalls, you know the drill. Most of the students said they thought the video was “gross” and “weird,” but I remember feeling intrigued. After all, this was the first time I was formally introduced to that side of myself.

When I think back, I imagine many of the students must have been as interested as I was. We were all just too ashamed to say it. I came to know the association between sex and shame too well. So well, in fact, the two words became synonymous to me. As a faithful person, I resented myself for having and acting on sexual impulses. From the day I watched that video up until recently, I was at constant war with myself. Every moment of pleasure was immediately followed by hours of guilt. It was draining; it was hurtful; it was difficult; it was unnecessary.

Eventually, I stopped fighting myself. I remained a person of faith, I remained a sexual being, and I became comfortable figuring out how to balance those two identifies. Wanting to share my newly acquired sex-positive lens, I started to volunteer with Planned Parenthood. Not only does Planned Parenthood provide essential health services to all people, it also provides a safe space to those people. At a Planned Parenthood health center, you can talk to a provider without feeling the shame and you can talk to a health educator to receive unbiased, factual information. You can also talk to volunteers who genuinely care and understand that no one’s journey to sex positivity is the same.

Before the Power Summit, I had never shared my story with anyone. Thanks to thoughtful coaching from other organizers, I was able to finally put into words what had brought me to Planned Parenthood and the fight for reproductive rights.

It’s pretty easy to say, “We will create change.” It’s much harder to actually do. But over the course of the weekend, I met with community leaders of all ages and backgrounds. Each person I spoke with invigorated and inspired me. The training on strategy supplied me with the tools I needed to create change on my college campus. Now, I am developing relevant social campaigns with the advice of my peers. I am meeting with other volunteers here in Austin next week to build teams and set goals. We’re already planning a voter registration drive for September 26.  

It may be difficult to create change, but with the knowledge and power we gained from this weekend, we are powerful. We are strong. And we are ready.

— Carleigh”

These Female Texas Legislators Are Fed Up and Fighting Back!

During both the regular and special Texas legislative sessions, extreme legislators once again demonstrated a total disregard for the health and well-being of Texas women. But these female legislators fought back at every turn. They worked hard to protect the rights we have, reclaim the ones we lost, and just generally were not having any nonsense. Watch below for the highlights!

Special Legislative Session Wrap-Up: Doubling Down on Failed Policies

Last night, Texas lawmakers closed out the special legislative session without passing HB 14, the bill that specifically targeted Planned Parenthood patients by banning health centers from partnering with local government entities such as cities and counties. This bill was the most dangerous legislative threat to Planned Parenthood patients during this special session, and because of the continuous efforts of supporters and activists, it was defeated. The bill singling out transgender Texans by dictating where they can use the restroom — a top priority for Gov. Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — also failed.

However, the legislature managed to continue their relentless assault on Texas women by passing three bills that further restrict access to safe, legal abortion.  

  • House Bill 13 by Rep. Giovanni Capriglione (R-Keller) requires duplicative physician and facility reporting of complications that result from abortion, despite the fact that abortion is one of the safest medical procedures in the U.S.
  • House Bill 214 by Rep. John Smithee (R-Amarillo) bans private insurance companies from providing health coverage for abortion unless a woman purchases a supplemental policy on top of her existing health insurance. This bill is extraordinarily cruel and dangerous, with no exceptions for non-viable pregnancies, fetal anomalies, rape, incest and the mental health of the mother.
  • House Bill 215 by Rep. Jim Murphy (R-Houston) opens abortion providers up to harassment by increasing reporting requirements by doctors on minors receiving abortion services, including how the minor obtained authorization to get an abortion. The state is seeking more information on whether the doctor or another advocate connected the minor with information about the judicial bypass process, which could lead to further restrictions in the future.

Of Gov. Abbott’s 20 agenda items for the special session, three were aimed at attacking reproductive health and rights — doubling down on the failed policies that have already decimated access to critical care in Texas. Instead of proposing and advancing policies that  would improve the lives of all Texans, Abbott and Patrick focused on their extreme agenda at the great expense of taxpayers.

Since day one of the special session, Planned Parenthood supporters and activists have showed up and spoken out against harmful legislation. Together with our women’s health champions in the Legislature, you defeated bills that would have tangibly harmed communities. You fought misinformation with truth, and showed extreme politicians that you will hold them accountable at the Capitol and in 2018 at the ballot box.

Rep. Ina Minjarez: HB 214 limits economic freedom

In the remarks Rep. Ina Minjarez (D-San Antonio) gave to close the House debate on HB 214, which would ban insurance coverage for safe, legal abortion, she highlighted the connection between access to safe, legal abortion and economic freedom. Read her powerful speech below:  

“I am speaking against this bill because I believe we should fight for the health of our mothers. We need real solutions for better health care, which is not what House Bill 214 is about. Members, we all collectively understood the dire need to address maternal mortality issues in our state. We worked together and passed maternal mortality legislation in the House. This bill takes us backwards.

Access to quality, affordable health care is an essential right for any Texan. How a mom or dad pays for health insurance is one of the most important, and difficult economic and economic security decisions a parent can make. Making insurance more expensive and out of reach for families, which is what this bill does, is going in the wrong direction.

Women face economic hardships that men simply do not have to face, starting with the fact that men are paid more money for the same kind of work. Women are paid 79 cents for every dollar a man makes, 63 cents for black women, and 54 cents for Hispanic women. So from the get-go, women earn less than men. There is also no economic support for having a family, whatever you make in Texas. Texas has not passed family leave laws. We have tax breaks for corporations instead of childcare. 62% of minimum wage workers in TX are women. And of Texas women, 1 in 5 are living in poverty. In Texas, women earn less, are paid unequally and lack childcare or paid family leave laws.

That’s why the economic impact of having a child is the number one factor women consider when making this incredibly difficult and personal decision. 1 in 3 women in America will have an abortion in her lifetime. Forcing separate health insurance is wrong. Women have a right to govern their own bodies. Assessing a fee to exercise that right is an attack on women’s health and women’s autonomy.

Most importantly, it’s a policy that hurts women most in need. Low-income women who already face barriers to accessing abortion would be required to purchase separate insurance equal to a month’s rent or more, if this law is passed. Most women who have abortions are already mothers. House Bill 214 would force these working moms to either pay a separate monthly premium for the insurance required by this bill, or face out of pocket costs that could force them to choose between a private medical decision and keeping the lights on.

To afford an abortion, many low income women without coverage for the procedure delay or forgo paying utility bills or rent, or won’t buy food for themselves or their children. Low income women who couldn’t afford this insurance and can’t afford an abortion, go on to earn less income and are more likely to fall into poverty–problems exacerbated by a lack of family-friendly economic policies that support the women this bill will impact the most.

Research shows that women denied an abortion who go on to have a child, whether it is their first child or another child, struggle more than women who can get an abortion. Within a year of being denied an abortion, women are more likely to be unemployed, receive public assistance and live below the federal poverty line, one year after their clinic visit.

This bill is not about the safety of women or supporting Texas families. This bill is about denying Texas women their right to a safe abortion. As with the countless other abortion restrictions enacted every time this Legislature meets, this bill hurts working women the most, limiting their economic freedom and interfering in their private medical decisions. Members, I respect that we have different opinions on this and I appreciate you allowing me and my colleagues the opportunity to voice ours. I think it is critical that we recognize the economic realities involving abortion, health insurance, and the decision every family faces on whether to have a child and knowing the consequences a law like this will have on the women of Texas.”

Texas Cities Stand With Planned Parenthood

Today, the mayors of the four largest cities in Texas — Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio — released a letter addressed to Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) urging him to stop the proposed legislation that prohibits local governmental entities from partnering with Planned Parenthood. By limiting a local government’s ability to address the unique health care needs of their communities, this bill is an attack on local control.

In the early morning hours on July 26, the Senate approved SB 4 by Sen. Charles Schwertner, which specifically targets Planned Parenthood patients and goes farther than previous “defunding” efforts to extend to the local level what the Texas Legislature has implemented on the state level. If it succeeds, Planned Parenthood would be barred from activities such as participating in city and county health fairs for free HIV and STD testing or partnering to distribute mosquito spray to prevent the spread of Zika. On July 27, the House State Affairs Committee approved the House companion bill HB 14 by Rep. Drew Springer, which will head to the House floor for debate unless Speaker Straus prevents it from moving forward.

Planned Parenthood is one of Texas’ most trusted providers of reproductive health and family planning services, including breast and cervical cancer screenings. When lawmakers politicize reproductive health care, Texans lose access.

July 24: At the Capitol This Week

Last week, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick did everything in his power to fast-track bills attacking access to reproductive health care. Still, activists were there to meet lawmakers every step of the way. Nearly 600 Texans made it to the One Texas Resistance Rally on Tuesday to oppose Gov. Greg Abbott and Patrick’s extreme agenda. On Friday and Saturday, Planned Parenthood advocates testified in committee hearings against dangerous anti-abortion bills. At Planned Parenthood Capitol Takeover Day this Wednesday, we’re going to show lawmakers that we will never back down from the fight! Join us.

Bill Targeting Planned Parenthood Patients Moves to Senate Floor

On Friday, the Senate Health & Human Services (HHS) Committee heard public testimony on SB 4 by Sen. Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown), which would prohibit local government entities from partnering with health care providers that provide abortions or are affiliated with an abortion provider. In committee, Sen. Schwertner admitted that the only provider being targeted by this bill is Planned Parenthood. If it succeeds, Planned Parenthood would be barred from activities such as participating in city and county health fairs for free HIV and STD testing or partnering to distribute mosquito spray to prevent the spread of Zika. SB 4 is nothing more than an attack on access to reproductive health care. Texas communities need more care, not less. Our best chance at defeating this legislation is to make sure the Speaker of the House, Representative Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) knows that Texans oppose more attempts to shut down Planned Parenthood health centers.

Senate Committees Approves 3 Bills Attacking Access to Safe, Legal Abortion

The Senate HHS and Business & Commerce committees advanced three more anti-abortion bills on Friday and SaturdaySB 10 by Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) requires duplicative physician and facility reporting of complications that result from abortion, despite the fact that abortion is one of the safest medical procedures in the U.S. This bill perpetuates the myth that it isn’t. SB 73 by Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Tyler) increases reporting requirements for minors receiving abortion services under the veil of “transparency,” although there is no clear purpose for the state to collect such information. SB 8 by Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-The Woodlands) would prohibit all health insurance plans from offering coverage for abortion and makes it so Texans enrolled in any insurance must purchase supplemental coverage outside of their plan or pay out of pocket. Banning abortion coverage explicitly puts women’s health and wellbeing at risk by not allowing a person to insure themselves for all emergency situations, and by not including an exception for rape or incest. These bills are now headed for debate on the full Senate floor, which may take place as early as today.

#OneTX Resistance 30 Days of Action

A broad coalition of organizations including Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, ACLU of Texas, United We Dream, Indivisible #Txlege, and more are working to organize direct actions every day of the special session. Join the Facebook group to be updated on the daily actions or sign up to receive email alertsRead our open letter denouncing Gov. Abbott’s extreme politics.

July 17: At the Capitol This Week

Tomorrow, Planned Parenthood Texas Votes is partnering with a broad coalition of organizations across movements to kick off 30 days of action that coincide with the 30 days of the special legislative session. Gov. Abbott is forcing the Texas Legislature back to the Capitol to pass even more laws that advance his extreme agenda — including proposals that would further reduce access to reproductive health care at Planned Parenthood, create burdensome requirements for abortion providers, and ban insurance coverage for abortion.

This is not what Texans want. In Austin tomorrow, activists are gathering at the Capitol for a rally at 1pm to send the message to Gov. Abbott that we’re standing together as #OneTX against more dangerous and discriminatory legislation. We’ll be back every day to fight — together. Read below for more details on how to take action in the coming month.

House bill threatens partnerships between local public entities and Planned Parenthood

HB 163 would prohibit local government entities from partnering with health care providers that provide abortions or are affiliated with an abortion provider. Local governments and health officials should have the ability and authority to partner with Planned Parenthood to address the unique needs of their communities. This bill is another in a long line of legislation that will prevent Texans from seeking the health care they need and have a devastating impact on Planned Parenthood patients. Speaker of the House, Representative Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) has the power to stop this legislation from reaching the House floor for a vote. The most important action you can take right now is to contact him.

Senate to debate further restrictions on access to safe, legal abortion

Other anti-abortion bills on Gov. Abbott’s agenda include a measure to prohibit private health insurance plans—including plans available through the Affordable Care Act and group employer health plans—from offering coverage for abortion care, and a requirement that duplicates reporting on abortion complications by physicians and facilities, on top of all that they’re already required to report. Just last month, Gov. Abbott signed a sweeping, multi-part anti-abortion bill into law and unilaterally vetoed a bipartisan bill extending the Women’s Health Advisory Committee, which was tasked with ensuring low-income Texans have access to reproductive health care.

#OneTX Resistance 30 Days of Action

A broad coalition of organizations including Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, the ACLU of Texas, United We Dream, the Texas Civil Rights Project, and more are working to organize direct actions every day of the special session. Join the Facebook group to be updated on the daily actions or sign up to receive email alertsRead our open letter denouncing Gov. Abbott’s extreme politics.

Updated Senate health care bill still “defunds” Planned Parenthood

Last Thursday, the Senate released their updated draft version of the health care repeal bill, including the same provision that would block people with Medicaid from accessing birth control and cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood health centers for one year. It also includes an abortion coverage ban that would end access to insurance that includes abortion. The newest version also includes an amendment from Senator Ted Cruz that would permit insurers to sell plans that charge women co-pays for birth control, immunizations, and cancer screenings. The Cruz provision would effectively create two systems of insurance, one for sick people and one for healthy people — thereby putting coverage out of reach for people with pre-existing conditions. With this latest version of Trumpcare, Americans will pay more and get less, but women will pay the biggest price of all.

After the Congressional Budget Office releases an updated score of the bill early this week, the Senate will move to vote. Your continued pressure on Senators Cruz and John Cornyn is critical over this final period of negotiations.