I want to talk about two people.
The first person is a young guy I met in line Tuesday at the Texas State Capitol, while we waited to enter the viewing gallery to watch legislators debate HB 2, the state’s omnibus anti-abortion bill that, if passed, which is likely, will make it impossible for doctors to provide safe, legal abortion care anywhere outside of the state’s four biggest cities.
This young guy, probably a senior in high school or a freshman in college—I didn’t catch his name—said he was real tired of wearing blue, the chosen color of anti-choice supporters of HB 2. I wore orange that day, the same color as thousands of Texans who have turned up at the capitol to stand up for reproductive rights. I also wore pink earbuds, trying to follow the house debate while waiting in line. Maybe this young guy thought I couldn’t hear him. Maybe he didn’t care.
“I’m looking forward to all this being over so I can wear my orange shirts again!” he joked. I later learned that he’d traveled from Minnesota to hang out in Austin for the week—just to see what was going on, to be another blue shirt in the gallery.
The second person I want to talk about is is Yatzel Sabat, who was dragged out of that same gallery Wednesday morning by law enforcement. Sabat was not wearing orange. She was wearing black.
Her limbs bound by state troopers, she screamed in a clear, strong voice, “This bill will kill women!” as the Texas House of Representatives gave its approval to HB 2, passing the devastating legislation along to the state senate for final passage.
Moments earlier, Sabat had first stood up from her seat as representatives cast their votes, and in that same clear, strong voice, she shouted, “As a queer woman of color, I object to these proceedings! What you are doing is an injustice! This is a travesty! There are people who are not being represented fairly!”
This bill will kill women.
Texas has passed bills that inconvenience women by decimating family planning funding and reducing access to contraception and reproductive health screenings. Texas has passed bills that traumatize women, forcing them to undergo medically unnecessary transvaginal sonograms.
But Texas is on the cusp of passing a bill that will kill women. And not only women, but transgender people and genderqueer people, who are already the most unseen, the most ignored, the most marginalized Texans, struggling in a system that makes no room or accommodation for their most basic needs.
This bill will kill. Period.
It will kill Texans who already travel to Mexico to buy abortion pills from flea markets because they are too poor to go to a legal abortion clinic, or unable to take time off work to find a doctor’s office and wait 24 hours between a state-mandated sonogram and an abortion procedure. It will kill Texans who, if HB 2 passes, cannot travel a thousand miles round trip to a San Antonio or Dallas ambulatory surgical center for a safe, legal abortion.
But if you’re a young anti-choice guy from Minnesota with a little money and time on your hands, I guess it might be an interesting lark to traverse half the country, fetus fetish in tow, to watch state legislators you can’t name kill people you’ve never met with some legislation you heard about last week. I guess the big issue in your life, if you’re that guy, is not getting to wear all those cool orange shirts you’re so fond of.
Things are a little different for Yatzel Sabat, who was one of five people arrested Wednesday at the capitol. None were ultimately charged—seems there’s not a lot of probable cause when it comes to people making a last-ditch effort at democracy.
Sabat told me that she and her friends hoped to “empower other people to make themselves heard when it comes time for a final vote.”
When abortion providers cannot perform procedures because they can’t get admitting privileges at hospitals afraid of self-described “sidewalk angels” that pack public walkways holding giant images of bloody fetuses, Texans will die.
Sabat knows this because she is a Texan. She is here. This is her state. This is her place. She knows that HB 2 is, as she describes it, “a death sentence” for her people—for Texans.
Despite the frustration and the anger from what Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has called an orange-clad “unruly mob,” much good has come from the creation of a community that finally feels it has a voice. That voice will be not be silenced Friday, when the Texas senate begins its final debate on HB 2, with a Republican majority that is all but assured to send it to Republican Gov. Rick Perry’s desk for ultimate approval.
I love the anthem “Wendy Davis,” written by the Austin rock band Bright Light Social Hour in the late-night aftermath of Wendy Davis’ epic filibuster. The song lays guitar riffs over cheers and chants of “Wendy!” from a screaming crowd at the capitol.
But there is no song that can be played under a single strained voice, crying out, “This bill will kill Texas women!” There can only be silence.