Thousands flooded the steps of the state Capitol on Monday to voice their opposition to abortion bills recently drawn up by Republican lawmakers, and to support the Texas Senate’s newest superstar – state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth – alongside musicians, politicians and celebrities.
Gov. Rick Perry announced a second special session beginning July 1 to address unfinished legislation on abortion, transportation, funding and juvenile sentencing. Abortion legislation filed so far in this special session would ban abortion after 20 weeks, place restrictions on abortion clinics and limit the acquisition of abortion inducing drugs. The special session will last 30 days.
Local musicians Bright Light Social Hour kicked off the rally, unveiling a song inspired by last Tuesday’s filibuster called “Wendy Davis.” Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks also took the stage alongside her father Lloyd Maines.
At the rally, Davis said the support she has received has renewed her strength and undermined Texas politicians who have “boosted their careers by bullying women out of healthcare.” Davis said the need for family planning and “age-appropriate sex education” is more appropriate than denying women access to abortion services.
“The best way to control unwanted pregnancies is to give women control of their lives,” Davis said.
Davis also announced lawmakers are working to reintroduce the Equal Work for Equal Pay bill that was vetoed by Perry in the special session.
“Gov. Perry vetoed this bill ... essentially saying women in Texas don’t deserve [equal pay],” Davis said. “He’s wrong in so many ways. Fairness was and always will be a fundamental Texas value.”
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and daughter of former Texas Gov. Ann Richards, urged the audience to continue the fight against abortion legislation.
“Texas women are tough,” Richards said. “We’ve survived hurricanes, tornadoes and we’ll survive the Texas Legislature too. To put it in terms Rick Perry can understand, I’m an American, I’m a Texan and no government can make personal decisions for me.”
Several Texas politicians and lawmakers also attended the rally, including actresses Lisa Edelstein from the TV show “House” and Stephanie March, a native Texan who is most famous for her role on the TV series “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”
Participants in the rally were not discouraged by the warm weather, and rally volunteers like Becca Hubbard worked to provide free water and sweat towels to ensure the safety of all participants.
“I believe that a few men should not mandate what we can and cannot do with our bodies,” Hubbard said.
Many independent groups supporting Wendy Davis urged participants to voice their opinions, vote and contact their local and state representatives so they can be involved in the democratic process.
Sasha Tarrant, a history professor at Brazosport College, distributed flyers urging participants to contact their state representatives and senators. Tarrant called Gov. Rick Perry’s second special session a reversal of justice and progress.
“This is a personal, emotional, medical decision, not something we should be legislating about,” Tarrant said. “The Legislature cannot possibly anticipate all the myriad reasons why [an abortion] would be necessary. No one in there has a medical degree.”