From One Texas Mom to Another: My Mom’s Open Letter to Wendy Davis

I’m sitting in my new apartment – a cute two bedroom in Waco – unpacking boxes and trying to get settled in a city I’ve never been to before. After a long day of driving, loading and unloading boxes and furniture, and buying some basics for the apartment, I passed out early last night. This morning, I woke up to an email from my role model – my mom – about my move.

I’m excited to start organizing in Waco and kick off a dialogue about Wendy – and ever so grateful to my parents, who didn’t blink when I decided to take a year off of college to help get Wendy elected. This is the message my mom wanted you – and Wendy – to hear.

Dear Wendy,

I heard you speak at luncheon in Austin a couple of years ago. I was captivated by your words, your sincerity, your story, and your passion for Texas, Texans, women, children and a better future. I was moved to tears actually. I am a tough, type A, courtroom lawyer. I don’t do emotions, and certainly not in public over a rubber chicken plate. But I did that day, and have since. I was in a rush to leave. I wanted to share my experience with my daughter. I couldn’t then, and really still cannot, articulate what moved me. But it was something. Something important. Before I left though, I wanted you to know that your words meant something to me. Obviously to others too, as the line to shake your hand and have your attention for a few fleeting seconds was already the length of the ballroom. Patience not one of my virtues, I circled around the back of where you were standing and quietly said-That was f$&@!ng awesome. I told my daughter the same, and encouraged her to stay connected to what was happening here as she made her way through her first college semesters on the other side of the country.

She did. I did. She and I spent many hours at the Capitol last summer (her more than I), and I watched as she became more involved politically. More driven. More compelled. We were there on that magic night when our voices, along with thousands of others, were heard, and made a difference. When we finally left, in the early morning hours, we drove up Congress, the Capitol lit behind us, and the song Can’t Hold Us came on. Somber, not wanting, or really able to talk, the music did it for us, and that is now “our” song. My daughter went back to school at the end of the summer, but a bigger piece of her remained here than she had ever left before.

In calls with her during the fall semester she started dropping hints that she wanted to come home. To work on, with, and for, what you and others like you – too many name, but included in our gratitude and in this letter as if I could and did name them all-stand for and believe in. She wanted to come home. She wanted to make a difference. Her father and I encouraged her. She left school at the end of the fall semester and moved home.

She didn’t have a job on your campaign. She really didn’t have a plan. She didn’t know exactly what she could or would do, but knew she could do something. She volunteered. She got deputized to register voters. She registered voters. She went to meetings. She did field organizing. She walked until her feet were swollen. She spent hours on the bus because she had no driver’s license. She made calls. She sent emails. She talked to people. She became one of your fellows.

I helped where I could. I’ve handed out stacks of voter registration cards, asked countless people if they were registered to vote, talked to people about what is happening around and to them without their realizing they have a voice and a vote, staffed a voting location for the primary, and made a few financial contributions to you and similar candidates and causes.

But the “donation” I made to your campaign today was priceless. It was far beyond any check I could write. Today, my husband and I packed up our only child, our precious, kind, funny, smart, beautiful daughter, and took her to a new city where she knows no one. We helped her load and unload her typical college kid stuff (as well as dishes from our cabinets and all our living room furniture and dining table) into a strange new apartment in a strange new city. We filled 3 baskets at Target, so she could get through the first few days. (Ok, I can be emotional.) She starts her job next week as field organizer for you.

As I return home tonight to an empty house – without my baby girl (or any furniture), please know that what you do matters. Please know that people are so moved by you that they change their lives to support and assist you in what you seek to accomplish. Please know they are willing to move 1,593 miles, leave friends and family and devote 100% to the cause. Most important to me, please take care of my awesome young woman and use her talents wisely.

Godspeed to the Governor’s Mansion. MMK

Love you too, Mom.


Sex and Class at Heart of Davis “Scandal”

For the last week, all eyes have been on Wendy Davis, questioning or defending her parenting and her past. At this point, plenty of articles have been written dissecting when she was divorced, when she was re-married, who paid for what at what time – and I’m not writing one of those pieces. I’m not writing one of those pieces partially because plenty of talented writers have spent hour upon hour researching and clarifying the truth – but mainly because I don’t care. And neither should you.

The most striking thing about the “scandal” and “debate” surrounding Davis right now isn’t that her second husband helped her pay for law school (you’ll find that married couples often share the responsibility for bills, for example), but that sexism and classism are so pervasive in media and politics today that these “revelations” lit every writer, news outlet, and political pundit in Texas on fire.

When was the last time we questioned the parenting skills of a male elected official? If that’s how we’re deciding which way to pull the lever on Election Day, I want to see the divorce decree for every man on the ballot in November. Are they divorced? Who was awarded custody? Who was paying child support? If you didn’t have primary custody of your child(ren) and you weren’t awarded primary and sole conservatorship, I’m not voting for you.

Seem a little unrealistic? The idea that men who we vote into office are unfit parents and that their parenting skills affect their ability to carry out the responsibilities of their office is one that I don’t see written about very often. When men who serve as elected officials have poor relationships with their children, lie about their marriages and divorces, or are involved in, God forbid, actually illegal activities, it’s written off as the price we pay for qualified elected officials. It’s a more sophisticated iteration of “boys will be boys,” to be sure, but that’s the core of the argument. We expect – and excuse – men who misbehave by breaking laws or treating their families poorly.

We – and I’m talking about courts, the media, the public – presume that women are the default caregivers. It’s a message that patriarchy has rather successfully ingrained in generation after generation. Even today, with women running the U.S.’s international policy and running for president, it seems impossible to escape the assumption that any woman who dared separate from her children for more than a few days (leaving them in the “dangerous” hands of their stable, successful, involved father) has failed, not only as a mother but as a woman; as a member of society. Davis, by all accounts, was an involved mother who was walking the thin line between the competitive, all-consuming environment of law school and the difficult and equally consuming job of raising children.

As the daughter of a woman who had a child young and went on to an acclaimed law school after my birth, I can appreciate the kind of struggle that it takes to make both of those things co-exist in the limited number of daylight hours that we’re all restricted by. But my mother isn’t running for public office – so nobody is questioning whether she should have been at home with me and my father instead of attending law school. This is a 21st century way for the media to announce that Davis should have been a stay at home mom, spending each day with her kids, rather than working to fulfill her professional ambitions. Instead of allowing this kind of rhetoric to dominate our electoral cycles, we should be re-directing the spotlight back towards those making these issues the debate of the day. Why should the fact that a young mother attended a prestigious and competitive law school make her a bad mother – or for that fact, ineligible for the Governorship twenty years later?

It isn’t just male privilege working to discredit Davis’s run; articles written about how long Davis lived in a trailer and supported her family by working two jobs also reek of class privilege. When Davis announced her candidacy for Governor, there were those who posed questions about whether her background was respectable enough for the leader of our state. Upon reflection, it seems that those opposed to Davis’s candidacy have decided that she didn’t live in a trailer long enough to be the leader of our state. When we allow wealthy political pundits to make the determination that Davis’s short tenure in a trailer and then a series of crappy apartments with her children disqualify her for public office, we cede our power as an electorate to those who would fill every open office with wealthy white men who have always operated with the privilege of race, sex, and money.

Instead of dumbing our decisions at the ballot box down to match the shallow and often sexist claims espoused by political pundits and media outlets, we have the option to demand better. We have the option – and the obligation – to see beyond the layers of privilege that often overwhelm these conversations to see the heart of the issue: Davis is a woman, and in Texas, that’s still a strike against her.

Show Us What Democracy Looks Like

This is what democracy looks like!

I’ve spent more time in the Texas Capitol in the last month than in the entire 19 years before that, and though there were times when I was tired or sick or hungry or on the verge of tears or actually crying, I never once regretted my choice to spend that time in the Capitol.

Thousands of us fought for our rights together; some of us sitting, some of us standing, but all of us together. There is no law, no piece of legislation, and no GOP campaign slogan that can wipe those memories from my mind. There is no law that can silence the women of Texas, and we will not go back.

Watching an ophthalmologist claim to be qualified to make decisions about reproductive healthcare; watching a couple in blue giggle every time a Democratic Senator explained the prevalence of child rape in America; watching women in blue claim that we were plotting to violently attack those on the other side of the aisle; watching women in blue hide their newborns from women in orange; watching Sen. Hegar table every amendment without debate and claim that he hadn’t heard testimony from rape survivors at the committee meeting; watching DPS confiscate tampons and pads from women entering the gallery; watching DPS take water and hard candy away from diabetics trying to control their blood sugar levels; watching Lt. Gov. Dewhurst adjourn for a two minute break to circumvent Senate rules, and watching 19 Republicans and 1 Democrat vote to deprive millions of Texan women of a Constitutional right and access to affordable healthcare: I would imagine it stretches the limits of anyone I know. It certainly stretched mine beyond belief.

At the same time that these things were happening, I was watching something else, too. I was watching a pro-life Senator stand up defiantly in opposition of HB2 because it wasn’t a bill designed for the health and safety of women and children; watching a woman in blue hold hands with a women in orange during incredibly emotional testimony; watching women who fought for Roe v. Wade 40 years ago fight for our right to control our own bodies all over again; watching feminists and activists from across the country send messages of support, food, and coffee as needed; watching those in the gallery tell us that they could hear us chanting and that we were keeping them strong; watching Texans refuse to allow HB2 to pass without forcing the GOP to look at us, to hear us; watching mothers and children and grandchildren put themselves at the front and center of a debate about our bodies. I was watching Texas women and the men who truly respect them fight to have their voices heard.

Whose choice?

Let this summer spark a lifetime.

HB2* y Mujeres de Color

Escrito por Alexis Kostun y traducido por Nancy Cardenas 

Los medios de comunicación nacional perdieron su oportunidad de cubrir el debate SB5 y el filibustero en tiempo real. A pesar de haber sido contactados por cientos de activistas a favor del aborto, las cámaras no empezaron a rodar hasta después de la noche del martes. Ahora que la batalla contra las leyes restrictivas sobre el aborto en Texas está recibiendo la atención nacional, Senadora Wendy Davis está en el centro de casi todos los informes. Aunque la senador Davis tomó una posición increíble para las mujeres de Texas, su historia no es la única historia.

En la Cámara, la batalla para retrasar una votación sobre SB5 fue controlado casi en su totalidad por las mujeres de color. Representantes Dukes, Farrar, González, Allen, González y Thompson fueron los responsables de ofrecer enmienda después de enmienda a SB5 – todas rechazadas sin debate. El patrocinador del proyecto de ley en la Cámara de Representantes, Jodie Laubenberg, no sólo se negó a responder preguntas sobre el proyecto de ley, pero se negó a tomar el micrófono para entrar en su Moción para cada enmienda. Como resultado, los legisladores demócratas se quedaron debatiendo ellos mismos sobre el fondo de las enmiendas propuestas.

Representante Mary  González, quien introdujo enmiendas que proponían retrasar la aplicación de la ley de Texas hasta que se reduje el embarazo adolescente de repetición de 15%, dijo que “he visto las facturas donde no se permiten enmiendas porque no sería aprobada por el Senado de nuevo, pero nunca he visto a alguien que se niega a responder a las preguntas. Fue muy decepcionante que el representante Laubenberg nos obligó a nosotros debatir sobre un tema tan importante”.

El SB5 debate en la Cámara se prolongó hasta casi las 4 am del lunes por la mañana, muy reñida por los representantes demócratas mujeres que intentaron a la fuerza hacer Rep. Laubenberg y sus colegas a participar en un debate real, basada en hechos reales sobre el proyecto de ley. El debate en la Cámara continuó en la madrugada del lunes, dejando el Senado sin opción que aceptar el proyecto de ley hasta el martes debido a un período de 24 horas requerido de espera. No es un logro pequeño, este retraso de 24 horas significa que sólo 13 horas de tiempo legislativo quedaron en el período especiales de sesiones – una cantidad de tiempo que el senador Davis factiblemente pudo prolongar con un filibustero.

A pesar de los esfuerzos de los representantes demócratas en la Cámara para ayudar el senador Davis, hubo poca conversación sobre el papel que jugaron las mujeres de color en la batalla contra SB5. La mayoría de la cobertura mediática de la SB5 batalla se centró en un solo relato: el de filibustero senador Davis “y el hashtag # StandWithWendy tendencias a nivel mundial.

“Creo que no se trata de si o no fuimos entrevistadas. Representante Dukes, Representante Farrar y yo sin duda fuimos parte de la conversación. El problema con los medios de comunicación nacionales es su incapacidad para ir más allá de una sola identidad. Recogen las legisladoras para centrarse en, legisladores demócratas, y nunca entretienen la idea de que somos mujeres de color “, dijo González.

El comentario de González que “los medios no se aplica una lente intersectorial” para cuestiones no sólo se refleja en la falta de discusión sobre las mujeres de color que son cruciales para prevenir el paso de SB5 – es paralelo en la forma en que los medios de comunicación nacionales hablan del impacto potencial de la SB5 y otras restricciones al aborto.

Un requisito de SB5 es que las clínicas de aborto cumplen los mismos estándares como Centros de Cirugía Ambulatoria (ASC) obligaría a 37 de 42 proveedores de abortos en Texas que cierren, dejando sólo cinco clínicas abiertas para cubrir 268.581 millas cuadradas. Estas clínicas ofrecen no sólo servicios de aborto, pero el control de natalidad, pruebas de detección de ETS, exámenes de cáncer, pruebas de VIH, pruebas de embarazo, la pastilla del día después, y otros servicios de salud. Para las mujeres en las principales áreas metropolitanas como Austin, San Antonio, Dallas y Houston, esta disposición de la ley no podría ser desastrosa. Sin duda, sería más difícil programar un aborto antes de la marca de 20 semanas con cientos de mujeres de los pueblos más pequeños que acuden a las mismas clínicas, pero no sería una clínica dentro de una unidad de tres horas. Para las mujeres que viven en las ciudades fronterizas, las zonas rurales y ciudades como El Paso, no habrá clínicas en el área inmediata, obligando a las mujeres a elegir entre un viaje de varios días costosos a San Antonio o un viaje a la frontera de forma considerable arriesgado aborto en México.

El aborto en México es un asunto peligroso: legal y accesible sólo durante las primeras 12 semanas de embarazo en la Ciudad de México y el aborto ha sido prohibida en 18 estados mexicanos. Los estudios indican que sigue el castigo para un aborto en México depende del estado en el que una mujer se somete al procedimiento. En los pasados cinco años, 127 mujeres han sido arrestadas por el aborto. El aborto es ilegal en muchos estados del país, las mujeres suelen acudir a las farmacias que no hacen preguntas antes de recetar misoprostol, los mercados de pulgas, donde las pastillas son a veces disponibles, o a clínicas de aborto no regulados.

Las mujeres de color y las mujeres que viven en las zonas rurales se verían afectados por SB5 y leyes similares mucho más que cualquier otro grupo demográfico. La legislación que trata de ofrecer cuidados de salud asequibles a las mujeres de las zonas rurales o las mujeres con ingresos bajos no sólo es impopular en la legislatura de Texas – es imposible salir de la comisión. La legislación que se ocupa de embarazo en la adolescencia y su objetivo en reducir los embarazos no deseados es “completamente fuera de la mesa para el Partido Republicano”, dijo González.

Pero en un mundo (este) en Texas, es actualmente el cuarto más alto de la nación en términos de embarazos en los adolescentes. La falta de voluntad de los republicanos para mirar la interseccionalidad entre raza, la pobreza, y la educación contribuye directamente al problema. En 2010, el 78% de las adolescentes embarazadas en Texas eran mujeres de color. Ofreciendo opciones de salud preventivas para reducir los embarazos no deseados, tanto en adolescentes y adultos, puede parecer de sentido común – pero no es simplemente una opción en la legislatura de Texas, dominada por los republicanos.

Nancy Cárdenas, activista de los derechos de las mujeres del Valle, hizo el viaje a Austin para contribuir a las audiencias y debates de SB5. “Es difícil escuchar los hombres republicanos imponer su agenda religiosa ostensible en proposiciones como SB5. Están bajo la impresión de que las mujeres que deciden tener abortos estén confundidas. Abortos todavía van a suceder. Las mujeres no necesitan ser guiados por los republicanos a través de una de las decisiones más difíciles de su vida. Deben de tener confianza en las mujeres “, dijo Cárdenas.

González comentó que “presentó dos proyectos de ley en sesión ordinaria para resolver esto, y ni siquiera pude obtener una audiencia del comité. Para ellos, está tan lejos de la realidad. 20% de mi distrito no graduaron de la secundaria, y mucho de eso se debe a los embarazos de adolescentes. Esas cosas están correlacionados – No puedo ignorarlo. Afecta no sólo el porcentaje de embarazo en la adolescencia, pero el acceso educativo, acceso a la salud y la estabilidad económica. ”

La actitud de los republicanos exacerba los problemas estructurales ya existentes que hacen que sea más difícil para las mujeres de color acceder a abortos seguros. Durante el filibustero de SB5, casi ningún medio de comunicación que habla en española cubrió los eventos de la semana. Univisión transmitió un informe sobre SB5, pero estaba lejos de la cobertura imparcial o equilibrada. Univisión aviso a las mujeres del Valle de llamaran las diócesis local para obtener más información sobre SB5. “La ausencia de medios de comunicación de lengua en español durante todo el proceso de los debates SB5 es alarmante, y la falta de atención de los medios sobre la mujer en la casa de representantes es aún más sorprendente”, dijo Cárdenas. “Los medios de comunicación siempre han encontrado una forma de excluir a las mujeres de minorías de los focos en cual tienen todo el derecho de estar. Aunque en Austin sabemos de estas mujeres bien, sus acciones son lanzados a un lado por los medios de comunicación”.

Había miles de activistas a favor del aborto presentes en las audiencias del comité y debates, pero pocas mujeres de color hablaron durante las oportunidades de testimonio público. Cárdenas señaló que “la ausencia de mujeres del Valle y El Paso durante las protestas es de ninguna manera o forma un ejemplo de desinterés. Sólo demuestra que las mujeres de las zonas rurales no pueden acceder a las únicas ciudades que se quedarán con los centros que proporcionan importantes exámenes de salud y abortos seguros. Si las mujeres del Valle y El Paso no podían hacerlo por los debates sobre la pieza más restrictiva de la legislación anti-aborto que se ha propuesto en la Legislatura de Texas, no van a poder pagar el viaje a Dallas, San Antonio, Houston o para un aborto seguro y legal”.

Hay una cosa que todos los activistas a favor del aborto y los legisladores estén de acuerdo. Limitar el acceso al aborto no deja que suceda, pero lo hará más peligroso. “Yo tal vez puedo entender a la gente que son” pro-vida “, pero lo que es más frustrante es que no hay ni una posibilidad de compromiso de las mujeres rurales, las mujeres en la frontera, o de la violación y sobrevivientes de incesto,” dijo González. “Si usted ha sido violada, usted debería ser capaz de decidir el resultado de esa situación. Se trata de un derecho constitucional, y el Partido Republicano no participará en una conversación seria sobre la manera de abordar problemas como los embarazos de adolescentes”.

* Las entrevistas realizadas para este artículo son de las discusiones de SB5, pero no hay ninguna diferencia sustantiva entre las normas contenidas en SB5 y HB2.

The Impact of HB2* on Women of Color

The national media missed its chance to cover the SB5 debate and filibuster in real time. Despite being contacted by hundreds of pro-choice activists, the cameras didn’t start rolling until after Tuesday night. Now that the battle against restrictive abortion laws in Texas is receiving national attention, Senator Wendy Davis is at the core of almost every report. Though Sen. Davis took an incredible stand for the women of Texas, her story is not the only story. 

In the House, the battle to delay a vote on SB5 was controlled almost entirely by women of color. Representatives Dukes, Farrar, Gonzalez, Allen, González, and Thompson were responsible for offering amendment after amendment to SB5 – all rejected without debate. The bill’s sponsor in the House, Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, not only refused to answer questions on the floor about the bill, but refused to take the mike to enter her Motion to Table each amendment. As a result, Democratic legislators were left debating themselves on the merits of proposed amendments.

Representative Mary González, who introduced amendments that proposed delaying implementation of the bill until Texas reduced its repeat teen pregnancy rate to 15%, said “I have seen bills where they didn’t allow amendments because it wouldn’t pass the Senate again, but I’ve never seen someone refuse to answer questions. It was very disappointing that Rep. Laubenberg forced us to debate ourselves on such an important issue.”

The SB5 debate in the House stretched on until almost 4 a.m. on Monday morning, hard fought by female Democratic Representatives attempting to force Rep. Laubenberg and her colleagues to engage in real, fact-based debate on the bill. The House debate continued into early Monday morning, leaving the Senate unable to take up the bill until Tuesday due to a required 24 hour waiting period. No small accomplishment, this 24 hour delay meant that only 13 hours of legislative time remained in the special session – an amount of time that Sen. Davis could feasibly filibuster.

Though the efforts of Democratic Representatives in the House were crucial to Sen. Davis’ filibuster, there was little conversation about the role that women of color played in the battle against SB5. Most media coverage of the SB5 battle focused on a single narrative: that of Sen. Davis’ filibuster and the globally trending hashtag #StandWithWendy.

“I don’t think it’s about whether or not we were interviewed. Representative Dukes, Representative Farrar and I were definitely talked about. The problem with national media is its inability to move beyond a single identity. They pick women legislators to focus on; Democratic legislators; they never entertain the idea that we’re women of color,” said González.

González’s comment that “the media doesn’t apply an intersectional lens” to issues isn’t just reflected in the lack of discussion about the women of color who were crucial to preventing SB5 passage – it’s paralleled in the way that national media outlets talk about the potential impact of SB5 and other restrictions on abortion.

The SB5 requirement that abortion clinics meet the same standards as Ambulatory Surgical Centers (ASCs) would force 37 of Texas’ 42 abortion providers to close, leaving only five clinics open to cover 268,581 square miles. These clinics provide not only abortion services, but birth control, STD screenings, cancer screenings, HIV testing, pregnancy testing, the morning after pill, and other healthcare services. For women in major metropolitan areas like Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston, this provision of the bill might not prove disastrous. Certainly, it would be more difficult to schedule an abortion before the 20 week mark with hundreds of women from smaller towns flocking to the same clinics, but there would be a clinic within a three hour drive. For women who live in border towns, rural areas, and cities like El Paso, there would be no clinics in the immediate area, forcing women to choose between a costly multi-day trip to San Antonio or a trip over the border for a considerably riskier abortion in Mexico.

Abortion in Mexico is a dangerous proposition: legal and accessible only during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy in Mexico City, abortion has been outlawed in 18 Mexican states. Studies indicate that although punishment for an abortion in Mexico depends on the state in which a woman undergoes the procedure, 127 women have been prosecuted for receiving an abortion over the last five years. Because abortion is illegal in so many Mexican states, women often turn to pharmacies that don’t ask questions before prescribing Misoprostol, to flea markets, where the pills are sometimes available, or to unregulated abortion clinics.

Women of color and women living in rural areas would be affected by SB5 and bills like it far more harshly than any other demographic. Legislation that attempts to offer affordable healthcare to women in rural areas or women with low income is not only unpopular in the Texas legislature – it’s impossible to get out of committee. Legislation that addresses teen pregnancy and aims to reduce unwanted pregnancies is “completely off the table for the GOP,” González said.

But in a world (this one) where Texas is currently ranked 4th highest in the nation in terms of teen pregnancies, the GOP’s unwillingness to look at the intersectionality between race, poverty, and education contributes directly to the problem. In 2010, 78% of pregnant teens in Texas were women of color. Offering preventative healthcare options to reduce unwanted pregnancies in both teens and adults might seem like common sense – but it’s simply not an option in the GOP-dominated Texas legislature.

Nancy Cardenas, a women’s rights activist from the Valley, made the trip to Austin for the SB5 hearings and debates. “It’s hard to hear male Republicans impose their blatant religious agenda on bills like SB5. They are under the impression that women who choose to have abortions are confused. Abortions will still happen. Women do not need to be guided by Republicans through one of the most difficult decisions of their lives. Trust women,” said Cardenas.

González commented that she “introduced two pieces of legislation in regular session to solve this, and it wouldn’t even get a committee hearing. To them, it’s so far removed from their reality. 20% of my district didn’t graduate high school, and a lot of that is because of repeat teen pregnancies. Those things are correlated – I can’t just ignore it. It impacts not only teen pregnancy rates but educational access, healthcare access, and economic stability. ”

The attitude of the GOP exacerbates the already existing structural problems that make it more difficult for women of color to access safe abortions. During the SB5 filibuster, almost no Spanish-speaking media covered the week’s events. Univision broadcast one report on SB5, but it was far from impartial or balanced coverage, urging women in the Valley to call the local Dioceses for more information about SB5. “The absence of Spanish speaking media throughout the process of the SB5 debates is alarming, and the absence of media attention on women in the House is even more striking,” said Cardenas. “The media has always found a way to exclude minority women from the spotlight they are entitled to. Although in Austin we know these women well, their actions are tossed aside by the media.”

There were thousands of pro-choice activists present for committee hearings and floor debates, but few women of color spoke during the opportunities for public testimony. Cardenas pointed out that “the absence of women from the Valley and El Paso during the protests is in no way shape or form an example of disinterest. It only proves that women from rural areas cannot access the only cities that will be left with centers that provide important health exams and safe abortions. If women from the Valley and El Paso could not make it for debates about the most restrictive piece of anti-abortion legislation that has been proposed in the Texas Legislature, they will not be able to afford the trip to Dallas, San Antonio, or Houston for a safe and legal abortion.”

There’s one thing that all pro-choice activists and legislators can agree on. Limiting access to abortion won’t stop it from happening, but it will make it more dangerous. “I can maybe understand people who are ‘pro-life’ but what’s more frustrating is that there’s not even a possibility of compromise for rural women, women on the border, or rape and incest survivors,” said González. “If you’ve been raped, you should be able to decide the outcome of that situation. This is a Constitutional right, and the GOP won’t engage in a serious conversation about how to address problems like teen pregnancies.”

*Interviews done for this piece were about SB5, but there is no substantive difference between the regulations contained in SB5 and HB2.

House Committee Hearing on HB2 & Diverse Needs of Texan Women

There has been some truly incredible testimony tonight at the Senate committee hearing, and there are many quotes that I would like to honor and remember as the days of the second special tick by, but that testimony — though moving and brilliantly compelling — isn’t what I wanted to share with y’all. A “pro-life” young woman stood up tonight and remarked that she didn’t need “reproductive justice or free birth control,” and the privilege in her statement was absolutely stunning. I don’t mean to attack this one young woman; her sentiment is shared by many. But there are some fundamental problems that were evident in her testimony that reflect a larger lack of understanding on the part of “pro life” activists who seek to curtail our access to affordable abortion care.

It was obvious from her testimony that though she talked about “crisis pregnancies,” she had no understanding of what it really means to be pregnant with nowhere to turn. Nor did this young women understand that just because she “doesn’t need free birth control,” that doesn’t mean that there aren’t women who do desperately need free or low-cost birth control. I work two jobs during the summer and one during the year, paying for a private school in Washington state, rent, utilities, and all other bills. I’m lucky enough to have supportive parents who help me when I can’t quite cover everything — but I certainly can’t afford the $100 per month sticker price of my birth control prescription. Keep in mind that I’m a white, middle class, young woman — and without clinics like Planned Parenthood, birth control would be unaffordable for me.

Now think about all of the factors that complicate access to birth control — both in terms of financial resources and community support — and it’s not hard to understand why so many women are fiercely defending their right to affordable and accessible health care; their right to make their own healthcare decisions. Women of color in Texas often grow up in conservative communities, where abortion and birth control are taboo subjects for young women. On top of that, there are far fewer free or low-cost clinics in rural and border areas than there are in major metropolitan areas like Houston, Dallas, and Austin. It’s curious to me — and I know I’m not the only one — that women of color are already operating with far fewer choices than their white counterparts in big cities. Certainly there are women of color in these big cities as well — but the number of women of color disproportionately affected by bills like HB2 is astronomical. When posed as a question to GOP committee members, the disproportionate effect of HB2 on young women of color has been dismissed time and time again by pointing out that “it’s possible that some clinics will stay open.” If those speaking in favor of HB2 were truly pro-choice, they would understand that sometimes a woman’s life depends on her ability to access affordable birth control. Sometimes a woman’s life depends on her ability to access affordable abortion services. For many women in abusive relationships, the windows of opportunity to seek abortion services are few and far between — often forcing women past the 20 week mark. I challenge Rep. Laubenberg or any of her anti-choice colleagues to look a young woman in the eyes and tell her that she can’t have an abortion because the only day she could get to the clinic without notice from her abusive partner was past the 20 week mark.

Once you factor those things into your determination about whether or not sexual healthcare is easily accessible for all women in Texas, factor in other circumstances that can prevent a woman of any race from being able to access abortion or preventative health care: rape, incest, a significantly lower income than the national average, less information about safe birth control choices, abusive partners, and physical or mental disabilities. Women seeking birth control or an abortion likely often already have young children — remember that most women who get abortions are already mothers, many of whom have decided that they don’t have the ability or desire to care for an additional child. Should HB2 pass, you would be asking mothers to place their own welfare, and that of their children, below the welfare of a cluster of cells that might, one day, become a person. Should HB2 pass, you’re asking those same mothers to forgo affordable birth control or cancer screenings  because the clinics that once provided those services also provided abortions.

Just because that young woman and her “friends in blue” can afford to pay sticker price for birth control, HPV screenings and vaccines, STD testing, pregnancy tests, condoms, and other preventative healthcare doesn’t mean that all — or even most — women in Texas can afford those services. That Texas is ranked the 4th highest in the US for teen pregnancies should tell you something: abstinence-only education and inaccessible birth control just isn’t working. We should be wary when the bills we pass become law without any consideration for the diverse needs of the women of Texas.

Rio Grande Valley Media/ Medios de Comunicación en Español

*Post by Nancy Cardenas @nancycardenas91 *

La segunda sesión especial comienza en Texas, las mujeres y hombres por igual se reúnen por todo el estado de Texas para oponerse a la nueva legislación que en absoluto  prohibira los centros de abortos seguros.

La ausencia de mujeres en el Valle del Río Grande en el Capitolio estatal de TX es alarmante. El efecto de las leyes, HB 2 y SB9, sobre las mujeres del valle, tendran consecuencias drasticas. Ahora tendrán que viajar cientos de millas para un aborto seguro .

RGV (Valle del Rio Grande) medios de comunicación y noticias que hablan en español han sido en gran medida ausente en este debate.He compilado una lista de los medios de comunicación que hablan en español y medios del RGV abajo. Les pido que por favor comunicanse por Twitter, mensajes, llamadas, correo electrónico o facebook a estos medios de comunicación. Si lo único que prohíbe a las mujeres participar en esta discusión es la barrera del idioma, hemos cometido una gran injusticia. Esta lista no es de ninguna manera * completa * Pero es un comienzo.

The second special session begins in Texas in which, women and men alike, gather around the state of Texas to oppose new legislation that will essentially ban abortion centers.

The absence of women in the Rio Grande Valley at the state Capitol in TX is alarming. The effect of the legislation HB 2 and SB9 on women in the valley will result in drastic consequences. Now women in rural areas such as El Paso and South Texas will have to travel hundreds of miles to have a safe abortion.

RGV (Rio Grande Valley) and news media who speak Spanish have been largely absent in this debate. I have compiled a list of media who broadcast in Spanish and RGV media below. I ask that you please communicate by Twitter, messages, calls, email or facebook. If all that forbids women to participate in this discussion is a language barrier, we have committed a great injustice. This list is by no means * complete * But it’s a start.

RGV College Newspapers

1. University of Brownsville

– URL:

– Twitter Handle: @utbcollegiate

– Hotline # (956) 882-5143 or e-mail

2. The Panamerican

– URL:

– Twitter Handle: @ThePanAmerican

– Hotline # (956) 665-2547 or email

RGV Newspapers

1. Brownsville Herald

– URL:

– Twitter Handle: @BrownsvilleNews

– (Contact Info) Zulema Baez

El Nuevo Heraldo

Director of Spanish Publications/Editor

P (956)982-6666

2. The Edinburg Review

– URL:

– Twitter Handle: @ValleyTownCrier

–  Hotline # (956)682-2423 or email

3. Harlingen Valley Morning Star

–  URL:

– Twitter Handle: @valleystar

–  Hotline # (956) 430-6200

4. The Monitor

– URL:

– Twitter Handle: @monitornews

– Hotline #: 956-683-4000

5. Mission Progress Times

– URL:

– Twitter Handle: @ProgressTimes

–  Hotline # (956) 585-4893 or email

6. Rio Hondo News

–  URL:

– Twitter Handle: –

–  Hotline # (956) 797-9920 or email

 Texas Spanish Speaking Newspapers

1. Al Dia (Dallas)

– URL:

– Twitter Handle: @aldiatx

– Hotline # (469) 977-3720 or email

2. El Hispano News

– URL:

3. El Heraldo News

– URL:

-Twitter Handle: –

– Main # (214)827-9700 or email

4.El Nuevo Heraldo

– URL:

– Twitter Handle: @ElNuevoHeraldo

– Main #(956) 542-4301 or email

5. Laredo Daily New

– URL:

-Twitter Handle: @NewsLaredo

– Main # (830) 352-5075 or email

RGV Television Stations

1. Univision Noticias 40 (Spanish)

– URL:

– Twitter Handle: @knvotv48

– Main #  (956) 687-4848 or email

2. Telemundo 40 (Spanish)

– URL:

– Twitter Handle: @Telemundo40

– Main # (956) 686-0040 or email

3. Action 4 News

–  URL:

–  Twitter Handle: @kgbt

– Main # (956) 366-4422 or email

4. ABC 5 News

– URL:

– Twitter Handle: @krgv

– Main # 1-866-797-TIPS (8477) or email

5. News Center 23

– URL:

-Twitter Handle: @KVEO

-Main # (956) 544-2323

6. FOX News 2

– URL:

– Twitter Handle: @foxrio2

– Main # (956) 661-6000 or email