On October 15, 1971, this newspaper ran an article headlined “Fems to Rally for Abortion, March Ends at Capitol.”
Two years before the Supreme Court would vote in a 7-2 decision to uphold a woman’s right to receive an abortion before the point of viability, this article reported that a group of UT students known as the Women’s Abortion Action Committee planned to march from campus to the Capitol to “ask that all abortion and contraception laws be repealed.”
According to the article, the organization, then only six weeks old, had already received endorsements from activist Gloria Steinem and then-student body president Bob Binder. Mary Ann Lunn, the secretary of WAAC, told The Daily Texan that the group expected the Supreme Court to hear the case we now know as Roe v. Wade in November of that year, and that the group planned to send a “busload” of their members from Texas to Washington to protest federal abrotion laws.
In the past two weeks, students have once again marched to the Capitol, joining thousands of protesters standing for or against abortion-limiting legislation filed by Republican legislators. The bills have attracted national attention, due in part to the filibuster staged by state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, which killed one of the bills in question on the Senate floor (and in turn prompted Gov. Rick Perry to call a second special session in which to pass a version of the killed bill.)
But the credit for the media attention should go not to Davis but to the citizens who took it upon themselves to converge on the Capitol in protest. The students who participated in these demonstrations, both in support of and against the bills, have done the important job of reminding legislators that laws on paper affect people in real life, just as the students of WAAC did more than 40 years ago.
Whatever the outcome of the current debate, students should remember that the only way to make legislators (and the media) listen is to give them something to listen to, no matter the issue at hand.