Demonstrators at Women's March in Austin say extreme abortion laws make Texas a difficult place to live
A theme emerged at the Women’s March outside the state Capitol on Saturday: Should opponents of the new abortion law stay in Texas?
Katherine Ellenthal, who was born and raised in the state, said she's "frightened" about the direction it’s headed in.
"This is my home and I wouldn't want to leave,” she said, “but I wouldn't rule it out, either.”
Ellenthal said she has four kids, two of whom have already left Texas. She said the younger ones also want to leave.
"No one wants to go to college in Texas," she said.
Ellenthal joined hundreds of people on the south steps of the Capitol condemning what organizers called “the war against reproductive and voting rights.” Rallies took place across the country Saturday after Texas enacted the most restrictive abortion ban in the country and as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to rule on the future of Roe v. Wade.
The Texas law, which went into effect Sept. 1, prohibits people from getting an abortion as early as six weeks, even in cases of rape, sexual abuse or incest. Courts, including the Supreme Court, have refused to block the law so far. Every other state that has tried to enact similar laws has been stopped after courts ruled the laws were unconstitutional.
Instead of requiring enforcement by the state, lawmakers drafted the Texas law to be enforced by private citizens, which is a reason it hasn't been blocked.
Texas is now the only state in which the legal precedent set by Roe has not been in effect.
Fifteen-year-old Vanessa, who was attending her first political rally Saturday, said she’s planning to leave the state because of the abortion ban.
"When I move out, I am leaving Texas because I think women's rights are very important," she said.
Others, like Ashlie Harrison, are waiting to see what happens. She said she's hoping the courts will intervene.
"If this law doesn't go away, I don't want to get rid of my rights," she said. "So, I do think about maybe moving out if it doesn't get changed."
Demonstrator Amy Porter said it was important to stay. Voting, she said, is the solution.
"You know what? I love this state,” she said. “This is my state. I am not leaving.”
The U.S. Justice Department has asked the federal court in Austin to at least temporarily halt the ban. It argues the state is violating the constitutional rights of Texans.
Abortion providers say there are also real human costs.
Dr. Amna Dermish, the regional medical director with Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, said every day she has gone to work for the past month she has had to tell a patient she's too late to get an abortion.
On the first day the law was in effect, Dermish said, a woman came to the clinic whose birth control had failed and she had to tell her she couldn't get the procedure.
“She was six weeks and one day,” she said. “She asked if she could hold my hand and it was just really, really hard because that was all I could do for her in that moment.”