On July 15, hundreds of activists in cities around the country held "Stand with Texas Women" rallies after Texas lawmakers passed sweeping restrictions on women's right to abortion following a protracted struggle that brought thousands of abortion-rights supporters to the Capitol.
The following is a speech from a nurse and activist in Chicago, who spoke to a crowd there about the importance of the struggle for women's rights and access to health care.
Demonstrating against anti-choice legislation in Texas (Steve Rainwater)
MY NAME is Corinne, and I'm a registered nurse. I've been involved in abortion care for many years, and I recently became a certified nurse midwife, and plan to provide abortion services to my patients as in my new role as an advanced practice nurse.
I know I'm not alone in feeling extremely dispirited after this weekend. This was a weekend in America in which women were told our voices, our needs don't matter in the discussion about what kind of health care we can access. This was a weekend in America in which a jury decides that it is perfectly legal for a white man to stalk and murder in cold blood a Black youth.
I want to thank everyone who came out today and this weekend to register their rage with these two grave injustices, in spite of the odds against us in this war on us. It would be very easy to cry and go home and feel broken, as the war just goes on and on and on. However, people have seen the beautiful protests that have happened this weekend, from Chicago to Oakland, Calif., from New York to Los Angeles, from Sanford, Fla., to Philly.
People are fighting back. It is exactly the spirit in which people fought in the Capitol in Texas the last several weeks–our heroes in the streets there. It is exactly the same spirit that was on display in Wisconsin two years ago, when Gov. Scott Walker tried to take away access to health care and blamed public sector workers for the problems in that state. The fact that people are still out and fighting does show that our side does have a fighting chance in these wars.
This legislation passed in Texas demonstrates without a doubt the absolute bankruptcy of the political establishment that cares not a whit about women's lives. What really matters to them is that we learn to settle for less, until nothing is left except our over-distended uteri. Furthermore, it demonstrates the bankruptcy of the medical and nursing establishment, which, with the exception of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and Planned Parenthood Federation of American, had next to nothing to say and did next to nothing about the far from evidence-based practices being imposed on their colleagues.
Where was the American Medical Association? Where were the other professional organizations, like my own, that supposedly represent care professionals whose jobs will be impacted or lost because of these sweeping measures? My own professional organization, representing women's health care providers, views abortion as "controversial." That is wrong, especially when we know that one-third of women will have an abortion in their lifetime–those are our patients.
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THE PASSAGE of this legislation also highlights the consequences of the toxic tendency toward victim-blaming and scapegoating, and our increasingly bigoted, racist and misogynistic society, in which this legislative system will put women's sexuality and our reproductive needs under scrutiny–will slut-shame and victim-blame.
This is not separate from the legal system, which put the life of the innocent youth, Trayvon Martin, on trial, instead of his racist murderer, who now walks free. Friends, sisters and brothers–we need to put this system on trial.
Let's talk about what it means in Texas, for just five abortion clinics to survive this assault. It does not mean that women who would have relied on the other 37 clinics will just decide they don't need an abortion after all; or that they will just make the trek to the clinics up to 600 miles away. If you've ever needed an abortion, you know that you will do almost anything to end your pregnancy, and that is why, prior to Roe v. Wade, tens of thousands of women, primarily Black and immigrant women, died or lost their fertility as a consequence of illegal abortion. These conditions will return and prevail in rural areas and proliferate among poor and young women.
What it also means is that women learning of a new pregnancy will have fewer places to access critical services that are tied with abortion care, like domestic violence screening; primary care referrals for problems like high blood pressure, ovarian cysts, or anemia; critical support services for women pregnant as a result of sexual assault; screening for sexually transmitted infections, which untreated, actually can lead to infertility (unlike abortion); and access to appropriate family planning options post-abortion.
It also means that women will lose their fallopian tubes or die from undiagnosed ectopic pregnancy, or increase their risk for cancer with undiagnosed molar pregnancies. It means driving women into secrecy and shame about the need for abortion, when a woman could formerly find non-judgmental, compassionate care at an abortion provider's office in or near her community.
And as we all know, this isn't just about Texas, and it's not just symbolic to say we stand with Texas women. The old saying from the labor movement, "An injury to one is an injury to all," is not simply a statement of solidarity. It is fundamentally an acknowledgement that when the rights of our sisters are chipped away in another state, this clears the way for the right wing to copycat it in our area–which is exactly what happened in Ohio last week, after the Texas vote. But it also explains how we got here.
My whole lifetime, abortion rights have been whittled away, little by little, attacking access for minors, forcing medically unnecessary invasive ultrasounds, forcing providers to give medical misinformation to our patients, mandatory waiting periods, etc. Continuous compromise on these issues has never meant better care, and certainly has never appeased the right wing–it has only whetted their appetite for more misogynistic assaults on our bodies.
But this is not the time to roll over, to feel beaten, or to accept a failing strategy of waiting for a better politician to deliver us our rights back.
We owe it not only to Texas, Ohio, and North Dakota women, but we owe it to ourselves to resist any attempt to restrict access to reproductive health care. That means we must repeal the new mandatory parental notification law in Illinois that we are now supposed to enforce. It means taking down the Texas law. It means demanding comprehensive sex education. It means reinstating public funds for family planning and abortion services.
It means raising our expectations again, as we raise our fists in solidarity. It means we need to heed the call: Don't mourn, organize.