In stark contrast to the Planned Parenthood bashing at Tuesday’s Senate Education Committee hearing, hundreds rallied at the Capitol Thursday morning to support the non-profit. Dressed in pink, women held signs that read “Texas Needs Planned Parenthood,” and a three-minute long flash mob danced to Beyoncé’s “Run the World (Girls).”
Stephanie March, known for her role on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” spoke at the rally. “I’m tired of Texas being crazy,” March said. “We can do better. And I’m tired of Texas thwarting the health of its own citizenry, and I’m tired of Texas playing politics with women’s lives. I want Texas exceptionalism back, the kind that recognizes the value of its exceptional ladies.”
“This is about saving the lives of the hundreds of thousands of women who use Planned Parenthood,” March said.
Several lawmakers emphasized the importance of women’s health funding, but Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) was one of the few who mentioned specific efforts at the Capitol. She described House Bill 2819, which she filed on Thursday morning—it would remove the abortion affiliate ban from the Women’s Health Program, allowing providers like Planned Parenthood to again receive state funding, according to the Texas Tribune. (In 2011, the Texas Legislature specifically targeted Planned Parenthood, changing the criteria by which women’s health providers could qualify for federal funding. The feds balked and Texas lost $30 million.)
At the rally, Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) donned a bright pink scarf and a Planned Parenthood button as she spoke about the difference the organization made in her life.
“I had a child when I was very young, and I was a single mother struggling to try to make my way into an education arena, starting at community college and, fortunately, making my way from there to TCU and then Harvard Law School,” she said.
“None of that would have been possible had I not been able to exercise decision-making about my own family planning in the future,” she continued. “Planned Parenthood—the clinic on Henderson Avenue in Fort Worth—for 4 to 5 years, was my only health care. … Think about the women in Texas today who have relied so much on Planned Parenthood to provide those same services, women who we know now do not have that access.”
“The cuts to family planning last session—about $72 million in cuts—in addition to the war against the women’s health program because Planned Parenthood was a part of it, has resulted in what the [Legislative Budget Board] estimates will be a loss to about 160,000 women in Texas, of the only health care that they have.”
Davis also referred to the sonogram law passed in the 2011 legislative session. “We know that women who are now going through the most difficult decision of their lives in exercising their right to an abortion, now do so, unfortunately, with incredible shame, with incredible pain, because of an intrusion in the doctor-patient relationship that became part of Texas law last session.” (Texas requires that a woman seeking an abortion undergo an ultrasound, hear her baby described to her and see a sonogram or listen to the baby’s heartbeat… all before waiting another 24 hours to receive the procedure.)
Rep. Chris Turner (D-Arlington) spoke of family planning in the upcoming budget debates. “A government budget is a lot more than just about dollars and cents,” he said. “It is an expression of values as a state and as a government. If we have a budget that cuts off access to basic, life-saving health care services to hundreds of thousands of women in our state, that is a very poor expression of our values.”