Last Wednesday, I went to Austin
to wave my fist at the sky and dare the sun not to rise sign in as opposed to a particularly heinous bill aimed at all but eliminating the option minors in Texas have of seeking a judicial bypass for the consent requirement they must fulfill in order to get an abortion.
That testimony was tough enough to listen to, but I also had to suffer through over two hours of testimony on a religious “freedom” bill. The witnesses in support of that bill seem to think that the definition of religious persecution is when your government won’t allow you to impose your religious beliefs on everyone else.
While Wednesday night’s testimony rambled on, we got word that 8 amendments had been pre-filed for the next day’s debate on HB2510, the House’s sunset review of the Texas Department of Health Services, that were all anti-abortion.
Ultimately, those amendments were stripped when the author pulled the bill and sent it back to committee, but that debate triggered an astonishing exchange between Rep. Schaefer and Rep. Jessica Farrar.
Below is the speech Rep. Farrar made after Rep. Schaefer refused to yield to her for question. If you aren’t familiar with the concept of reproductive justice, you can check out these links for more academic discussion of the concept, but this was a particularly meaningful moment when Rep. Farrar made clear that restricting access to abortion is only one of the many ways Republicans in the Texas legislature limit people’s access to the very programs and care that would allow them to make an unconstrained choice about choosing to parent, and deny Texans fundamental respect, equal treatment, and access to justice.
So, maybe abortion isn’t your issue. I get it. It is a burning issue for some, but that doesn’t make it the issue around which all activism should be centered. The most powerful thing we can do, in fact, when the other side wants to use abortion as the lever point for dividing us, is to discuss all of the ways all of our choices, all of our decisions, are affected by the overall refusal of Texas Republicans to accept that government exists to support and protect the full exercise of our human rights.
When you can’t get healthcare coverage, when breastfeeding can get you kicked out of places or relegated to dirty public bathrooms, when you work the second shift at home after earning less than a man doing the same job, you aren’t truly free to control your reproductive autonomy any more than you are if you can’t access abortion. And when you know your child might go to jail because of truancy, or be shot by the police for having the wrong skin color, or be beat up then denied treatment for expressing his or her gender identity in a way some people refuse to understand, when you know a sanctimonious man in the legislature can curl his lip and arbitrarily choose to not yield for your question, for your life … it is about fundamental human rights and dignity and their refusal to grant that to an entire segment of our populace. That’s government of all of the people for just some of the people, and that’s not the deal we signed on for.
The transcript is below the video:
I speak against this amendment for many things, but first I want to address an issue where Representative Schaefer would not yield to questions. That was very disrespectful of a member of this body. If one member can be disrespected we can all be disrespected. I won’t even go into the level of misogyny I have experienced this session, particularly worse than any other session.
I want to say, in terms of this amendment, this language, the severe fetal anomaly language, was developed in 2011 during negotiations between Senator Nelson, Representative Zerwas, legislative leadership, the Texas Hospital Association, Representative Bryan Hughes, who’s on the floor, Representative Sid Miller, the Texas Alliance for Life, and the Texas Right to Life. I want you to know a lot of things have been said by people much more qualified—who deliver babies and other things—but there are other things to consider.
When you’re looking at these amendments and how they affect, not just women, but their families, and the fact that women are leaders of their families. Whether some men in this room do not recognize that, I’ll bet when some of these fellows go home you’re not doing laundry, you’re not answering calls of your family, and taking care of young ones and older ones and such.
But we have to sit here, and we go through this all the time, with what you’re doing and the way we are treated. I’ve served here 21 years, and to be disrespected the way I have been—I’ve learned a lot from Eleanor Roosevelt, and I’m sorry to go down all these rabbit trails, but Eleanor Roosevelt said it’s not an insult unless you accept it as one, so I don’t accept it as one. So the insult reflects only upon the person who administered it.
I want to go ahead and talk about other things.
When we talk about life, and this argument about life, at the same time, these same people will not pay for the state to take of care of these children who may not be able to exist without extreme help.
We have incredible waiting lines and they will not support amendments to require insurance policies to carry this.
The men who were standing here before with Representative Schaefer will not support my breastfeeding bill. Can you imagine that? They’re pro-life, but at the same time will not support a simple breastfeeding bill that is already a woman’s right today and has been.
So I say to you that the hypocrisy must stop. I’ve done a lot of work to keep a lot of these issues from coming to the surface, and the fact that we are here today, on language that’s been negotiated, and the fact that some members left because they didn’t want to deal with this issue, it’s an offense. Now, that is an offense, and I think Eleanor Roosevelt would agree with that.