Cheers of “Whose choice, my choice,” “Women united will never be divided” and “Not the church, not the state, women must decide their fate,” rang out across the South Steps of the Texas Capitol Sunday afternoon as nearly 150 people gathered for the 44th-annual Roe v. Wade Celebration Rally.
A landmark Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade in 1973 legally guaranteed a woman’s right to privacy in the decision to seek an abortion. Forty-four years after the decision, women’s health care remains a highly-debated issue in modern politics.
Donning shirts with the hashtag “Hands Off My Uterus,” rally attendees enjoyed live music, poetry performances and testimonies from guest speakers.
State Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, was the keynote speaker at the event and urged the crowd to continue to fight for women’s reproductive rights, citing Texas’ disproportionately high maternal mortality rate, which is currently the highest in the developed world.
“We as women’s health allies must reflect on what else has to be done,” Farrar said. “Texas continues to be the battleground for women’s health rights … and it continues to be a grueling uphill battle. Keep coming back, keep contacting your legislators, keep showing up to committee hearings. We cannot afford to go backwards.”
The pathway up to the Capitol steps were additionally lined with information booths from local activism organizations, including Jane’s Due Process, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas and Austin NOW, among others.
Cathy Courtney, a member of several activist groups, attended the rally. As rally attendees waited for the event to kick off, Courtney taught crowd members several traditional Civil Rights songs, often changing the lyrics to reflect issues prevalent during the past election year.
“I remember the times before Roe v. Wade, before there were legal abortions,” Courtney said. “I tell women one of the best things you can do … is tell your story. If you had an abortion, tell someone who loves you, because if they love you and respect you and care about you, it’s going to make a difference, and you’re gonna influence one more person.”
As crowd members listened to the guest speakers and performances, rally attendees gathered around the Capitol holding posters reading “Our Bodies, Our Choice,” “A woman’s place is in the House and the Senate,” and “Hands Off My Uterus.”
Austin resident Jessica Howard attended the celebration rally for the first time this year. Howard said she was passionate about women’s reproductive rights and has had several abortions in the past.
“I’ve had several abortions, and I’m not ashamed of that,” Howard said. “I would rather have an abortion than give my child a life they don’t deserve. It’s really important to come out to rallies like this … and make it known that this is still really important to us. It’s still on our minds, it’s still on our hearts, and it’s still worth the cause.”