ALICE EMBREE | REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS | Second anniversary of Dobbs

Jan Lance and Alice Embree, Photo by Carlos Lowry.

By Alice Embree | The Rag Blog | July 2, 2024

This article originally appeared in Alice Embree’s Substack and was cross-posted to The Rag Blog.

AUSTIN — It was 8:30 a.m., June 24, at the Texas Capitol when the Swole Patrol, began to walk toward the south sidewalk.  The intrepid exercise group associated with Austin’s Indivisible planned to “work out their anger” and urge everyone to “exercise their right to vote.”  They began to set up their makeshift sidewalk gym.

They were marking the second anniversary of the Dobbs v Jackson ruling by the Supreme Court that overturned 50 years of life under Roe v Wade.  Fifty years of rights my daughter doesn’t have and my granddaughter won’t be able to rely upon.

As the Swole Patrol began to set up their makeshift sidewalk gym, a Texas DPS trooper walked up.  I wasn’t in earshot, but he left after talking to some of the women.  He must have determined that the hula-hoops didn’t constitute a public threat.

I was there with the elders.  I had been asked by one of the organizers to show up with “We Fought For Roe” signs.  The Texas Alliance for Retired Americans (TARA) had endorsed the event as well.

It was media “eye candy.”  Not the static images of speakers.  Local television stations were able to capture women with jump ropes, hula-hoops, light weights, a small trampoline, and a “battle rope” carefully arranged around a lamppost.

My professor friend wanted me for my “Fought for Roe” credentials, but she also asked about witches. “Oh,” I said, “I have a cauldron and a hex.”

When the Dobbs decision dropped, I began to fill my cauldron with hex-worthy figures. I felt like a message-driven Martha Stewart, taking craft skills to a different level.  I cut out cardboard backings, painted them black, adhered images to each one, and printed labels naming the various culprits.  The Six Supremes were first: John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, already on the bench, and Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett, the Trump appointees.  I added three Texas elected officials to the mix: Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Daniel Patrick, and AG Ken Paxton, and for good measure the lawyer, Jonathan Mitchell who had written Senate Bill 8, the Texas law placing a citizen vigilante bounty on people who “aid and abet” abortions.

Julia Mickenberg welcomed people and introduced the Swole patrol.  She called me up to speak through a bullhorn and then stage the hex.  My cauldron and its culprits made prime time, or at least the local television news.

Shardae Russell with Whole Women’s Health drove all the way from Dallas and addressed the crowd.  She works with women, as desperate for information as women were in 1969, in need of out-of-state abortion services.  She brought the issues home, reminding everyone of the day-to-day work that goes on in post-Dobbs Texas.

Later that day, Texas Senate candidate Congressman Collin Allred, who is running to replace Ted Cruz in the U.S. Senate held a press conference at Whole Women’s Health.

It was a small action, but meaningful.  Dobbs didn’t go unnoticed.  The fight goes on.

For the media, I prepared a leaflet:

We Fought for Roe:  In 1969, birth control information was not easily available, so women began by addressing that need: what worked, what didn’t, how to get prescriptions for pills. They established a Birth Control Information Center, building a cubicle for counseling in the office of Austin’s underground newspaper, The Rag.

Soon they were receiving desperate calls about unplanned pregnancies. They turned their attention to the issue of abortion and began to research where you could obtain a safe abortion at a reasonable cost. They found such a place across the border in Mexico.

They were assisting with information and sometimes travel and knew they might face legal repercussions in Texas for doing this work. At that time, Judy Smith was a University of Texas graduate student and her partner was studying law at UT. They approached Sarah Weddington in the law school cafeteria. Judy, who was very persuasive, talked Sarah into filing a lawsuit and offered help with research. Weddington wrote, “That coffee meeting was the beginning of Roe v. Wade, the case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court on January 22, l973, which overturned the anti-abortion statute in Texas and, by extension, throughout the U.S.”

Reproductive rights protect the decision to have a child or not have a child.  Economic circumstances are almost always a consideration.  Austin Women’s Liberation advocated for birth control access, informed choice, for affordable childcare, and for birthing centers back in the day.  Now, we fight for our daughters and granddaughters.

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