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Politics

The Future of Women's Health Care in Texas Was at Fore During March on Austin

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Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon
/
KUT
Thousands march in downtown Austin in solidarity with the Women's March on Washington on Saturday.

During the Women’s March in downtown Austin this past weekend, reproductive rights were one of the big issues that brought thousands of people out in protest. Women from all over the state say they fear a crackdown on access to birth control and legal abortions under the new presidential administration.

In Texas, abortion rights and access to women’s health care has been an ongoing battle.

Texas lawmakers filed more than a dozen bills aimed at regulating abortions in the state for this legislative session alone, and Planned Parenthood is back in court because state officials want to kick its health care clinics out of Medicaid.

It’s under this backdrop and the presidential inauguration of Donald Trump that women gathered in the Texas Capitol this weekend.

“I am here due to complete and total outrage. I am a woman and I stand with my sisters here whose rights are actually under fire,” said Amber Howard of Austin.

Howard said abortion rights are what’s she’s most worried about.

“At a point in my life, that was a decision that I had to make and I feel that it is not just a privilege, but it’s a right for me to be able to make that choice for my own body,” she said.

Many women also came out in support of Planned Parenthood specifically.

“Planned Parenthood provides way more than people give it credit for and health care – women’s health – is very important in this country,” Carissa Rex said.

Alissa Parsley, a volunteer with Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, said, at this point, she is used to the political battles waged against the chain of women’s health clinics, and she expects some "uphill battles" this legislative session. 

“I woke up this morning feeling energized. Yesterday was a sad day, but today, I mean, look around," she said, referring to the thousands gathered for the march. "I am feeling the power. I am feeling the energy. I am feeling inspired. So, it’s a good day.”

Many men also showed up at the Capitol for the women’s march. Greg Sunmark from Dallas was one of them.

“I don’t know, I’m just kind of here standing with everyone else in support of ... that,” Sunmark said as a large crowd began to yell behind him. “In support of sanity. In support of empathy.” 

Organizers of Austin’s Women’s March printed 30,000 stickers as a way to get a head count of how many people attended the march. Parsley said by the time she got to the Capitol at 10:30 a.m., they were out of stickers.

Austin police closed off several lanes of traffic to accommodate the crowd marching downtown.

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