I live in the great state of Texas, and it’s completely separate capitol, Austin. As Kaitlyn highlighted last week, state wars on reproductive rights are raging. Texas, unfortunately, is far from a peace zone. A week ago, Texas’s political war against contraception and abortion access became violent. The firebombing of Texas Senator Wendy Davis’s office, an outspoken advocate for Planned Parenthood, evokes the unmistakable fear of targeted attacks on abortion providers. The firebombing should not to be taken lightly or taken out of context. Make no mistake, this is part of a large-scale “pro-life” tactic to scare supporters from providing and advocating for contraceptive and abortion care.
If you read the tweets from some of the most outspoken advocates in Texas, you could feel the impact the “pro-life” violence has—@meadowgirl on Tuesday: “@scATX i just can’t with all of this stuff. it SCARES me. like, can i be out as pro-choice and stuff & not end up DEAD or on FIRE?” The pro-choice community is too familiar with the terror the prolife violence inflicts, we feel it all the time, and acutely when we remember the murders of Dr. Tiller, Dr. Gunn, Dr. Britton, Dr. Slepian, and all clinic staff who face daily harassment and intimidation from anti-abortion protesters.
The intention of anti-choice violence is to create a culture of fear and to pressure the pro-choice community into backing down. But in the face of mounting abortion restrictions, TRAP laws, and violence against supporters of reproductive health, we can not afford to lose any more ground. The firebomb attack on Senator Davis’s office comes after a persistent, long-standing war on reproductive rights in Texas, which, sadly, went largely unchallenged in traditional media, social media, or grassroots resistance until recently. Over the past three weeks, pro-choice rallies, Planned Parenthood events, and media coverage of the Texas’ reproductive rights crisis have soared. And while the current grassroots reaction feels a little too new for comfort, we must take this momentum and run. The pro-choice, pro-uteri, pro-freedom movement in Texas is just starting, and it needs to get more connected, more organized and louder.
We are just now, in 2012, seeing a grassroots response to the multiple violations on reproductive rights in Texas, which went full throttle in mid-2011. The grassroots response here has taken the form of Seeing Red rallies, which are well attended and inspiring, but feel uncomfortably new. I believe that in order to evoke change, we must stand up for change, as strong collectives of individuals; I see that collective in Texas building, but it’s still loose and weak. I am not implying that the lack of activism or rallies in any way caused the violent attack on a pro-choice community member; the attacks are never our fault. I also understand that pro-choice Texans are at a serious disadvantage with the ignorance and misogyny of our leaders, the lack of traditional media coverage of our state, and the general political climate here. But I am certain that Texas and Texans can do great things, and if a cohesive, connected army were ready to go before the forced ultrasound legislation bill left the capitol, I am certain we could have accomplished more.
It’s never too late to take hold of a conversation you want to influence. So, if you’re in Texas, or any state battling for reproductive freedom with a need for a cohesive movement, I ask that everyone make an effort to connect with each other, and work together to change the terms and outcomes of activism. We need to build state-centric networks that will be prepared instead of reactive; we need to build a listservs of likeminded individuals that are willing to work a bit to get adequate attention on the issues in our states; we need to expand from our reliance on Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and others to lead events and connect with individuals. We need to know each other by name at rallies, and know who are our allies and resources are within our State’s community. This is just the beginning of a long battle, and if we are not prepared as a connected, unified front, we will lose.