On Wednesday, May 11, my Texas Right to Life colleagues and I were at the state capitol in Austin where Planned Parenthood hosted a state-wide Action Day to protest potential funding reallocations discussed in the state legislature. Earlier that day, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards held a press conference to address the cuts Planned Parenthood could face if the a version of the Women’s Health Program (Senate Bill 1854) gained passage, calling the bill “political blackmail.” If this bill passed, the Women’s Health Program in Texas would have been renewed, but would have banned Planned Parenthood from participating. What Richards called “political blackmail” was the provision in the bill that stated if the bill passed and Planned Parenthood were to sue and win, simply because their clinics were banned from the funding, the Women’s Health Program would expire completely in December. Emotions ran high as Planned Parenthood and its supporters stood face-to-face with possible de-funding.
In a letter sent to Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst and State Senators Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) and Robert Deuell (R-Greenville), nine Texas Planned Parenthood facilities vowed to sue the state if the bill passes and Planned Parenthood’s funds are taken. The letter calls the cuts “constitutionally abhorrent” and “fiscally irresponsible.” Planned Parenthood supporters were urged to deliver postcards to the senators and representatives with the “I Stand With Planned Parenthood” mantra printed on them. The day folded into early evening as Planned Parenthood supporters took to the south gate of the Capitol for a rally.
A few of us from Texas Right to Life decided to make our way to the south side of the Capitol to see how the Action Day was going to end. After Cecile Richards’s press conference and the race to drop their cards off at legislators’ offices, we were expecting to see a large group standing outside the gate. As we approached, we were met by a group of no more than 60. We stood and watched as cars drove by and honked; sending the assembly into fits of hoots and hollers. When a city bus or a police car would offer up a toot, the cheers would grow a little louder.
After a short while, two of us decided to get a closer look. Gwen Fleming was the first to approach one of the half dozen or so men attending the rally. A man with a mohawk was carrying a stack of pamphlets and appeared to be absorbed in the rally. I joined Gwen and we began a 45-minute conversation with Barry (not his real name). Gwen and I approached the rally and Barry as though we knew nothing about what was happening in the legislature or anything about the Pro-Life versus pro-choice debate. Barry was more than willing to educate Gwen and me on the “assault” women are enduring at the hands of legislators and Pro-Life groups.
Barry was very informational. He told us about how the legislators and Pro-Life community are shaming women by forcing them to view a sonogram before the procedure, trying to make a woman think the fetus invading her body is a human. He told us that some states had even passed legislation that would ban abortions after twenty weeks, when, in his opinion, all women should be allowed to undergo the procedure through the third trimester. Barry explained that shaming women and banning abortion will force them into back alley abortions that will cause complications and send women to the hospital where they cannot pay for treatment, hence why they need Planned Parenthood’s free to low cost services. He ardently stated that “women should be in charge of all their bodily functions, including pregnancy.”
During our discussion, we would pause as another car blared their horn. There was a hand full of children wandering about or sitting in their strollers in bright pink, oversized “I Stand With Planned Parenthood” t-shirts. Signs reading “Don’t Take Away My Birth Control,” “Stop The Hate On Women’s Fate,” “Don’t Take Away My Cancer Screenings,” “Unite For Prevention,” and “Honk For Women’s Health,” lined the street.
We asked Barry, how do pro-choicers go about changing it so women have access to preventative care and abortion services? His response was to keep doing what they were out there doing: rallying and showing legislators that women’s reproductive rights are to be no one’s choice but their own. Barry did concede that Pro-Lifers are actually chipping away at the Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade, state by state. He stated that polls are showing that 51% of Americans now view themselves as Pro-Life.
It was getting late, so Gwen and I decided to take our leave of Barry and the rally. We bid him adieu and walked away from the Capitol gate. As we wandered away from the mass of pink, we discussed the experience. Barry was polite, yet his misinformation was not surprising. He was unable to connect his own words to the reality facing him. When he spoke of sonograms shaming women by “forcing them to hear the heartbeat” of the non-human invading their bodies, I nearly blew my cover. I wanted to ask him how a non-human entity could possibly have a heartbeat to hear. He admitted it had a heartbeat, he would not (or could not) admit it is human.
We marveled at how accommodating Barry was to us. However, we realized that had he known we were actually “anti-choice” activists, his opinion, demeanor, and interaction may have been much different. Barry was in charge of the conversation because we claimed to know nothing about the issue. Barry, in his opinion, was the teacher. He passionately educated us on the injustices women are facing. He was informing us, two adult women, about how we are in danger of losing control of our bodies. The irony was evident: Planned Parenthood advocates claim abortion is a woman’s issue, yet they are perfectly comfortable with using men as their mouthpiece.
The experience was eye opening. Being among the people at this rally was enlightening, and at the same time exhilarating and heartbreaking. Enlightening because we got a look into the mind of a Planned Parenthood supporter, who adamantly believes the lies he’s been fed. It was exhilarating because we went under a guise, and we held our breath, not knowing the reaction if our cover was blown. We did not have a plan if we were found out. It was heartbreaking because we stood among a group calling for the destruction of Life, oblivious to the pain abortion bestows on this world.
The entire experience left us wanting. We wanted to talk more in depth, and get a richer experience of how the mind of pro-abortion activism works. We wanted to get to the root of their desire, and what drives them to pursue a culture that harms more than it helps. We wanted to expose the lies they were telling, and being told. We wanted to take the little children that were there, and hold them close and thank God their lives had been spared.
As Texans battle to reallocate funds away from the destructive industry that is abortion, we also fight to educate the people that have been fed lies from Planned Parenthood and the pro-abortion left. We combat for the lives of the children, and the women, who are being silenced. We also pray the path of pro-abortion supporters is blocked, and through spreading the Pro-Life message, we pray the course is changed as people come to accept the truth.
The thing that stands out in my mind most vividly from that day happened when Gwen and I were walking away from the rally. We passed a lone stroller sitting empty on the sidewalk, apart from the group, completely disregarded. How many more empty strollers will sit vacant, unseen, and forgotten until the pro-abortion left realizes the destruction they have let loose on this world?