Abortion rights protest held downtown on 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade

Gauri Raje, News Editor

On the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, pro-choice citizens from across San Antonio and beyond gathered at 214 W Nueva St. to participate in an abortion rights protest. The protest was a part of several of its kind held in cities around Texas, including Austin, Houston, Dallas and Waco, collectively termed “Texas Day of Action.” The event in San Antonio was hosted by Mujeres Marcharán, Sueños Sin Fronteras, AVOW, R.E.D. Moon Project and the Party for Socialism and Liberation.

In September of 2021, a law banning abortions after the six-week mark was enacted in Texas. The law also allowed private citizens to sue abortion providers and anyone who helps a pregnant individual get an abortion. After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in August of last year, the state’s trigger law, which made performing an abortion a felony punishable by up to life in prison, also went into effect.

The event, which took place on Sunday, Jan. 22, featured speakers from organizations and individuals that have been actively fighting for the right to legal abortion in the state of Texas following the aforementioned ban and the effects of the Supreme Court ruling last year.

One of the first speakers at the event was Vanessa Canauhtli, a member of Mujeres Marcharán and Autonomous Brown Berets De San Anto. Canauhtli emphasized the fact that the Democratic party “does not have the power to legalize abortion in Texas.”

“What they need is a mass mobilization of people just like you — people committed to the everyday work of connecting people of all backgrounds [who] struggle under the brutality of white supremacy, capitalism and patriarchy,” Canauhtli said. “An alternative power structure, so huge, so loud and well supported that they cannot ignore us and they have to hear our demands.” Canauhtli also highlighted the importance of demanding the right to abortion and putting pressure on the government, adding that activism is not an easy task.

“There are risks, there are friends and loved ones who will leave, but in their place, you will gain comrades, and a comrade is a true partner in struggle, who sees the same light in you and brings you new joy,” Canauhtli said. “It is with this spirit which will guide us through these dark, dystopian times.”

Canauhtli’s speech was followed by chants of “legalize abortion once and for all.”

The crowd then welcomed the next speaker of the event, Rockie Gonzalez, who serves as deputy director at the Austin Justice Coalition. Gonzalez also co-founded the Frontera Fund, which is an abortion fund serving the Rio Grande Valley and is the founder of the R.E.D. Moon project.

“The state of Texas has issued a total abortion ban and those suffering the consequences are not the 1%, the highly educated, the wealthy, it’s our communities,” Gonzalez said. “ It’s our communities who already live in the margins — those living paycheck to paycheck; those who are living in the streets without a roof over their heads; those family members and friends of ours who live in constant fear of deportation and separation from their families; our queer, trans, gender nonconforming people; our children and Black and Indigenous communities who have had to build resilience into our cultures just to survive.”

“Roe was never enough,” Gonzalez added. “Roe was the floor [and] absolutely not the ceiling. The constitutional right to an abortion never guaranteed that our people could actually access and exercise that right.” Gonzalez highlighted the unprecedented support and interest that is on the rise in support of abortion rights, adding that there is hesitancy when it comes to the thought of decriminalizing abortion on a local level, given the state’s abortion ban. Gonzalez went on to state that local change was indeed possible, calling on local politicians to take action and to do more, adding that “spineless Democrats” who chose not to take action are just as responsible for the current state of abortion rights as the extreme right.

“[People in power] should be using their power and they should be testing its limits and they should be doing everything possible to protect constituents from harm and violence,” Gonzalez said. “Politicians who claim to support our cause have to do more.”

“Revolutions only come when people are uncomfortable and desperate and angry enough to give up the privilege that they have in this world,” Gonzalez added. “And so to you today I say, there is nothing left to lose. Defend the sacred.”

The next speaker was Judy Lerma, a registered nurse representing National Nurses United and Workers World Party. “We’re here on what would’ve been the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade to demand that people who can become pregnant have the right to full control of their bodies,” Lerma said. “This entails healthcare, not just during the reproductive years, but throughout the lifespan; it entails not only the right but also access to free, high quality, comprehensive healthcare provided with respect and compassion.”

Jules Vaquera, a part of Mujeres Marcharan and Veterans for Peace, then presented a song about abortion rights and the right to choose. 

The next speaker was Kate Sanchez, from Planned Parenthood South Texas, who talked about the latest political attacks against the latter’s clinics in Texas, including a recent lawsuit claiming the organization defrauded the state’s Medicaid system. Sanchez also highlighted the flaws with solutions like adoption and the foster care system, the state’s low spending on education and the state’s high maternal mortality rates which are disproportionately skewed toward people of color.

“I am astounded that I am standing here, in 2023, and we have less rights to our bodies than our parents did in 1973,” Sanchez said. “I stand here together with you on the 50th anniversary of Roe and there are no protections in Texas’ abortion bans for survivors of rape and incest.”

The next speaker, Destiny, who was with the Party for Socialism and Liberation, highlighted the role the Supreme Court, an unelected body, played in stripping down the right to abortion. Destiny also highlighted the lack of efforts from the Democratic Party when it comes to protecting abortion rights among other things.

This was followed by another song about the importance of coming together and organizing.

Next up was Makayla Montoya Frazier, founder of Buckle Bunnies Fund, which supports people seeking abortions in the San Antonio community. Frazier criticized crisis pregnancy centers, calling them “fake clinics,” and also went over the regimen for abortion pills as suggested by the World Health Organization.

Frazier’s speech was followed by a poem about the right to choose. The first half of the event ended with Ananda Tomas, founder and executive director of ACT 4 SA, who piloted the San Antonio Justice Charter. Tomas talked about the charter’s contents and called on San Antonio residents to register themselves and their friends to vote for the upcoming local elections in May.

The event was followed by a march and another rally with artists, poets, performers and an open mic period.