ACL performers empower attendees, speak on abortion ban

Mackenzie Sullivan, Dina Barrish, Life and Arts Reporters

During Weekend 1 of Austin City Limits Festival, Megan Thee Stallion denounced the Texas abortion ban during her set. The Houston rapper asked her audience to raise their middle fingers up in agreement, and Piper Fasken remembers a majority of the crowd doing so.

“I was just like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s amazing,’” said Fasken, a communication and leadership sophomore. “Anytime anyone talks about issues that are important when they have that big of a platform, … somebody is listening.”

Like Fasken, other ACL attendees witnessed Megan Thee Stallion, as well as Billie Eilish and Phoebe Bridgers, empower their audiences to speak up against the Texas Senate Bill 8 — the most restrictive abortion law since Roe v. Wade passed in 1973 — which outlaws abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat. By Weekend 2, ACL artists and attendees more outwardly expressed their opposition to the new law.

Gabi Antuna, UT Students For Planned Parenthood president, spent both ACL weekends organizing and distributing “Ban Off Our Bodies” materials with the help of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas to spread awareness about the abortion ban and fundraise for student emergency contraception kits.

“Every single person at the Lady Bird Stage at Weekend 2 mentioned the abortion stuff that was going on in Texas, which is awesome,” the public health and women’s and gender studies senior said.

Antuna said Billie Eilish was the first performer to utilize the official slogan.

“I appreciate, too, that (Eilish) actually did use the Planned Parenthood logo. … That hit home,” Antuna said. “That was easily distributed material for everyone to recognize, and it was just a call to action.”

Autumn Keiser, director of marketing and communications for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, said since the law’s implementation, many face difficult challenges receiving reproductive care.

“About 85% or so of people who need abortion care are now either not receiving that care and continuing on with the pregnancy that they didn’t otherwise want to continue, or they are being forced to leave the state to receive that care,” Keiser said.

Keiser said celebrities speaking up about important issues causes a ripple effect among fans.

“A huge benefit of celebrities speaking out is giving everyday folks permission and inspiration to speak out in their own lives,” Keiser said. ​“It’s important for everyone to do this, every voice matters.”

Fasken said seeing other young Texans in the crowd sharing her viewpoints felt even more inspiring than hearing anti-ban sentiments from celebrities.

“When you’re looking at the news and you’re thinking about Texas politics, you don’t really get the voice and the passion of the younger people,” Fasken said. “It’s always encouraging to see younger people that actually care about (politics), because then it just gives me hope that maybe one day things will change.”

For Antuna, who said ACL reflects creative and personal identity, expression and politics go hand in hand.

“You can’t be self-expressive without being political at the same time,” Antuna said. “Texas is making it political. We have no choice but to be.”