When Senator Davis stood for over twelve hours and a multitude of protesters shouted down the unconstitutional SB5, I was, ironically, in Washington, D.C. I followed the event on Facebook and Twitter and wished I could have been there to lend my support. Sadly, Texas Governor Rick Perry called a second "special session" and a duplicate bill has since been passed. This egregious assault on women's right to choose and on access to family planning services is why we attended the rally.
Bob and I were both a little skeptical. What would this rally be like? Would anyone actually show up? The day of the rally dawned bleak and overcast. It was supposed to rain. I spent the day arguing with myself. Should I go? Does it really matter? Of course it does, but could I actually make a difference?
I decided that one way or another at least I was doing something. I think one of the defining characteristics of my generation, the so called "millennials," is a feeling of helplessness in the face of overwhelming odds. We feel powerless in the face of a bleak economy, in the face of continued racial injustice, in the dehumanizing way people continue to treat one another. We tried Occupy Wall Street and for the first time we felt powerful, but even then our voices weren't heard.
And in the light of new and increasingly restrictive bills limiting women's control over their own bodies, what can I do? I can show up.
So I did. My boyfriend, who also supports women's rights, though perhaps not as intensely as I, decided to go as well. We got all of the information. We wore orange shirts in solidarity. And we arrived an hour early.
We were quite literally the only ones there. The sky remained overcast, but it was pleasantly cool. Would anyone else actually show up? It was at City Hall, right? I double and triple checked the Facebook event page. Yup. We were in the right place. So we waited.
Eventually people began to trickle in. Organizers showed up with tents and sound equipment. Bob and I helped carry what we could and get the tents set up. Slowly the trickle turned into a stream. The clouds began sprinkling though not enough to illicit the unfurling of umbrellas. Not yet.
Still, there weren't as many people as I'd hoped. I'm sure the threat of rain scared many off. Though if you can't stand up to a little weather, how do you expect to stand up to the controlling opposition? But the people who did show up brought signs and good intentions.
The diversity of the participants is what struck me the most. Old, young. White, black. Middle-class, poor. Students, unemployed, and business professionals. People from across the LGBT spectrum. People with children. Couples, friends, and individuals. All ready to fight for equal rights for women. All demanding that they and only they are in control of their bodies and their choices. And the speakers were amazing.
Rabbi Steve (sorry, I didn't catch his last name!) was one of the first speakers and wonderfully eloquent. He argued that controlling your own choices is fundamental to religious freedom and that restrictions on that freedom are both immoral and intolerable. He approached the topic with due seriousness, but also with self-deprecating humor and several nods to famous philosopher-cum-comedian George Carlin. While censoring the more colorful language of Mr. Carlin, Rabbi Steve would pause giving the willing crowd an opportunity to vocally fill in the blanks. They responded with pleasure.
Other speakers stepped up to share their experiences and thoughts, including the president of the Texas Equal Access Fund, or TEA Fund, an organization that helps disadvantaged women bear the heavy burden of abortion costs and access. After the scheduled speakers, the mic was turned over to any person who wanted to share their stories. After all, that is what it is all about. Stories.
So there we stood, in the rain, as women shared their heartbreaking and deeply personal tales of their own experiences with burdensome abortion restrictions and emotional anguish. This isn't a fight for an abstract woman that you don't know and could never understand. This is about mothers and friends and colleagues. And one day, if things don't go as you hope, it could be about you. As one woman so aptly put it, "The political IS personal." The shame used to silence so many was shouted down last night.
We will not be quiet. We will not stand by as our rights are chipped away to nothing. We will fight back.
And we will win.