Dave Mann

Local women's rights activist Nancy Ward addresses the crowd at Stand With Texas Women's Panel on Wednesday.

Photo Credit: Aaron Berecka | Daily Texan Staff

House Bill 2, which passed in the state Legislature this summer, will result in the closure of all but six abortion clinics in Texas, which some say might have implications for UT students.

On Wednesday, the LBJ School of Public Affairs’ Feminist Policy Alliance and The Texas Observer co-hosted a panel on the effects HB 2 will have on Texas women. The panel, Stand for Women’s Health in Texas, featured Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, local activist Jessica Luther and Heather Busby, who works with National Abortion Rights Action
League [NARAL].

Dave Mann, editor of The Texas Observer, moderated the event. He said interest in the subject was obvious following Wendy Davis’ (D-Fort Worth) 11-hour filibuster to block the bill. Though Davis’ filibuster did not last until midnight, disruptions from the crowd gathered in the Capitol delayed a vote on the bill until the legislative session was already over. The bill was passed in a special session mandated by Gov. Ricky Perry. 

“We want to open discussion around the issue of women’s health … Obviously there was a lot of energy around the filibuster this summer,” Mann said. 

The panel centered around the implications of these stricter guidelines on abortion clinics, what could be done to address their affects and what could be done to change them. 

Farrar was a vocal opponent of HB 2 during the summer’s legislative sessions.

“You’re going to see more women having more unwanted pregnancies,” Farrar said. “You’ve got health care providers saying, ‘We are opposed to this.’ … It was political motivation to pass this bill, this wasn’t a response to any complaints from the clinics.”

Luther said basic preventative health care for women would also be adversely affected by the bill.

“The clinics you see shut down don’t only do abortions, so reproductive health will be affected,” Luther said. “We need to keep reminding the state and legislatures that we are here and we’re still angry.”

Luther, Farrar and Busby also discussed ways they planned to react to the bill. Farrar stated that there is a lawsuit in the works. 

“This bill is closing affordable clinics for women, making it harder for college-aged women and low income women to get what they need,” Busby said. “I’ve got people calling and saying ‘What can I do now? What can I do to help?’”

Luther said pro-choice supporters and organizations may begin to bus women from rural areas across the state to abortion clinics that are still open in Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Fort Worth and Austin. 

“That’s exciting to see Texans taking responsibility … It’s really concrete activism,” Luther said. 

A considerable number of inmates sentenced to death or life in prison could be innocent, the executive editor of the Texas Observer said in a lecture Thursday. Dave Mann spoke at MonkeyWrench Books about the death penalty in Texas. Mann focused on specific cases in which he thought the evidence was insufficient to sentence a person to death, including that of convicted arsonist Alfredo Guardiola. Guardiola, a heroin addict, was on the scene of a house fire in Houston that killed four people, Mann said. Houston police brought Guardiola in for questioning as a witness, but he soon became a suspect, he said. “People often want someone to blame when there is a tragedy,” he said. Mann asked the audience of 20 people to be the jury in the case. The audience seemed convinced that Guardiola was guilty, agreeing with the jury that sentenced him to 40 years in prison. Mann then revealed that Guardiola gave a written confession after police interrogated him for 13 hours and showed him pictures of the children killed in the fire. A few days later, Guardiola retracted his confession claiming the interrogators coerced him to confess. Guardiola currently has 20 years remaining on his sentence. Mann said the case is like many others in which either because of police coercion or botched forensic science, innocent people end up in jail or on death row. Dallas has re-examined approximately 200 cases, and more than 20 convicts have been exonerated, Mann said. Some areas of forensics, such as blood spatter and ballistics, are currently not sound enough to sentence a person to death, Mann said. “We can’t have the death penalty until we are close to 100-percent sure that [a suspect] is guilty,” he said. “Judges could be much more discerning when interpreting forensic evidence.” Scott Cobb, president of the anti-death penalty group Texas Moratorium Network, said capital punishment is an inefficient policy. “We don’t have a need for it in the U.S.,” Cobb said. “The rest of the world has turned their back on it.” Of the 20 audience members, the majority agreed the death penalty has flaws. Mann said a moratorium would be a viable solution to the death penalty. “It’s a mystery why these cases don’t catch on,” said Mann. “We could use more scrutiny from the media.” Republican Party of Texas spokesman Chris Elam said the party stands by the death penalty as an option available to juries. “The appropriate legal authorities have declared it as a viable punishment,” Elam said.