In its historic Roe v. Wade decision 44 years ago Sunday, the U.S. Supreme Court decriminalized abortion and ensured a woman’s right to privacy when terminating her pregnancy.
The case has served as legal precedent for abortion rulings the past four decades.
On Sunday, about 100 grass-roots activists met at the south steps of the state Capitol to celebrate the anniversary of the landmark decision, just as many Republican lawmakers are attempting to restrict abortion rights in Texas.
“The Supreme Court sent a clear and strong and proud message to our citizens and the world that the United States of America trusts women to make health decisions for themselves,” state Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, said during opening remarks Sunday. “Even today on this historic anniversary, we hear federal and state calls to repeal this ruling.”
Last summer, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned abortion rules that would have left nine clinics operating in Texas. However, this legislative session, many Republican lawmakers are seeking to enact additional regulations, including a bill that would ban abortion outright.
The bill would create an intentionally unconstitutional law that its author, Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, hopes would provoke a legal challenge that rises to a U.S. Supreme Court filled by anti-abortion rights nominees from President Donald Trump.
Farrar on Sunday called on her fellow Texas lawmakers to reject those attempts and preserve the legacy of Roe v. Wade.
“We cannot afford to go backwards,” she said. “Roe (v. Wade) is a symbol of trust and progress, and don’t ever forget it.”
The crowd braved the whipping afternoon winds, which topped 45 mph, to chant for the right to choose. People waved signs that read “Save Roe v. Wade” and “Stop the war on women” — many leftover from Saturday’s women’s march, which brought an estimated 50,000 people to the Capitol.
“Political and ideological attacks on reproductive freedoms are escalating,” event organizer Andrea Hughes said from the podium. “They are not going to stop, and neither can we.”
Other Republican-backed legislation introduced this session would outlaw abortions in which the fetus is dismembered by forceps or other non-suction instruments, require fetal remains to be buried or cremated, prohibit abortion providers from donating fetal tissue for medical research and ban insurance coverage for abortions.
Another proposed law would eliminate an exception that allows for third-trimester abortions for fetuses with “severe and irreversible abnormalities,” and a proposed amendment to the Texas Constitution would guarantee “the right to life of unborn children.”
Planned Parenthood has challenged a plan to oust its health clinics from Texas Medicaid, which provides care to low-income residents. State officials were ordered to leave Planned Parenthood in the program until Feb. 21 while a judge researches and writes an opinion.
“It’s easy to feel hopeless in the face of such adversity,” Hughes said at Sunday’s rally. “That’s another reason this event is so very necessary in this moment. Sometimes the greatest, most bright, beautiful and wonderful things are born out of our darkest moments.”