Women’s rights advocates gathered on Sept. 29 at Jo’s Coffee in celebration of the Supreme Court’s abolishment of House Bill 2 in June.
Story by Abby Riley
Photos by Sarah Holdeman
The entertainment for the evening was the soulful R&B singer Tameca Jones performing classic hits such as “Bennie and the Jets” as well as the Austin Band Bright Lights Social Hour performing their original song “Wendy” inspired by the senator’s filibuster. The event also held a voter registration booth to encourage unregistered voters to participate in the upcoming election.
Passed in 2013, HB2 required physicians performing abortions to have approval from a nearby hospital. The bill also required abortion clinics to have facilities identical to walk-in surgical centers. Opponents of the bill felt these regulations were unnecessary, and were created to make abortions less accessible for Texas women.
However, Sen. Wendy Davis’s 13-hour filibuster on June 26, 2013, drew attention toward the issue of women’s reproductive rights. Three years later, the bill was officially terminated. “Tonight we’re celebrating because we, together, Texas, and all the way up to the Supreme Court won a huge victory on behalf of women in this state, [and] around the country,” Davis said. “But what we know is we can take this moment to celebrate, but we can’t take our eye off the ball, can’t take our foot off the gas pedal, and we’ve got to keep working.”
Access to abortion clinics remains minimal in Texas. According to The Texas Tribune. The number of health centers performing abortions dropped from 40 to 19 after HB2 was passed.
Tess Bernhard, a former Planned Parenthood intern for Metropolitan Washington in Washington D.C. and event attendee, said this is a huge problem considering the size of Texas, and “especially [for] women who live outside of major cities, it’s so incredibly difficult to get access.”
Along with the difficulty of receiving these operations, women who undergo abortions are shamed by the state. Sen. Davis said the most “recent stunt” that went in effect this past Friday is a law that requires women who had abortions to bury or cremate [fetal] remains.
Nevada Legislator Lucy Flores was a guest speaker at the event, who is known for opening up about her abortion to her fellow legislators. Flores said the backlash she received from discussing her abortion was “the most horrifying experiences that [she’s] ever had.”
“I was attacked [for] having the nerve to talk openly about my abortion, Flores said. “Just saying the word was reason for people to attack me, [which] indicates how much more work we have to do and how we have to take control of this,” Flores said.
For this reason, Wendy Davis joined together with Liz Lambert and her company, Jo’s Coffee, and many others to host this gathering. The goal was to rejoice in how far women have come in protecting their rights, but also to remind the community there is still more work that needs to be done.
To help with this fight, Wendy Davis created the non-profit organization “Deeds Not Words” that travels to college campuses around the country to talk about issues that are important to students, such as women’s rights, environmental justice, and voter registration. Conor Gaughan is an operator for this project and said it “[empowers] the next generation of young women advocates to help move the world towards greater quality for gender equality.”
Connie Britton who stars in CMT’s “Nashville” also appeared to support her friend Wendy, and to encourage the audience to vote for this upcoming election.
Britton passionately spoke about the significance of voting, and said Wendy Davis is an “incredible example of what we can do when we are standing firm in our sneakers, on our own two feet, and standing up for what we believe in.”