More than 50 pro-choice activists and a handful of pro-life supporters voiced their opinions about Texas’ recent abortion legislation at Denton County’s Courthouse on the Square on Monday night.
Vocal supporters gathered on the muddy courthouse lawn to show their respective sides of the issue as part of a national day of action pro-choice movement.
Anita Marcos, one of the rally’s pro-choice speakers, recalled marching for abortion rights decades ago before the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade ruling.
“I am a mother of six and a grandmother of 16,” she said. “This is my right to choose.”
The abortion bill, passed Saturday by Texas legislators, will ban all abortions after 20 weeks (except in cases of severe fetal abnormalities or those that endanger the woman’s life), require abortions to occur in surgical centers and mandate doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital at least 30 miles from their clinics. The bill awaits Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s signature.
Pro-life supporters of the bill, led by Republican legislators, passed it in a special session called by Perry, citing a need for higher safety standards at abortion clinics and the state’s compelling interest to protect the “lives of unborn children from the stage at which substantial medical evidence indicates that these children are capable of feeling pain,” as stated in the bill.
“I would consider the law a positive development in that it reduces slightly the number of unborn babies that are slaughtered. There’s no biological, ethical debate that an unborn baby is a human being,” said Jeff Fairchild, executive pastor of New Life Church in Denton, in a telephone conversation Tuesday afternoon. “So there’s no case for taking that life. It’s a slaughter of the most innocent and defenseless among us.”
“We think that any banning of abortion is a great thing. We’d like to see it all banned and provide what we think is better health care for women,” said Jeff Williams, senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Denton, by phone Tuesday afternoon.
Critics have argued that the bill is an attempt to restrict abortion and that its provisions could potentially shutter many of the state’s 42 licensed clinics.
A few feet away from the Denton rally, a handful of pro-life activists on the sidewalk displayed signs with graphic images in full view of passing vehicles.
Todd Bullis, a member of Abolish Human Abortion, said, “We’re here to show what abortion actually looks like and the evil of abortion. We’re here because God has dominion over man and man shouldn’t be able to decide what innocent blood should be shed and what innocent blood should not be shed.”
Bullis said he was not a fan of the legislation.
“I didn’t like the bill because they’re just choosing who to select to kill, rather than not to kill at all. I think the Republicans are just doing this for fundraising points. After all, less than 1 percent of abortions happen after 20 weeks.”
Several of the pro-choice speakers acknowledged the other side’s presence, which was mostly silent at first.
“Ten years ago I would have been down there with those people because I was homeschooled and isolated,” said Sarah Patterson, a University of North Texas student. “My parents’ opinions were my opinions. Back then I was never encouraged to question.”
The rally took a different turn when a man grabbed the microphone and declared, “I love you guys, but I do not believe in abortions.” Tensions escalated between the groups until the man left.
The unscripted outburst motivated the pro-choice supporters, who claimed a lack of empathy on the part of their opponents.
Caitie Le, a Texas Woman’s University child development student, asked the crowd, “Is this what the ‘love’ they speak of looks like?”
Seizing on the energy sparked by the earlier unscripted outburst, pro-choice supporters began marching around the Square on Monday evening, chanting “women must decide their fate” and “pro-life men have got to go.”
Though tensions escalated during the rally, it ended peacefully and without incident at 9 p.m.