Before we leave behind Women’s History Month, let’s take a moment to reflect on the state of women’s rights in the Lone Star State.
March 1 marks six months since the enactment of Senate Bill 8, the so-called Heartbeat Act. State data has shown the number of abortions performed fell by 60 percent in the first month, but this data only tells half the story.
According to a recent report, from Sept. 1 to Dec. 31, Planned Parenthood clinics in Oklahoma saw a 2,500 percent increase of Texas-based patients, 1,000 percent increase in Colorado, and 100 percent increase in New Mexico.
Presidents and CEOs of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, and Planned Parenthood South Texas commented: “These data show what we have always known: Banning abortion doesn’t stop the need for abortion — it only makes accessing abortion more difficult for the people with the fewest resources.”
And the Heartbeat Act isn’t the only attack on the rights of Texas women. According to Texas Family Violence Statistics, 1,680 Galveston County women are victims of domestic violence every year. Despite these disturbingly high numbers, our U.S. Rep. Randy Weber voted against the Family Violence Prevention and Services Improvement Act and the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act, two crucial bills that would establish protections for domestic violence victims and provide services to help survivors escape their situation.
In his proclamation that March is Women’s History Month, Gov. Greg Abbott celebrates a handful of Texas women’s “firsts” and “contributions,” but ironically and conveniently seems oblivious to the role that he and his party have played in dragging women’s rights to their lowest low in over five decades.
He claims that women elected officials are “countless,” but if that was true, then why do women only represent about 27 percent of the state legislature despite making up 50 percent of the state’s population?
And this lack of representation is indeed the root cause of why women’s rights are under attack, because it’s difficult to imagine that a more gender representative legislature would produce inhumane bills like the Heartbeat Act that don’t make exceptions for abortion even in the cases of rape or incest.
Celebrating Women’s History Month means asking why women still aren’t equally represented in our government, why women’s voices have been silenced, why women’s rights today are under unprecedented attack. It means rethinking Texas and American history with women at the center.
The great historian Gerda Lerner said that “Everything that explains the world has in fact explained a world that doesn’t exist, a world in which men are at the center of the human enterprise and women are at the margin ‘helping’ them. Such a world doesn’t exist — never has.”
Angie Wilson is president of the Texas Democratic Women of Galveston County. She lives in League City.