Thousands of anti-abortion supporters from around the state carried signs reading “Defund Planned Parenthood” and chanted “We are pro-life” on the steps of the Texas Capitol on Saturday for the annual Texas Rally for Life.
The Rally for Life is held to promote anti-abortion measures during the week of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
Joe Pojman, executive director of the Texas Alliance for Life, said the march raises awareness for alternatives to abortion such as adoption.
“I think women need to know that there are alternatives to abortion, that they are the best alternatives for themselves and for their baby,” Pojman said.
Speakers at the event also drew attention to bills filed for the Texas legislative session that began on Jan. 8. Pojman said it was important to show representatives that voters support anti-abortion measures. In the 2017 session, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 8, which restricted second-trimester abortions and required the burial or cremation of fetal tissue. The law was struck down in September 2018 by U.S. District Judge David Alan Ezra.
Pojman said the rally’s importance also extends to the young adults and children who were in attendance.
“We have to keep people educated,” Pojman said. “I think we’re going to see that the average age of this rally is very young, a huge number of people who are under 18.”
Radio-television-film freshman Ariana Silva attended the rally with a group of students from the UT chapter of Young Conservatives of Texas.
“It was really awesome to see that there were other students coming from the University,” Silva said. “But conservatives at UT are definitely in the minority.”
Counterprotesters dressed as characters from Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” stood in front of the gates leading to the Capitol. Texas Handmaid’s organizer Stephanie Martin said she sees parallels between present-day America and the dystopian version depicted in the novel and television series.
“We have people in power who are trying to challenge Roe and passing legislation to make four weeks the cutoff for legal abortion,” Martin said. “They are trying to control our fertility.”
Anthropology freshman Layla Spurlock, who participated in the rally, said the counterprotesters were respectful of the march, despite disagreeing with them.
“I’m not going to force someone to change their opinions, just like they’re not going to force me to change my opinion,” Spurlock said. “We all have the right to protest.”