Above: College students and abortion rights activists hold signs during a rally on the steps of the Texas Capitol in February 2015.
Fifty-one years ago on January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court issued its landmark decision, Roe v. Wade, which recognized a woman’s right to privacy when it comes to their reproductive health. My predecessor in Congress, Eddie Bernice Johnson, had just been sworn into the Texas House with her freshman colleague, Sarah Weddington, a lead attorney for unnamed plaintiff Jane Roe, when the call was made to the Texas House Floor that Texas women had won us the right to abortion.
But now, I’m watching Texas women suffer because of Republican anti-freedom authoritarianism. Today, I possess fewer rights than my mother possessed during her reproductive years. Why and how did we get here? The answer is quite simple: former President Donald Trump. His right-wing Supreme Court majority overturnedRoe just as he intended.
As Trump continues to boast about dismantling women’s reproductive rights, MAGA Republicans have followed his lead and passed similar draconian abortion bans and in twenty one states so far, including Texas’ S.B. 8, which banned bans abortion with no exceptions for rape or incest. And we know they want to take things even further by passing a national abortion ban.
Thanks to Republicans, one in three women of reproductive age now live under an abortion ban. Here in Texas, pregnant women are filled with the fear that if they suffer a pregnancy complication, they’ll be unable to access necessary healthcare treatment.
One such harrowing example of how these abortion bans are hurting women is the case of Kate Cox, a 31-year-old mother of two from my hometown of Dallas who found herself in the heartbreaking position of needing an abortion to treat a non-viable pregnancy. When Kate received the devastating news about the pregnancy she desperately wanted, she had two options: risk losing her life and her future fertility by continuing to carry a nonviable fetus to term or flee her state and risk prosecution.
Some would argue that Kate had no good options; I’d agree. Kate deserved better from her state and her country. Kate should have been able to follow the advice of her doctors, but instead had to seek relief from the court system. Despite the glimmer of hope after lower courts granted her relief, multi-indicted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton decided to threaten her doctors with incarceration. Eventually, the Texas Supreme Court delivered the final blow and ruled she could not access the healthcare she needed.
While Kate was able to flee Texas to receive the life-saving care she desperately needed, the same can’t be said for all women in her position—especially for low-income women.
What’s terrifying is that things could get worse for women if Republicans win in 2024. This isn’t about whether you agree with abortion; it’s about whether you agree with the idea behind democracy and hold the principle that power belongs to the people—and that policies should reflect the people’s will and their constitutional protections.
Let me make it crystal clear: President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Democrats up and down the ballot are the only candidates running to protect women’s freedoms, our democracy, and our future.
The stakes are particularly high for Texas women this year. This election is about the choice between more freedoms or fewer. President Biden, Vice President Harris, and Democrats will stand together to safeguard the freedoms of Texas women, but it will take all of us engaging in this fight to win.
You hold the key to a better future. Only you can unlock your freedoms at the ballot box. Our rights are on the ballot, and we have the chance to protect them by voting for President Biden and Democrats up and down the ballot this November. Our lives depend on it.
Legislators began tackling issues like funding family planning, equal economic opportunity for women and justice for sexual assault survivors in the early 1970s. Their work continues a half-century later.