It’s been nearly four years since my grandmother Charlotte died in July 2009. At her wake, I met a handful of people from Planned Parenthood of Cameron & Willacy Counties—two of the poorest counties in Texas. Family planning, and specifically abortion access, was Charlotte’s cause. In her obituary, the family asked that “in lieu of food or flowers, PLEASE send donations to the liberal charity of your choice, or to Planned Parenthood of Cameron & Willacy Counties.”
The right to safe and legal abortion was important to her because she witnessed firsthand the brutality women inflicted on themselves when it was not available: when she was a girl, Charlotte found her family’s housekeeper bleeding out in her bedroom after trying to self-abort.
I put this pair of her glasses in my purse before leaving to watch Wendy Davis filibuster to stop Texas Senate Bill 5 yesterday. I’d been encouraged to do so by Texas Monthly senior editor [note: my husband is on staff at TM] Erica Grieder, who said “I’m projecting a not-appalling day in politics.” Her full account is here.
And a not-appalling day in the Texas Legislature is none too common. In 1989 my mom brought me to my first rally—appropriately enough, one for NARAL—at the Texas Capitol. It was an excellent time for (liberal) women in Texas. Ann Richards would be elected governor the following year, and Mom would take my sister and me to La Zona Rosa—then mostly a Mexican restaurant that sometimes had music—to watch the returns and to the Hyatt to watch her victory speech. When you’re 14 and you see that as your first big in-person electoral moment, you feel pretty good about politics in Texas. Then you turn 18 and cast your first vote for Ann Richards and she loses to George W. Bush and you’re in for twenty years of fuckery.
I’m also from the bible belt south. I went to my first march in Washington DC for abortion rights when I was thirteen. My single mom took me.
I’ve been to many marches and rallies since then, written letters, raised funds and donated my money to abortion funds and women’s health services. We don’t all have time and mobility and we don’t all have money to spare, but we all have a voice.
Thank you, to all the fierce southern women who continue to stay and fight.