If you haven’t heard about what’s going on in the Texas Legislature right now, let me try to brief you in one sentence: Texas Republicans are trying to pass two bills that would be detrimental to Texas women’s access to obtaining safe, legal abortions by attempting to ram these bills through a special session; pro-choice Texas women and men are doing their best to have their voices heard and to stop these bills from going into play. Here’s an opinion piece I wrote on these bills for L Style G Style a few days ago, if you’re interested in my point of view.
People on both side of the issue gathered together on Thursday, June 20 and held a citizen’s filibuster in the Texas State Affairs committee, where these bills sat before heading back to the House of Representatives for a final vote. Over 700 people showed up and registered, most against the bills. Hundreds gave personal testimonies on the nature of the bills before Rep. Byron Cook shut down the hearing. Everyone there that night left with powerful testimony ringing in their ears; the speech that spoke the loudest to me was that of Ash Hall, a young lesbian activist.
“By the time I made it to the podium, I felt a sense of desperation,” Hall told me via email. “A woman of color testified not long before me, commenting that her community was not well-represented in the room and that she needed to speak … I wanted to be heard. I didn’t have anything written down. I just went up there, stared the representatives in the face and laid it all out there.”
All those who testified that night were limited to three minutes, maximum. I’ll let her testimony speak for itself.
Trigger warning: mentions rape
June 21, 2012 | 2:29 am | House State Affairs Committee | HB 16
“I come before you today with a unique and perhaps unexpected perspective in that I loosely represent the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. We are very much affected by this bill [HB 16], as well as the bill preceding it [HB 60] and the one that is to come [SB 5].
We have a plague in this country. We like to point it out in other countries, but it is a problem in this country and in this state. I witnessed it myself in the city of Waco. It’s called corrective rape. In the context of my community, it’s when a straight person decides that they can take it upon themselves to turn a person’s sexual orientation from LGBT to straight by … raping them until the straight person is convinced that they have turned the LGBT person straight.
I wish I was making this up, but it is something that has happened here, and I have been in a position where I have had to defend myself from that. It happened to me when I attended Baylor University for a year, four years ago. I managed to fight this person off, so thankfully I was not raped. But the day that it happened, I realized that I needed to start caring about this issue, about choice, about abortion, about all of this stuff, because if I had gotten pregnant in addition to being a lesbian at a private Christian university, there would have been nobody that I could tell it to within the University. As it was I couldn’t explain that somebody had tried to sexually assault me, because if the school had found out [why he tried to] I would have been expelled. But if I had been pregnant in addition to that, the only hope I would have had would’ve been the Planned Parenthood, or the abortion clinic in Waco, Texas. As it is, we’re looking at a bill that is going to shut down that clinic for sure. I looked it up —Waco’s going to be one of the first ones that crumbles.
My community can’t really afford to have bills that limit the way that abortion works in Texas. As it is, if one of us gets pregnant, we have to worry about the fact that we can’t actually get jobs here without worrying about getting fired for being LGBT. We have to worry about the fact that we cannot get married to our partners, so if one of us were to get pregnant somehow or someway, whether it’s rape or on purpose, we do not get the same benefits as straight couples raising children. We have to worry about the fact that, especially for transgender folks in particular, there is still violence against us; so if we try to go through our lives pregnant, and happen to get assaulted, then our unborn children are going to get injured with us.
I don’t really think it matters what sort of time limit you set on when people can and cannot have abortions. The pain of my community combined is so much greater than any pain a clump of cells in someone’s uterus can feel. The last thing we need to worry about at this point is whether or not we can get an abortion if someone correctively rapes us. Not to mention the fact that it’s not just an issue for lesbian and bisexual women in my community; there are also transgender men who are transitioning from female to male. If they’re doing hormone therapy and they become pregnant from corrective rape … that’s lives that could be ruined.
My community can’t afford for this bill to pass. Thank you for hearing me out.”