Reproductive rights activists rally, lobby for Planned Parenthood

Rajya Atluri and Albert Zhao

A congregation of pink shirts, posters and “pussy hats” swarmed the state Capitol Wednesday in support of Planned Parenthood, protesting more than 40 anti-abortion bills in the Texas Legislature.

In an interview with The Daily Texan, former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis said defunding the organization would cut crucial health services for women beyond abortion.

“There is no state funding that goes to provide abortion care,” Davis said. “We are talking about taking money away from that very valuable breast cancer, uterine cancer screens that they do, the diabetes screens that they provide, the pap smears, the birth control pills, the IUDs.”

 Some of the protested bills had hearings during the rally. One of the most contentious was House Bill 434, which protects doctors from legal action if they do not inform women of potential birth defects or disabilities during pregnancy. A companion Senate bill passed two weeks ago and now awaits House approval.

 State House Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton, authored HB 434. Simmons told The Dallas Morning News that the bill mainly intends to prevent doctors from being unfairly sued, while admitting it may also help decrease abortions in Texas.

“This is a pro-life bill that is really a bill to protect our doctors in cases where, for whatever reason, they didn’t see a disability, and to keep them from being sued,” Simmons said. “There may have been a couple of cases filed on this in the past, and it hasn’t been something that’s been a rampant problem here in Texas. This preempts there being a problem, we hope.”

 Undeclared freshman Katerina Wittliff said she disagrees with HB 434 because its overall premise raises ethical concerns.

“It’s wrong for a doctor to hide the health of the baby from parents, because not only do they have the right to know, but they need to prepare if their child is born sick,” Wittliff said. “It’s not only about abortions.” 

Brianna Brown, deputy director of the Texas Organizing Project, said defunding the organization disproportionately impacts women of color because they are less likely to own health insurance and need easier access to female health services.

 “In Texas, 70 percent of people without health insurance are of color,” Brown said. “No matter how much money you have in your pocket, no matter what zip code you live in … we have been fighting for all Texans to be able to go to doctors.”