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Peace, love and Texas women: Members of the Austin music scene reflect on the state's abortion ban

Demonstrators rally outside the state Capitol after the Supreme Court’s drafted opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade is leaked on May 14, 2022.
Patricia Lim
KUT News
Demonstrators rally outside the state Capitol after the Supreme Court’s drafted opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade is leaked on May 14, 2022.

There were more than 50,000 abortions in Texas in 2021. Two years later, there were 62.

Most abortions became illegal in the state after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The nearest place a woman in Austin can go for a legal abortion is more than 500 miles away.

Pause/Play sat down with five women from the Austin music scene to talk about their experiences living and working under the ban: music publicist Adrienne Lake; Amanda Garcia Davenport, a membership manager at The Recording Academy; Cassandra Shankman, aka DJ Cassandra; event producer Cheyenne Doerr; and songwriter, rapper and producer Qi Dada, who is one-half of the Austin hip-hop duo Riders Against the Storm.

The following excerpts have been lightly edited for clarity.

On how it felt when the Texas abortion ban went into effect

DJ Cassandra: You know, it's just that feeling when your throat drops into your stomach, kind of like, “Oh, explicit word and oh, explicit word for everybody.” … And it was just like that at first. And then, all right, how are we going to fight this? How are we going to come together?

Amanda Garcia Davenport: Very similar, that drop in my stomach. Really scared for a lot of women in my family, in my community, and scared for myself because at the time, my husband and I knew that we probably wanted to have another baby, but we hadn't yet. So that was really scary.

Adrienne Lake: When it happened, there were a lot of conversations in person and online, people saying they were packing up and leaving, hearing men saying, well, it's time for that vasectomy. And, actually hearing women saying, “You know, I guess we're going to have surgery to make sure that we aren't forced into a bad situation.” And that was before the Kate Cox situation. And so we just recently watched all those fears be completely validated.

Qi Dada: When I heard the news, nothing about me was shocked because I feel like I come from and represent a community that's always used to having the laws not apply to them anyway, so they're always trying to find solutions just in case the ball drops. Because a lot of these women I know, the workers in the birth space and in social justice spaces are always looking for solutions outside of the system, just in case they decide that the laws are going to be different and they're used to the laws being different for them anyway. … So they're always finding resources and collecting knowledge and sitting with people who have always sat outside of the structure to be able to provide the care necessary, should institutional care not be available.

Cheyenne Doerr: I wasn't necessarily shocked when the specific Texas law came into play. I remember exactly where I was when Roe was overturned and my two female roommates and I had a good cry and hugged each other.… And so obviously, of course, when the Texas thing [happened], it just stamps the realness of all this. It's crazy that guns have more rights in this state than women, honestly.

On how the Texas abortion ban impacts women performers

Qi Dada: I definitely feel like women performers are always kind of in a special box. … It's complicated because your career already indicates that you have to make choices about whether or not you're gonna comply as a mother, or are you going to continue being an artist? And so I feel like these laws and the way that they've played out complicate that even further … [as an artist] you're always kind of like following a carrot. You're just like, it's just a little bit further, just a little bit further, just a little bit further. … And so you're always trying to balance when is the right time [to have a child]. And then now you have to balance whether or not it's safe for you to do so. It just adds a whole other level of stress as a woman, because you're already having to choose [between] your career and a family because we're in a construct that doesn’t prioritize care.

On how this law has impacted the work they do

DJ Cassandra: Most of my sets … pretty much always include a lot of femme artists. And there are not a lot of DJs who do that. And I wish there were more because there's a lot of different genres, different artists, different women in Texas, Texas songwriters, Texas musicians, and they should be celebrated and played. And so it's like, I want to include them. I also want to hire mostly women for things.

Cheyenne Doerr: In with the work I do, spotlighting great stories and people that get me really excited and working with certain nonprofits like Future Front Texas, which have been doing a lot to raise awareness around this and bring people together and show that we still have each other. We are going to fight for the things that we need. And it may not happen today, tomorrow in a year, 10 years, but you know, there's a lot of people that are not giving up and trying to make this state a better place.

On whether they know people who have left Texas because of the abortion ban.

DJ Cassandra: Yes. I'm not going to say their names, but yes, I do know quite a few. And I know one good friend who is on her way to leaving, like moving outside of Texas, because of that. And she's an incredible singer-songwriter, and she wants to have a family, and she does not want to have the worry here. … We're going to lose some incredible women in Texas because of this. And it's like, what? Why?

Amanda Garcia Davenport: Yeah, I know somebody who's had to leave and has come back. And families that are raising daughters that are leaving because of that. And they don't want to have to worry about their daughters. Their daughters are very young and they're just trying to get ahead of the big stuff if things ever came their way.

Qi Dada: Yeah, not necessarily leaving but not coming. You know, I mean, people won't come. I had a conversation about the SB 17 bill, for example – deconstructing DEI – all of that is part of this whole package of crazy that's going on. Who we perceive is crazy. I think it is. And, people won't come. It was like, I'm not safe there. I don't know what could happen to me out there. I'm not coming. You know, people who have jobs offered to them. They're like, I'm not coming.

On why they stay in Texas

Amanda Garcia Davenport: I grew up here, my family's here, Texas is home, and somebody's got to do the work. We can’t all leave. And we've considered leaving Austin once we had kids because our family's not here. And it would be so much easier to be closer to family, you know? But like, the community that we have surrounded ourselves with is so beautiful and so special. And, yeah, we could leave. But then what would happen?

Qi Dada: I don't believe in running because you should be able to exist the way you need to exist wherever you want to be. That's what you're right as an American is supposed to be. I just believe in your ability to exist as you want, where you want.

Adrienne Lake: As artists and as people with a platform we can do something about it. We can make our voices heard. And I do think that it is our obligation to do that. … So that is one good thing that we have going for us. That and the fact that, I think we're really blessed to have a great community here in Austin, and it's nice to know that if something happened there would be a community that would have our backs.

DJ Cassandra: Peace, love and Texas women. And that's why. Because I can't leave. I want to, and then I'm like – But there's always that mom we can help, that friend that we can help, that anybody that we can help. You know, we can't change it if we leave. And so I think peace, love and Texas women.

Elizabeth McQueen is an audio producer and podcast host at KUTX 98.9, Austin’s NPR music station.
Miles Bloxson is a producer and host for KUT 90.5 and KUTX 98.9.
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