I’ve spent a majority of my life living in the Lone Star State.
My high school mascot was a cowboy, I have a deep love of Whataburger and Blue Bell ice cream, and I can’t go one day without seeing a Ford F-150 driving on the road next to me. I attend school in West Texas, where my classmates go two-stepping on Thursdays and attend the fair and rodeo for fun. Though I’m a proud native Californian, I’ve grown to harbor a deep love for Texas within my heart. I know when I move back out of Texas for graduate school, a small part of me will long for Texas and her inherent ability to deep fry everything, from butter to Coca-Cola. Because I love Texas, I deal with her legacies of institutional oppression of marginalized communities, and systems of white supremacy and privilege that infect everything from our education system to our state government.
Texas has given the nation everything from a series of conservative elected officials to the first abortion case of the 20th century, Roe v. Wade. Isn’t it fitting that two most significant abortion rights cases of the 20th and 21st century (Roe v. Wade and Whole Woman’s Health) would come out of Texas?
Roe v. Wade deemed abortion a fundamental right under the United States Constitution. Since this case, there have been several anti-abortion laws implemented by conservative legislators to circumvent the Wade decision and restrict abortion access. Three years ago, Wendy Davis, sporting pink tennis shoes, filibustered against HB2, an anti-abortion bill that mandated abortion providers to meet the same requirements as ambulatory surgical centers and requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges to local hospitals. HB2 resulted in the closings of several clinics in the state due to the expenses of upgrading abortion clinics into ambulatory surgical centers. Further, with the majority of Texas hospitals being faith-based and anti-choice, it proved difficult for abortion providers to gain admitting privileges.
After HB2, Texas reverted back to archaic times for people with uteri seeking abortion access. At my college, where you can get expelled for being pregnant, students won’t even utter the word “abortion” unless you are demonizing individuals seeking the treatment or are a member of the university’s pro life student organization. I attend a school where the nearest abortion provider is hundreds of miles away, resulting in individuals taking matter into their own hands through self-induced abortions or carrying until term. I’ve grown with friends who spent their weekends during middle school protesting and praying with their church outside of abortion clinics in Dallas. I’ve seen my friends come to school with the words LIFE written on red tape covering their mouths, carrying plastic fetuses with a card explaining their silence over the countless “lives lost to abortion.”
This year, I lived with the president and treasurer of my university’s anti-choice organization. Throughout our time together, I forced myself through difficult conversations, “what if the baby they aborted had the cure to cancer?”, and watched as she filled our home with flyers, pamphlets, and cups with the slogan “Smile, because you weren’t aborted.” I witnessed her recite information, claiming that abortion is racist, and saying that social justice begins in the womb. She threw around false statistics and anti-abortion propaganda that caused me at various times to call members of my Young People For family to vent and self-care.
I’m blessed to be raised by a mother who taught me about abortion at a young age. She courageously shared with me her abortion story, and how it was the only way she could escape the inter-generational poverty present in her family during 1980’s Central Texas to start her life in Dallas. As I began to start dating in high school, my mother would warn me before every date that she would drive me to the nearest Planned Parenthood afterwards. In high school, I would ask each partner, “you know I believe in abortion right?”. Even as I enter my senior year of my undergraduate education, I make sure my mentees know, “you know I’ll drive you to the nearest abortion provider, right?”
Sadly, the rhetoric and climate in Texas regarding abortion is a closed conversation in which older, upper-class, white males make decisions about people with uteri without engaging in conversations with individuals seeking life saving care and analyzing the societal factors that led individuals to seek abortion.
I’ve witnessed the evolution of individuals in Texas during this Whole Woman’s case. I’ve seen college students utter the word “abortion” in a positive light and become open to the idea of it being a good thing instead of something to be hated and prayed about. I’ve heard stories from individuals who would be courageous enough to have one, despite the fact that they come from a long generation of preachers. This case has begun to shift the rhetoric and climate in Texas in a positive direction.
Yet we have to remember that the fight is not over, the war is not over, and that there are countless individuals who are still without access to abortion care. I encourage everyone to become involved with organizations that are working towards abortion access for all.
Thank you to Young People For, for supporting me throughout this whole process with the Whole Women’s case, from being a part of our Courts initiative, to empowering me to represent the organization during the Center for Reproductive Rights rally.