Two days after Austin high school students staged walkouts across the city to champion abortion rights, activists gathered by the thousands last weekend in Downtown Austin, with two separate rallies on Saturday, May 14 – part of the escalating pattern of protest that has followed the May 3 leak of the U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling guaranteeing constitutional protection of abortion care.
The Bans Off Our Bodies rally, hosted by Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, gathered at the Texas Capitol, while a Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights protest formed at Buford Tower near Austin City Hall. Activists were back at the Capitol on Sunday for a Defend Roe rally, part of a nationwide wave of Pro Choice With Heart protests at state capitols.
Former state Sen. Wendy Davis, who shot to national fame when she filibustered a 2013 anti-abortion bill that ended up being overturned by SCOTUS, spoke to a crowd of hundreds at the Bans Off Our Bodies protest, saying generations of American women will now have fewer rights than their mothers had growing up. "It's not just our daughters and our granddaughters who are hurt by this," she said. "It's our Black and brown sisters who are disproportionately impacted when we remove access to bodily autonomy."
Many of those protesting this weekend were Austin high schoolers who, on May 12, took a break from their end-of-semester exams and final projects to spend a lunch period supporting abortion rights. According to Nicole Perry, a sophomore at the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders who helped coordinate her school's walkout in conjunction with the Queer Student Alliance, seeing students gathered in the same place to support abortion rights was a relief. "It's just a place that makes you feel very powerful," she said of the protest environment.
She said she personally has friends who've gotten abortions, and that reproductive rights are important to bodily autonomy. "For people who are trans or nonbinary, it's already really difficult to access health care, and so adding on top of that a ban on our reproductive system, it makes it a lot more difficult," Perry said. She said many students at her school felt the attack on reproductive rights was closely tied to Gov. Greg Abbott's recent order for Child Protective Services to investigate the parents of transgender children.
Besides Ann Richards, students at Austin, Bowie, and McCallum high schools in Austin ISD, and Vandegrift High School in Leander ISD, also participated in walkouts.
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