Planned Parenthood rally highlights women’s health issues in legislature

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State Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) and several other Texas senators and representatives spoke at Planned Parenthood’s Lobby Day rally at the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon.
Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

Planned Parenthood and 550 of its supporters rallied at the Capitol on Wednesday during its biennial Lobby Day rally.

State senators and representatives welcomed rally attendees, who wore pink and held posters with sayings such as “I rely on Planned Parenthood” and “Texas needs Planned Parenthood.” 

The rally, officially named “My Health, My Life. My Texas. Rally,” reflects what true Texan values are, according to Amanda Bennett, global studies graduate student and member of the Feminist Alliance Policy.

“Planned Parenthood embodies Texas values rather than being against them,” Bennett said.  “[Values] like health and families and being in control and making choices for your family.”

Sarah Wheat, vice president of community affairs for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, said the day served as an opportunity for Texans from across the state to show their support for women’s health and the health services Planned Parenthood provides.

Planned Parenthood patients also spoke at the rally, sharing their stories about Planned Parenthood and how they would be impacted if SB 2 defunded breast and cervical cancer screening programs. 

SB 2, the proposed Senate budget, would distribute funding for health care centers that provide breast and cervical cancer screening in a three-tier system, and Planned Parenthood would be classified as a third-tier priority.

“We heard directly from one of the patients, who took a bus from Waco and said her being here today was because of breast and cervical cancer screening at her Waco [Planned Parenthood] health center,” Wheat said.

Ashley Alcantara, University Democrats communication director and Plan II sophomore, said she thought SB 2 was a poorly disguised way to defund Planned Parenthood.

“It’s such an important resource for women who often don’t have access to health insurance or other places to get health care, so I think it’s pretty despicable for legislators to target funding that is so important to so many women,” Alcantara said.

Attendees also showed their support for Planned Parenthood by scheduling meetings with their local representatives. State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin), who spoke at the kickoff rally, met with his constituents Wednesday. Rodriguez said legislators should pay attention to Planned Parenthood.

“Standing up for reproductive rights isn’t a challenge; it’s an opportunity to amplify the voice of so many women who depend on basic reproductive and other critical health care services,” Rodriguez said in an email.

Laura Tanter, biology and English junior and president of UT’s Texas Freedom Network chapter, said representatives may not have an accurate picture of Planned Parenthood.

“They’re trying to remove all funding from Planned Parenthood, and it’s all based on … the fact that some of their locations provide abortions,” Tanter said. “But I don’t think they realize it’s more than just abortion, and it’s important for everyone around the country.”

College Republicans said although they do not support Planned Parenthood’s abortion services, moving forward on women’s health is a priority. Women should have the necessary tools and services for their health, according to Bridget Guien, economics freshman and communications director for College Republicans. 

“It’s nice to see that women from all over Texas could come together to support something they are passionate about,” Guien said. “It’s a good sign for Texas politics that so many people can rally together and share their opinion with the Capitol.