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Thousands join State Sen. Wendy Davis, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, NARAL President Ilyse Hogue, Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks, actor Stephanie March, actor Lisa Edelstein, State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, State Sen. Kirk Watson and State Rep. Senfronia Thompson in Protesting Texas Abortion Ban

Austin, TX – As a Second Special session was gaveled in today, more than 5,000 Texans rallied at the State Capitol in Austin demanding a stop to legislation that could virtually end access to safe and legal abortion for many in Texas.  The sweeping restrictions on abortion failed to pass during the regular legislative session and was stopped during a special session last week with an epic, 13-hour filibuster by State Senator Wendy Davis, her Senate colleagues, and thousands of Texans.

 “Texas women are tough – we settled the prairies, we built this state and raised our families.  We’ve survived hurricanes and tornadoes, and we’ll survive the Texas legislature!  To put it in terms Rick Perry would understand:  I am an American.  I am a Texan.  And no government gets to make my personal decisions for me,” said Cecile Richards, President, Planned Parenthood Action Fund.  “We’ve been shut down, shut out, and told to shut up.  Women in the legislature have had their microphones turned off and been told 'we can’t hear you.'  So my question is:  can you hear us now?”

At a rally at the Capitol in January, Governor Rick Perry said he wants to make abortion “a thing of the past” in Texas and when the state Senate considered legislation earlier this month, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst lauded the vote because it would shut down providers statewide.  The restrictions proposed “would represent a significant step backward for the health status of Texas women,” wrote Dr. Lisa M. Hollier, MD, MPH, FACOG, chair, Texas District American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in her testimony before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee during Regular Session.

“My support for Senator Wendy Davis and all the Senators and House members who are fighting to keep abortion safe and legal in Texas transcends party lines,” said Allison Catalano, a Republican who spoke at the rally.  “This is a fight about personal freedom, individual responsibility – and the deeply personal decisions that women across Texas have to make.   No matter your political affiliation, what is right is right. Well, except in this case -- the Texas Far Right is Wrong.”

“I was lucky enough to be able to make the choices in my life that I knew would work for me. And I don’t regret for one minute my decisions about my daughters, my education or my direction in life. That’s what we are fighting for now – a Texas where every woman is able to overcome her unique challenges – because she has the same choices and the same chances I did,” said Senator Wendy Davis.  “For years, too many Texas politicians have tried to boost their careers by bullying women who need help with health care… Texans deserve someone who will stand up for them and their values. It shouldn’t be unusual for a public official to stand and fight for the men and women who elected them.  It should be a job requirement.”

“Last week, thousands of Texans raised their voices so loudly in support of women’s health that the whole nation heard them,” said Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks, who sang the National Anthem at the rally.  “Watching these women and men turn out from all corners of my home state to stop these attacks on women’s health – and watching the nation stand with them – has been incredibly inspiring.  I am so happy to be here to stand with Texas women, to raise my voice with them.”

Nationally, in the first few months of 2013, more than 300 provisions to restrict abortion access were introduced in state legislatures across the country, signaling this year would be just as bad as the record-breaking worst years for women’s health state policy in the United States in 2011 and 2012. Bills proposed in Texas would virtually ban abortion through “targeted restrictions on abortion providers,” which include mandating hallways and recovery rooms of specific dimensions that far exceed what is necessary for patient care, even for health centers that only provide nonsurgical abortion, meaning only an oral medication is taken. 

In Texas, one in four women are uninsured, an estimated 130,000 women are going without basic, preventive health care due to the 2011 Texas Legislature’s drastic cuts to women’s health care funding, and tens of thousands more may be losing access to health care since Governor Perry has also banned Planned Parenthood from the state Women’s Health Program – and women’s health advocates fear the Texas Abortion Ban will compound this health care crisis by forcing quality health care providers to close.  Texans are demanding their legislators #standwithTXwomen and reject these bills – and countless women and men around the country are joining in the chorus calling on state legislators to back off efforts to further restrict women’s health care in this country. 

Americans who want to show their support for Texas women can order a new, limited edition t-shirt released today by actor Connie Britton and Planned Parenthood Action Fund.  The front of the shirt reads: “WWTTD? What Would Tami Taylor Do?” and the back of the shirt says “standwithtexaswomen.org.” Britton starred as Tami Taylor in the critically acclaimed TV series Friday Night Lights, about a high school football team in the community of Dillon, Texas. The shirts, which are in orange or white, are available here and are being sold at cost. They will be available for the month of July only.

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