Results tagged “texas” from Blog for Choice
"Only four out of 10 [teenagers] said they had been given information both on how to say no to sex and about birth control. And 83 percent of the boys and girls who had sex said they had not received any sex education before their first time."
Woah. That's just scary. No wonder the U.S. has the highest teen pregnancy rate of any developed nation.
This is what the anti-choice movement is all about: keeping people from getting the facts and from making the health-care decisions that are right for them. That means a lot of teens aren't learning what they need to know to stay healthy.
Take a look at four ways the anti-choice movement's agenda is playing out across the country:
- "Abstinence-only" programs: Not only has the anti-choice movement made it their agenda to withhold information from young people across the country, "abstinence-only" programs actually promote misinformation and use shaming tactics to block teens from accessing birth control or their full range of reproductive options. Only 28 states require sex education that teaches about birth control.
- Anti-choice "crisis pregnancy centers" (CPCs): The anti-choice movement's agenda of denying information and using shame isn't only happening in schools. Our opponents have created "crisis pregnancy centers" to stop women from choosing abortion. These fake clinics are meant to look like abortion providers to lure women facing an unintended pregnancy through their doors, but then they tell women lies like "abortion causes breast cancer," "Condoms are porous," and "abortions will ruin your chance of having children in the future."
- Attacks on contraceptive coverage: For the anti-choice movement, withholding information isn't extreme enough. They are also working to let bosses who oppose birth control refuse to cover it for their employees and two of their cases have gone all the way to the Supreme Court. One in three women struggles to afford birth control, so if these bosses win it's going to mean that a lot of women could lose access altogether.
- Laws that close abortion clinics: Anti-choice politicians in states like Texas close reproductive-health clinics, including ones that provide abortion. We're seeing this happen in Ohio where new restrictions are forcing clinics out of business because they cannot comply quickly enough with unnecessary transfer agreements with local hospitals. These Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws have one goal: shut down clinics where women can get safe and legal abortion care. And, sadly, in states that are dominated by anti-choice politicians, these laws are doing just that.
In one Mississippi classroom, students of an "abstinence-only" program were made to pass around an unwrapped piece of chocolate to show that sexual activity is dirty and shameful. A school district in Texas compared sexually active teens to "chewed up gum" that should be thrown away. Another program taught students that if they have sex they're like a "rose without petals." Education is supposed to encourage and inspire students, not shame them and make them feel worthless. The problem is these programs just don't work. Teens will still have sex, but they have no idea of the risks or consequences.
Any woman who experiences an unintended pregnancy and chooses abortion deserves the same care and compassion as any other medical patient. That's why the role of abortion providers is essential to women's reproductive-health care.
Abortion providers across the country risk their lives to ensure women can access abortion care with compassion. Not only do they put their safety on the line, some also travel thousands of miles to make sure they can provide care in areas where there is no abortion provider on staff. That's why we work every day to protect women's reproductive freedom and abortion providers across the country.
We hear every day from women who are grateful for their provider's compassionate care and assistance when choosing the best reproductive-health option:
I never thought I would have an abortion. Last summer I made the heart-wrenching decision to terminate a very much wanted pregnancy. At our 12 week scan we discovered that our baby boy had an 11 mm cystic hygroma and further genetic tests confirmed that he had trisomy 18. Trisomy 18 is not compatible with life. Our baby had a less than 5% chance of even making it to term and if he did he would have died shortly after birth. We couldn't bear the emotional distress of knowing that each day could have been the day our baby would die in the womb and if we made it to birth it would only be to bury him shortly after. I still cry every day for our baby we lost but I know we made the right decision for us and I'm so thankful that we had the option to make that decision. I am also so thankful for the compassionate doctors and genetic counselors we met along the way.
KC, 30, Massachusetts:
At 35 weeks in a very wanted pregnancy, my baby was diagnosed with serious brain malformations. Her prognosis was grim. It was not known how long she would live, but it was certain that she would suffer for all of her brief life. My husband and I were devastated.
It was so late in my pregnancy that there was only one clinic in the entire country that could legally take us. We knew what our choice was and didn't need more time to think about it. We knew this was right. We scrambled for the money and hopped a plane the next business day to take us to our procedure. Our care was incredible. Everyone was so compassionate and very serious about keeping me safe. I miss my baby terribly, but I know that I did for her what I would want my parents to do for me. We saved her, and there is great peace in that.
I am so thankful to our clinic and caregivers for helping me and my baby, but at the same time I am angry that, had we found out only one day later, all doors would have been closed. I'm hurt that we had to leave our home and support network to get our care. I'm enraged that this option rested on fast access to $30,000 for trip and care. It is incredibly unjust that a family without contacts to such resources would have no choice at all. I am deeply saddened that being open about my loss might risk harassment or even violence against my family and clinic. I despair that something so close and personal and poignant be subjected to a raging war over women's rights. I am scared that other loving families in my place will run out of safe and humane options that they can live with.
Eve, 37, Alaska:
We were using birth control and it failed. I found out I was pregnant after I missed my period (at five weeks). I live in one of the larger cities in Alaska, but because the clinic does not have an abortion provider, they fly one in at regular intervals. I waited four weeks for a provider. The clinic was wonderful, caring and understanding (to the point of letting me make a backup appointment just in case the doctor was weathered out and could not fly in). I am lucky because I do not live off the road system and have a supportive family. I can only imagine what the wait might be like for someone with little support out in a village somewhere off the road system, especially with all the scary self-help advice out there on the internet. I am grateful for action groups working to keep access to abortion open and the procedure itself safe and legal. Finally, I cannot thank the clinic and the providers enough for their time and caring when I needed it.
Halina, 21, North Dakota:
While switching from different birth controls I became pregnant. I was not mentally or physically ready for a child. I chose to have an abortion. My husband and I are very grateful we had a choice in this decision. The clinic we went to was the only one available in North Dakota, they were very nice, very helpful, they made sure I was fully educated with my choice and I am very thankful for that. Banning abortion gives NO choice for women and to me, that's just wrong.
Erica, 32, Texas:
I thought I was doing everything right....
While I was certain that I was using the pill correctly, I did manage to get pregnant. I called him and we decided that we were far too young and not financially able to have a child together. I was working two jobs and I was a full time student. I was paying my way and helping pay bills for my parents.
In the end, the abortion was performed with a lot of guidance from the clinic. They made sure I was absolutely informed of my choices and I made the right one for myself and my body. Looking back, I never regret my decision for one second - other than getting pregnant in the first place. Now, I'm successful and married to a wonderful man and we are trying to have our first child. The panic I felt when I found out I was pregnant really made me understand the women who retreated to back alley abortions - I would have done ANYTHING to have my abortion and I am so thankful that I didn't have to make that kind of a decision.
Evie, 30, Texas :
My boyfriend knew before I did, and it was just a side comment from him about how beautiful I looked that made me even think to buy a pregnancy test. When I told him, he was his usual supportive and gentle self, and apologized. Then promised to support me however I wanted to proceed.
He did all the research, found me the best abortion clinic in the state...The doctors were a husband and wife team, a loving pair of caregivers who were so obviously in this practice for all of the kindest reasons.
The doctor who performed my exam apologized, seemingly humiliated, before using the vaginal ultrasound probe to show me the pea-sized [pregnancy].
About 48 hours later, my seemingly constant "morning" sickness was over and I was no longer pregnant. It was painless. I felt supported. I had an excellent team of medical professionals to support me and answer my questions.
Even though abortion care is a critical part of reproductive-health services and lets women's control their destinies - one in three women will have an abortion in their lifetime - anti-choice forces work hard every day to close down clinics and force abortion providers out of business.
Anti-choice groups do whatever it takes, from passing laws like the one in Texas to close clinics, to using harassment, intimidation and even violence. As recently as last week, an anti-choice activist vandalized and forced a reproductive-health clinic in Montana to close in order to intimidate patients and providers. In 2009, abortion provider Dr. George Tiller was murdered in his church by an anti-choice extremist.
We're honored to recognize some of our current and former NARAL Pro-Choice America board members who are also abortion providers, Dr. Sara Imershein, who provides care to women on the East Coast, and Dr. Susan Wicklund, a retired provider and author of "This Common Secret" about her experience as a provider in an extremely conservative part of the country.
We thank abortion providers across the country who risk their lives and safety to ensure that women have access to essential reproductive-health services and abortion care.
Happy National Abortion Provider Appreciation Day from NARAL Pro-Choice America.
February is Black History Month, and we'd like to acknowledge and honor a few amazing African-American pro-choice champions who've stood up for women's reproductive freedom, especially against recent anti-choice attacks in the states.
When anti-choice politicians in Ohio introduced legislation that would ban abortion as early as six weeks - before most women realize they're pregnant - State Sen. Nina Turner introduced a tongue-in-cheek bill that would require men to undergo psychological counseling before accessing Viagra.
When anti-choice politicians in her state tried to pass anti-choice restrictions using a "motorcycle safety" bill, Alma called out the anti-choice legislators for their cheating tactics:
"It's about politics. It's not about women's health. It's not about safety...As a woman, I am personally insulted by the maneuvers around getting this bill to the floor. We've made a mockery of women's health and safety."
Alma has been fighting for reproductive rights for nearly three decades, and we are so grateful for having her solidarity with NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina and being an ally to all women and families.
In the Cheesehead state, we'd like to recognize Wisconsin state Rep. LaTonya Johnson. She fought against a medically unnecessary forced ultrasound bill and spoke on the Wisconsin floor about the importance of access to comprehensive sex-education program.
LaTonya also spoke at the Stand with Wisconsin Women rally let by NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin and their coalition. Check out the video below:
And in New York, we're giving a shout out to State Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Democratic Conference Leader and the first African-American woman to hold that position!
"No one would believe that in 2013 there were not enough Senators willing to vote to protect the health and equality of women. In 1970, when choice was first passed in New York, 12 Republican Senators joined a majority of their Democratic colleagues to support this landmark legislation. In our state, women's health has never been a Republican or Democratic issue. I find it shocking that 43 years later not one Senate Republican stood up for women's equality."
Andrea was the primary sponsor of the Reproductive Health Act in the 2011 session.
In Texas, where NARAL Pro-Choice Texas works on the ground to defend reproductive rights against huge challenges, we want to recognize some awesome leaders who were loud and proud about their pro-choice values during the heated legislative attacks that led to Wendy Davis' historic filibuster.
State Rep. Senfronia Thompson hung a wire hanger from the microphone while she spoke during the hearings to pay reverence and respect to the many women who were injured or died accessing illegal abortion.
State Rep. Dawnna Duke rallied women in Texas and proposed amendments that would allow more options for women with unintended pregnancies.
We're also giving a shout out to Virginia Delegate Charniele Herring, who has a 100% pro-choice voting record!
Charniele was the first African-American woman elected to represent Northern Virginia in the General Assembly. Charniele was also chair of the reproductive rights caucus in 2012 and was a huge player, along with NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, in the fight against forced ultrasound legislation in 2012.
The pro-choice movement is fortunate to have incredible champions from all backgrounds and walks of life but we couldn't be where we are today without the tenacious, smart, and courageous leadership of African-American state lawmakers.
We can't thank these pro-choice rock stars enough for standing up for women's reproductive freedom in all communities.
Happy Black History Month from NARAL Pro-Choice America.
This week, the House of Representatives will vote on H.R.7, an extreme anti-choice bill that would take away abortion coverage from millions of American women.
Thanks to a huge outcry from the public and pro-choice elected officials, anti-choice members of the House committee had already revised this bill to drop a provision that would have redefined rape. Last week, they revised the bill a second time to drop a provision that would have forced women to prove to the IRS that they'd been raped. Not only that, but they snuck in new provisions that have never been discussed or debated in committee.
As of today, here's what H.R.7 would do:
- Impose tax penalties on small businesses that offer abortion coverage in employee insurance plans.
- Ban abortion coverage entirely in the new health-insurance exchanges.
- Permanently ban abortion coverage for women who get their health care through the government, including servicewomen and low-income women.
- Require health plans to make biased, one-sided "disclosures" of abortion coverage.
You can learn more about the harmful effects of H.R.7 on our website.
If you are as outraged as we are about this, please share our graphic on Facebook so that we can get the word out far and wide about how anti-choice politicians will stop at nothing, including cheating, to block reproductive-health care for women and families who may need it the most.
We're delighted to honor some notable state lawmakers who have fought back against extreme anti-choice legislation against all odds in the 23rd edition of our annual report Who Decides? The Status of Reproductive Rights in the States. These state lawmakers truly represent the pro-choice majority, and they champion women's reproductive rights in some states that may need them the most.
- One honoree we're highlighting this year is Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis.
- Another honoree in this year's edition of Who Decides? is North Carolina state Rep. Alma Adams.
Rep. Adams has spent nearly three decades fighting for women and families and, alongside NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, she helped lead the fight against the now-infamous "motorcycle safety" anti-abortion bill which the anti-choice North Carolina legislature rushed through at the last minute to bypass any opposition from pro-choice elected officials. Alma had this to say about the bill she tried to stop: "It's about politics. It's not about women's health. It's not about safety...As a woman, I am personally insulted by the maneuvers around getting this bill to the floor. We've made a mockery of women's health and safety."
- Our final honoree is California Assemblywoman Toni Atkins.
Asm. Atkins authored the 2013 law that expands access to safe abortion care in the Golden State, which NARAL Pro-Choice California organized around to help pass. This new law will increase the number of medical professionals who can provide early abortion care like midwives and nurses. Now, women in parts of California where there are only a few doctors will have the ability to access abortion care from someone they know and trust.
Check out our latest edition of Who Decides? The Status of Reproductive Choice in the States for more information on choice-related laws in your state and learn about how state legislatures can have a deep impact on women's reproductive freedom.
We celebrated some great pro-choice wins in 2013, in large part because we have strong, pro-choice leaders who fight day in and day out for our rights. Here's our list of notable pro-choice state lawmakers to watch in 2014:
1) Texas gubernatorial candidate and State Sen. Wendy Davis
Wendy Davis gained pro-choice political stardom last summer when she filibustered extreme anti-choice legislation that could shut down almost 90 percent of reproductive-health clinics that provide abortion care across the state of Texas, force women to get an ultrasound before they can have an abortion, and ban abortion after 20 weeks. We know that exciting things await Wendy and her colleague, Texas state Sen. Leticia van de Putte, in 2014. And we look forward to seeing NARAL Pro-Choice Texas and these pro-choice champions make magic this year.
2) Texas State Sen. Leticia van de Putte
During Sen. Davis' filibuster, Leticia raised the roof when she called out her anti-choice colleagues in the Texas state Senate, asking, "At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?" If you haven't seen it yet, the video is pretty incredible. You can hear the literal roar of pro-choice activists who showed up in solidarity with Texas women.
3) Oklahoma State Rep. Doug Cox
Republican state Rep. Doug Cox, a practicing physician, is part of the pro-choice minority in the Oklahoma state legislature. He caught our attention last year when he reprimanded his Republican colleagues for attempting to restrict women's access to birth control under the Affordable Care Act. He got even more vocal in an op-ed, Doug wrote, "What happened to the Republican Party that felt that the government has no business being in an exam room, standing between me and my patient? Where did the party go that felt some decisions in a woman's life should be made not by legislators and government, but rather by the women, her conscience, her doctor and her God?" How will Rep. Cox fight for women in 2014? We can't wait to see.
4) North Carolina State Rep. Alma Adams
Alma has fought for women and families for nearly three decades, and in 2013 she, along with NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, was a leader in the fight against the "motorcycle safety" bill that politicians used to sneak in a dangerous anti-choice provision. Alma spoke out about the extreme legislation: "It's about politics. It's not about women's health. It's not about safety...As a woman, I am personally insulted by the maneuvers around getting this bill to the floor. We've made a mockery of women's health and safety." We're grateful that Rep. Adams continues to speak out for women's health in North Carolina and we're sure 2014 will be no exception.
5) California State Assemblywoman Toni Atkins
Toni wrote the new law in California to increase the number of medical providers who can provide abortion care in California. You can watch Toni talk about her bill in this video. We, along with NARAL Pro-Choice California, couldn't be more grateful for Asm. Atkins' pro-choice initiative in California. We're excited to see even more from her in 2014.
6) Michigan State Sen. Gretchen Whitmer
In December 2013, the anti-choice Michigan legislature bypassed Gov. Rick Snyder's signature to ban insurance coverage for abortion with no exceptions for rape or incest. While Sen. Gretchen Whitmer bravely spoke out against this extreme legislation that essentially demands women to purchase additional coverage if they need an abortion after a sexual assault, she revealed that she too was a rape survivor. Here's part of her statement: "This tells women that were raped and became pregnant that they should have thought ahead and planned for it. Make no mistake, this is anything but a citizens' initiative. It's a special interest group's perverted dream come true." Abortion coverage may be law, but not to worry, pro-choice politicians in Michigan are already planning their next move in 2014. And we are sure state Sen. Whitmer will be critical to this campaign.
7) Ohio State Sen. Nina Turner
Pro-choice Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner is a loud and proud advocate for reproductive rights. When anti-choice politicians introduced a bill that would ban abortion as early as six weeks - that's before most women even realize they're pregnant - Nina countered those attacks by introducing her own bill. Nina's legislation exposed her colleague's extremism toward women by turning the tables and proposing a tongue-in-cheek requirement that men attend psychological counseling to prove they are fit to get insurance coverage for Viagra and other erectile dysfunction medications. Her legislation would also require doctors to inform male patients about all of the potential risks of Viagra in writing. Oh snap, Nina! We can't wait to watch NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio and Sen. Turner fight for women's reproductive rights in 2014!
It's that time of the year for giving thanks, and, for everyone in the pro-choice community, there is so much to be thankful for.
- We worked with NARAL Pro-Choice New Mexico and a coalition on the ground to defeat a ballot measure that would have banned abortion after 20 weeks in the city of Albuquerque - the first known on the municipal level. It was a victory for women's health.
- In Nebraska, a 16-year-old woman living in foster care was denied permission for an abortion because the judge deciding her case said it would "kill the child inside" her. That's when we sprang into action! We worked with a coalition of progressive partners to gather nearly 87,000 petition signatures to ask that Judge Peter Bataillon be sanctioned for putting his political beliefs above the rule of law and a young woman's welfare.
- 2013 was also the year of pro-choice Sen. Wendy Davis' (D-TX) epic filibuster against an anti-choice omnibus bill. We worked with NARAL Pro-Choice Texas to make sure that people heard about Wendy's brave stand that made her the face of women's reproductive freedom in Texas. Nearly 20,000 supporters thanked Wendy for protecting a woman's right to choose. You can see the card on our website!
- We also partnered with NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts to help elect pro-choice former Rep. Ed Markey to the U.S. Senate in June, and in November, we worked with our affiliate in Virginia to defeat anti-choice radical Ken Cuccinelli and elect pro-choice Terry McAuliffe governor.
- In California, we worked with NARAL Pro-Choice California to increase access to abortion for California women. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed the legislation in October, improving access to early abortion care by allowing trained and qualified nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives and physician assistants to provide care to women in their own communities.
- But our work reached beyond anti-choice attacks in the states. When anti-choice groups launched an attack on insurance coverage of abortion for congressional staffers, we led a coalition to protect the benefit during a comment period, submitting more than eight pro-choice comments for each anti-choice one received. We won the fight and the administration preserved the right for congressional staff to purchase abortion coverage in their health plans!
Out-of-state anti-choice groups tried to influence local politics by overwhelming Albuquerque residents with anti-abortion propaganda. They even handed out inappropriate leaflets to children on Halloween.
But through canvassing, phone banks and an ad campaign, we communicated to voters how important politicians out of women's most personal decisions. Voters showed up and shut down the later abortion ban, which just goes to show that abortion bans are completely out of touch with real women and families.
We couldn't be more grateful for your support that helped us achieve these and so many other victories in the past year. Thank you for trusting women and supporting choice. What are you thankful for?
The secret is out: CPCs pose as legitimate pro-health clinics, then lie to and shame women out of choosing abortion care. CPCs are essential to the anti-choice movement's strategy to block abortion access. The president of Ohio Right to Life even admitted:
"When we look at the overall strategy of ending abortion, not just in Ohio but nationwide, we have to have a strong federal strategy, a very strong state strategy, and then a local strategy to support our pregnancy centers."
This is the final day of our CPC week of action, where we've partnered with Feminist Majority Foundation to tell the truth about CPC lies. Today, we're pulling back the curtain on who keeps dangerous "crisis pregnancy centers" (CPCs) in business.
There are a whole slew of anti-choice organizations with friendly-sounding names that keep CPCs up and running. Care Net and Heartbeat International are two powerful umbrella networks that provide support and training to thousands of CPCs across the country. Through this funding and training relationship, these groups teach new CPC "counselors" strategies to manipulate women.
You don't have to take our word for it. Just listen to Abby Johnson, an extreme anti-choice activist, train new CPC "counselors" on how to lure a woman through their doors and use coercion and lies to talk her out of choosing abortion.
Beyond anti-choice umbrella organizations, state governments directly fund CPCs with taxpayer dollars. The same legislators who passed the now infamous anti-choice omnibus bill in Texas, for example, voted to funnel millions of dollars to CPCs. And in Ohio, anti-choice politicians used the state budget to give funds meant to help low-income women and families to CPCs instead.
And of course, CPCs receive "charitable" contributions from anti-choice individuals. Ken Cuccinelli, who recently lost the gubernatorial election in Virginia after female voters deemed his anti-choice policies too extreme, made thousands of dollars of personal contributions to CPCs over the last four years to make sure they continue to tell women lies like "abortion causes breast cancer" and "birth control is enslavement."
But shockingly, Cuccinelli isn't the worst of them. Very few people are aware that the Koch brothers have been donating millions CPCs as well.
The powerful politicians, organizations, and individuals like there aren't going to stop using CPCs to push their agenda. That's why we need your help to get the word out and protect women from CPCs' dangerous lies. Learn more about CPCs and find out how you can get involved.
We all remember last month when thousands of pro-choice activists flooded the Texas capitol in solidarity with Sen. Wendy Davis to stop an extreme anti-choice bill that would close almost 90 percent of abortion clinics across the state.
I've been to my fair share of rallies, and as an added bonus of standing up for reproductive freedom I've seen some innovative, creative, and sometimes comedic signs.
But when Tuesday Cain's hand-made sign went viral, anti-choice activists went after her, calling the 14-year old "ugly," a "degenerate," and "whore."
Fortunately, the story does not end there. Tuesday stood up to anti-choice bullies and spoke out:
"I don't think [supporting a woman's right to choose] makes me -- or any other 14-year-old girl who agrees with me -- a whore. It simply makes us people. People who believe that abortion should be safe, legal and accessible for women. People who believe women should be in control of their bodies and should not ever have to put their lives at risk so that we don't go backwards in women's rights in this country.
Normally, I prefer to look up to adults as role models. But what is happening in Texas right now it's hard to find adults who I want to look up to. I'm not going to let someone calling me a whore stop me from fighting for what is right for all women. I'm not going to let the bullies win in the fight over women's bodies."
We couldn't agree more.
While it's disgusting to see anti-choice bullies shame young women for supporting women's reproductive freedom, at least the battle for women's health in Texas has cast a spotlight on what anti-choice politicians and their allies are really trying to achieve: taking away a woman's ability to decide whether and when to start a family.
In their efforts to ban abortion, anti-choice politicians in the Texas legislature recently passed an extreme bill that could close nearly 90 percent of abortion clinics across the state.
Once the bill goes into effect, the drastic reduction in clinics will eliminate family-planning services, reproductive-health care, and cancer screenings for many low-income families who may have no other options to access care. The bill will also have devastating consequences for women's access to abortion services.
Now, medical experts fear that women in Texas may desperately turn to unsafe options, including attempting abortion care themselves. Some may even cross into Mexico to obtain medication abortion, which could be very dangerous if taken without consultation from a doctor.
But some anti-choice public figures couldn't care less about women's safety. After the vote in Texas, Erick Erickson of Fox News tweeted that "liberals" should "bookmark" the website of a coat hanger production company!
It's disgusting that Erickson would make light of the real and tragic danger of unsafe abortion procedures.
Sorry, Erick, this is no joke.
Unsafe abortion care cost many young women their lives before Roe v. Wade, and women still die from unsafe abortion services all over the world.
We know that extreme anti-choice restrictions - like the ones in Texas - do not reduce the need for abortion, they only make it more dangerous. That's why it is so important for women to have safe, legal access to abortion without government intrusion, and to make clinics as safe as possible - not close them down.
We were deeply disappointed to hear that, despite thousands of pro-choice Texans rallying at the Capitol in opposition to extreme anti-choice legislation, the Texas House of Representatives passed a bill that would close down all but five abortion clinics across the state and ban abortion care after 20 weeks - even in the most heartbreaking of circumstances.
We've seen the anti-choice in politicians Texas stoop to a new low by resorting to cheating tactics and changing the rules to force this dangerous legislation into law. Texas grabbed the nation's attention during Sen. Wendy Davis' 13-hour filibuster and we'd like to share a first-hand account of that experience, from Heather McLeod of Austin, Texas, who stood in the Capitol that night:
"The gallery was full, as was the auditorium where the proceedings were being streamed. Hallways and elevators and stairwells buzzed with activity.
Suddenly an urgent "Shhhhhhhh!" passed from person to person in the group closest to the television. The roar of the bustling room dropped to a hush. This had been the third point of order and the sound was back on. I could feel our collective hearts drop. Sustained. They had killed the filibuster, grasping at absurd straws in an effort to silence Wendy Davis and all of us. I was aware here of the beginning of a certain level of unity--focused, bold, determined--that would come to define the rest of the night. As far as we knew, the filibuster had been broken, which meant the bill would pass, and our reproductive freedom was about to be ripped out from under us.
Crowding onto the terrazzo of the rotunda, surrounded by stately portraits and the soft white glow of the building's interior, our voices began to rise. Louder and louder we grew, until we were chanting as one: "Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame!" The force of passion in the building could have lifted the roof off, not to mention the sheer volume of sound. It grew into one neverending cry of outrage in between chants, until a group of state representatives appeared on the west side of the second floor balcony. I recognized Dawnna Dukes, Senfronia Thomas, and Borris Miles. They were telling us that it wasn't over. The senators were appealing the ruling. They were pleading with us to wait quietly. They motioned dramatically with their hands: "Wait here. We'll be back." It was around this time that we learned that all entrances to the Capitol had been locked due to the crowd's unrest, and no one was allowed in or out. We sat down on the floor of the rotunda. The temperature in the room had started to rise. Food and water were brought in and passed around. We waited, texted, checked social media.
As 11:00 approached, the mood in the room grew tense. We weren't sure what was happening in the gallery. We began counting down. People inside began getting to their feet again until we were all standing.
At 11:42 we began to hear cheering from upstairs and someone appeared at the railing of the highest balcony yelling hoarsely at us to start making noise. Around this same time came the news of Senator Van de Putte's powerful question. Our supporters in the gallery had disrupted the session by standing and cheering and they were refusing to stop.
If we could hear the couple hundred of them shouting, they would certainly be able to hear one or two thousand people in the center of the building. Like a match had been lit, the rotunda exploded in an uprising of sound that swelled above us to a chill-inducing, ear-splitting pitch. "WEN-DY! WEN-DY! WEN-DY!" "WHOSE HOUSE IS IT? OUR HOUSE! WE WON'T GO BACK!" "OUR BODY! OUR CHOICE!" We screamed and clapped and cheered as if our lives depended on it. Our freedom certainly did. The sound seemed to hang in the air above us and feed back, ringing out the power of hundreds and hundreds of voices screaming for equality.
Midnight came and went. Dozens of troopers entered the gallery and began physically removing people while confusion set in downstairs. It appeared a vote had happened, albeit illegally, and that nothing would be settled by night's end. A sizable crowd was gathered outside the Capitol when we left. We witnessed some dramatic arrests being made.
I got home shortly after 2:00 a.m. and learned then that, amazingly, the bill was dead. Dewhurst had ultimately been forced to concede to the objectivity of the clock. Here in Texas we are used to losing these battles, so the next morning dawned with a kind of hope and pride we haven't felt in a long time. But within 24 hours, Rick Perry called another special session. But something has changed in a huge number of us: we are tired, really tired, of being devalued, threatened, and ignored. We will not stand by while our most personal rights are stripped away.
We have woken up."
Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, discussed new anti-choice legislative attacks across the country and politicians' cheating tactics on "Hardball with Chris Matthews."
"[Anti-choice politicians'] goal has remained the same: to outlaw abortion as well as women's other reproductive choices...What's more interesting is how they're resorting to do it. These politicians in Texas and North Carolina, and I'm from Texas as well, know that they don't have popular support on their side, and so they're resorting to cheating, changing the rules, doing these things under the dark of night.
I think women have had enough. That's what we're seeing in Texas and in North Carolina. We're getting calls from national members everywhere asking "what can we do?" This is it, this is enough. We will support Texas, we will support North Carolina, and we will get these folks out of office that are driving these extreme policies that are bad for women, and bad for our families."
The Texas Legislature is still in the spotlight after Sen. Wendy Davis' epic stand led the way to a "People's Filibuster," where hundreds of pro-choice Texans rallied at the capitol and ensured that an extreme anti-choice bill did not pass.
But instead of respecting democracy, Gov. Rick Perry and his anti-choice allies in the Texas legislature have resorted to manipulating the rules, cutting off debate, and ignoring the clock so that they could pass extreme anti-choice legislation.
We asked pro-choice Texans across the state to voice their own opinions about Gov. Perry's cheating tactics by writing a Letter to the Editor of their local paper. The Letters to the Editor are the most frequented section of the paper, and we've already seen a few printed!
Here's one Letter to the Editor featured in the Weatherford Democrat:
As children, we're taught that cheating is against the rules, plain and simple. As adults, many of us work to instill this value in children. We want them to play fair, and follow the rules even if it doesn't go their way. As the old adage goes, "Cheaters never win." Gov. Perry, Lt. Gov. Dewhurst and their allies in the legislature must have missed this lesson. And Texas women could pay the price. Perry and Dewhurst have resorted to cheating and deception to push their abortion bill that will hurt the health of many women across the state.
We demand that Gov. Perry and Lt. Gov. Dewhurst stop changing the rules. Cheating is no way to make laws for Texas. If the governor and his allies can't pass a law fairly under the rules, we can't let them cheat their way to victory. Here in Texas, cheaters never win.
Janell Jenkins, Garland, Texas
Anti-choice politicians in Texas and across the country must be held accountable for their unacceptable behavior that could cheat women out of their rights. Would you consider writing to your local paper?
Something truly extraordinary happened this week that electrified our community. Pro-choice Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) took an epic stand for women's reproductive freedom and refused to be bullied or silenced by anti-choice politicians in the legislature.
Sen. Davis chose to filibuster a bill, S.B. 5, which would have banned abortion care after 20 weeks and shut down all but five abortion clinics across the state of Texas. She was not allowed to sit, drink, eat, or even lean on the podium at any time for the 13 hours she needed to run out the clock and prevent a vote before the special session ended.
Sen. Davis withstood numerous attempts by her anti-choice colleagues to silence her. Proponents of the bill also attempted to silence the voices of the hundreds of pro-choice supporters who filled the Texas Capitol. In the end, the bill was officially defeated when the session ended at midnight without a vote.
I tuned into the live-stream late Tuesday night, and was both mesmerized and horrified at how far anti-choice politicians would go to ram through such a dangerous measure for women's health. State Sen. Leticia Van De Putte (D) drove the point home when she said:
"At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?"
Sen. Van de Putte's question was like a match to a fuse. Pro-choice supporters in the Capitol immediately began to cheer with support. The cheer became a roar. And they didn't stop cheering until time ran out and the session ended without a vote on S.B. 5.
The defeat of S.B. 5 was a resounding victory for pro-choice women and men across the nation. Sen. Davis' efforts were nothing short of incredible, and her stand reminds us that elected officials can do more than just vote to fight back against the most extreme anti-choice politicians. Sign our Thank You note to Sen. Wendy Davis for not backing down to anti-choice bullies.
Showing just how far anti-choice politicians are willing to go, Gov. Rick Perry (R) has already called for a second special session to advance this bill again. He also showed his true colors and took it to a personal level by stating that Sen. Davis should "[learn] from her own example":
Sen. Wendy Davis and pro-choice supporters across the country are ready to fight back against his extreme agenda.
Who's with us?
Chelsea Gelbart is the millennial fellow at NARAL Pro-Choice California
Unfortunately, what many people in 'blue' states like New York, Oregon, Massachusetts, and California don't realize is that this isn't just a problem for places like Texas. It's everyone's problem -- in everyone's state.
Recently in California, State Assemblymember Donald Wagner (R-Irvine) wondered why women weren't showing up at hearings for a bill to expand abortion care, dragging their children behind as "evidence" that they weren't able to terminate their unwanted pregnancies. Unbelievable.
And he's not unique. Right now, an anti-choice candidate is running in a special election for California Senate District 16. His name is Andy Vidak, and he represents the same Tea Party views as politicians like Michele Bachmann and Todd Akin who support defunding family-planning services. Vidak wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would eliminate Obamacare's no-cost contraception coverage benefit.
His opponent, pro-choice candidate Leticia Perez, is dedicated to expanding access to local and affordable reproductive-health care. She stands with California women and families and supports a women's right to make personal medical decisions without government interference.
Even in traditionally 'blue' states like California, we must work tirelessly to keep anti-choice politicians out of our personal, private decisions. If you want to help, check out Leticia's website and like her on Facebook to find out ways that you can get involved.
In Texas, anti-choice politicians are trying with all their might to pass new restrictions that will shut down reproductive-health clinics across the state.
NARAL Pro-Choice Texas has been in the Capitol fighting back with hundreds of pro-choice activists from across the state. Yesterday, they were on the House floor with hundreds of activists in a "People's Filibuster" to show how dangerous this legislation would be for women's health and safety.
So far, over 700 people from all over the state have signed up to testify against the bill. Hundreds of these citizens' testimony was casually disregarded as "repetitive" by Rep. Byron Cook in an effort to rush a vote in his House committee. Despite this, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas' monumental effort to restore transparency to the democratic process has temporarily blocked the House from voting on the anti-choice package.
Anti-choice Gov. Rick Perry (R), who made headlines by proudly slashing critical family-planning funding in 2011, personally made sure these anti-choice restrictions were part of the agenda for a special session after legislators failed to pass them during the regular session.
If these restrictions become law, all but five abortion providers in the entire state will likely be forced to close. Low-income women and their families, already struggling to access quality care, will be forced to travel huge distances or not receive care at all.
Don't expect anti-choice politicians to stop at these restrictions - they are also scheming to ban abortion after 20 weeks.
When it comes to comprehensive sex education, anti-choice politicians - the same ones who want to ban access to safe abortion care - are fighting to block teens from receiving objective and complete information.
This year, anti-choice lawmakers are moving several anti-sex-education measures.
Politicians introduced measures to block groups that provide abortion, including Planned Parenthood, from teaching sex education in schools in Arkansas and North Dakota. And legislators are still considering similar language in Texas.
In Ohio, politicians tried to insert an amendment to the state budget bill that would effectively ban comprehensive sex education from schools and fine teachers thousands of dollars for endorsing "gateway sexual activity." Gateway sexual activity?
It's hard to believe the utter hypocrisy of these anti-choice politicians. They rail against abortion care, but want to withhold important information that young people need to learn how to prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease. The alternative that our opponents are peddling is, in short, dangerous.
In West Virginia, student Katelyn Campbell became suspicious when an "abstinence-only" assembly was scheduled at her high school. Katelyn educated herself about the speaker, and not only decided not to attend, but also to alert the local papers.
The principal at Katelyn's school threatened to call her future college and tell them that Katelyn is a "backstabber" with "bad character" for leading the charge against the assembly. Katelyn has since helped raise awareness about the many problems with "abstinence-only" programs in high schools today.
We know that the best way to reduce unintended pregnancy, and therefore the need for abortion, is to educate our young people on how to practice responsible, safe sex with accurate and comprehensive information - something anti-choice politicians and activists refuse to accept.
Voters sent a resounding pro-choice message this year when they rejected anti-choice politicians who opposed everything from birth-control coverage to abortion exceptions for rape survivors.
Unfortunately, some anti-choice politicians clearly didn't get the message.
In Texas, anti-choice politicians are pushing legislation that would make it more difficult for women to access medical abortion care, a safe way for women to terminate an early pregnancy. Anti-choice politicians and organizations also are trying to ban abortion late in a pregnancy, a tactic especially harmful to women who face heart-breaking complications.
The state is also continuing its fight in the courts to defund family-planning providers, including Planned Parenthood.
Fortunately, anti-choice politicians in two other states backtracked —for now— on their legislative attacks.
We celebrated a victory when Ohio Senate President Niehaus announced that the legislature would not vote on bills aiming to effectively ban abortion before most women even know they are pregnant and defund Planned Parenthood during the lame duck session.
And in Virginia, overwhelming opposition to a proposed "personhood" measure helped convince Sen. Steve Martin, Chairman of the Senate Education and Health Committee, to pull the bill from the committee's agenda. It's good news, but it's not the end. In fact, anti-choice politicians in that state have already pre-filed bills for 2013, including one that would slash insurance coverage of birth control.
Don't expect this to be the last thing we hear about choice in Ohio and Virginia. But, when politicians continue to push their extreme anti-choice agenda, pro-choice women and their allies will push back even harder.
Personal, private medical decisions should be made by a woman and her doctor - not by politicians.