Abortion rights backers rally in Brownsville

May 15—Only have a minute? Listen instead

BROWNSVILLE — Supporters of reproductive rights took to Linear Park on Saturday to demonstrate their anger and perseverance to the U.S. Supreme Court, which potentially could strike down Roe v. Wade.

Activists gathered around the park waving signs and chanting "Pro-life men have to go, when you get pregnant let us know" and "Saca tu rosarios de nuestros ovarios" as they expressed their anger at the potential removal of the decades of protection for legal abortion in the country.

Roughly 100 activists came together as part of a nationwide series of "Bans Off Our Bodies" rallies in over 300 cities in response to a leaked draft opinion written by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, published by Politico on May 2.

In the draft opinion for Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, Alito asserts that Roe v. Wade must be overturned.

"Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division," Alito writes in the opinion draft.

While the leaked opinion is just a draft, if adopted, it would remove the federal constitutional protection of abortion rights, allowing each state to decide whether to restrict or ban abortion.

In the face of that looming potential reality, activists use the time the leak has given them ahead of the official ruling to make their feelings loud and clear.

"The fact that we are all here today at this rally that is happening in more than 300 cities throughout the country, I think, sends a very powerful message for those that wish to control our bodies, our decisions and our future—that message is: keep your bans off our bodies," Nubia Reyna, Planned Parenthood South Texas Community Engagement Manager in the Rio Grande Valley, said.

During the rally, attendees listened to speakers from the ACLU, Frontera Fund, Latina Institute For Reproductive Justice Texas, Planned Parenthood Federation of America's Raíz Program and Planned Parenthood South Texas to stress the actions they say are needed. They urged residents to vote, get organized, support local abortion funds and organizations and be the ones to start the conversation about abortion.

For 31-year-old Brownsville resident Viviana Treviño, the rally came at a moment of frustration and dread over the potential unraveling of Roe v. Wade. She says the right to contraception, to have private consensual sexual activity and marry someone of the same sex is based on the 14th Amendment's due process rights and the implied right to privacy. Despite assertions by Alito in his draft opinion that overturning Roe will not jeopardize other rights grounded in privacy, Treviño remains unconvinced.

"I'm a gay woman of color who is trying to exist. They are making it very difficult, so the dismantling of things like Roe v. Wade affects people like me, not just in terms of being able to access reproductive care. At this point, I question whether I will be able to exist as a person because my being gay is now an issue; my having an interracial relationship is now going to be an issue," Treviño said.

As Senate Bill 8 continues in Texas, which allows citizens to sue anyone aiding or assisting an abortion after six weeks, reproductive rights organizations want to stress that abortion is still legal, if more difficult within the state.

"Abortion is still legal. That was just a leak, not an official decision. We are still prepared to help people get abortion care, even after the decision is made," Cathy Torres, Organizing Manager at Frontera Fund, said.

Frontera Fund is a Rio Grande Valley-based organization whose mission is to: "To make abortion accessible in the Rio Grande Valley by providing financial and practical support regardless of immigration status, gender identity, ability, sexual orientation, race, class, age, or religious affiliation and to build grassroots organizing power at intersecting issues across our region to shift the culture of shame and stigma."

Torres asserts that her organization will continue to help those in need of an abortion, whether through funding or arranging transportation to states like Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, which will still provide abortion services beyond what Texas allows.

Planned Parenthood Action states on the Bans Off Our Bodies Rally webpage that 26 states could move to ban abortion by summer, which will affect 36 million people in the country.

Activists say that for people on the sidelines, now is the time to pay attention and get organized and mobilized.

"We have to take a step back and understand that Roe v. Wade was never enough for our communities—especially in black and brown communities. So the reality is that Roe v. Wade has been a precedent, but abortion access has been super inaccessible—especially for folks here in South Texas. It is important to understand that whatever the outcome when SCOTUS drops their decision down the line—now is the time. If you have not been paying attention, it is time to step up, speak out and do the work to organize in your community," Jose Colon-Uvalles II, Planned Parenthood Federation of America's Latinx Campaign Specialist for the Raíz Program, said.