Texas Governor Rick Perry signed into law Thursday morning a drastic anti-abortion bill that will decimate abortion access, ban the procedure after 20 weeks, shutter clinics, and erode women's health services—including life-saving cancer screenings—across the state.
Over 60 protesters filled the auditorium where Perry signed the bill Thursday morning, wearing black to symbolize mourning, waving signs declaring 'shame,' and carrying coat hangers they say represent the countless women who will be forced into dangerous black market abortions.
A small group of protesters sprawled on the floor of the Texas capitol with their hands crossed across their chest, spelling out the word 'shame.'
"We communicated a somber tone to let Rick Perry and the Republican majority know that the blood of Texas women is on their hands," Kandace Vallejo—member of Rise Up Texas who participated in Thursday's actions—told Common Dreams. "The funerary aspects of today's protests are symbolism to indicate the number of deaths from unsafe abortions, as well as to highlight the number of deaths that might occur from lack of access to reproductive services, HPV, cervical cancer and breast cancer screenings."
The governor signed the House Bill 2 despite fierce Texas-wide oopposition, including passionate protests filling the capitol, and a poll showing 80 percent of people in Texas did not want the bill to focus on abortion.
The governor's signing of the bill is no surprise—as Perry has thrown his political weight behind the legislation and called multiple 'special sessions' to push it through—but it did send shock waves throughout the state and country, as women throughout the US face similar attacks on reproductive rights at the state level.
"The Texas measure is part of an orchestrated, nationwide plan to outlaw abortion clinic by clinic, state by state," said Jennifer Dalven, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Reproductive Freedom Project. "As what happened in Texas shows, women aren't stupid. We won't sit quietly by while politicians take away our right to make our own, personal and private medical decisions just to score political points."
These developments will severely impact low-income women and communities of color across the state, who disproportionately rely on these services that have already been eroded by a state attack on Planned Parenthood.
Reproductive justice advocates vow to continue organizing, despite Thursday morning's attack on abortion rights, as well as policy brutality against protesters at the capitol, which included police tasing of peaceful protesters Friday and a degrading ban on tampons and menstrual pads, based on unproven claims that these items are used as 'weapons.'
"This is the beginning of a struggle that is just as important now as it ever has been," declared Vallejo. "Our organizing in Texas is really cross-generational, multicultural, and strongly women-led, including women from different socioeconomic and racial and cultural backgrounds. It has been super diverse, and it is really beautiful to see this grassroots democracy gain traction and ground."