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Pro-Choice Democrats Take Abortion Message On The Road

Shelley Kofler

Republicans in the Texas House have passed the bill that bans most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.  It’s now headed to the Senate, where it is also expected to pass.

Knowing they don’t have enough votes to stop the bill, pro-choice Democrats are taking their fight to the streets. Their “Stand With Texas Women” road trip”  stopped in Dallas Wednesday morning.

As a blazing Texas sun beat down on City Hall Plaza a big, orange bus pulled as close as it could get to a waiting crowd of more than 100, also decked out in orange.

Painted on the side of the bus, in bold white letters, is the theme of this mobile campaign: Stand With Texas Women.

It’s being organized by the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and its national president, Cecile Richards, the daughter of the late Gov. Ann Richards.

“Opponents of women’s health may control the Capitol, but they don’t control the future of women in the state of Texas,” Richards told the crowd.

Credit Shelley Kofler, KERA
A crowd of more than 100 gathered at Dallas City Hall Wednesday to support the "Stand With Texas Women" tour.

She was joined at the microphone by Planned Parenthood clients and Democratic state senators including Royce West of Dallas.  They argue that a lot of Texans are fed up with conservative lawmakers who’ve bludgeoned women’s health care programs.

Two years ago, dozens of women’s clinics in Texas shut down after the legislature cut funding to Planned Parenthood’s women’s clinics because the organization also provides abortions.

Now GOP lawmakers are poised to pass one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.

Sen. Kirk Watson, an Austin Democrat, said: “The people must be heard.  This conversation must be held outside of that legislative bubble,”   

Watson sees the issue of women’s health care as a political game changer in a state that hasn’t elected a Democrat statewide since 1994.

But he says he feels a surge of support that was ignited by Sen. Wendy Davis’ filibuster  and raucous protesters who briefly killed the abortion bill.

“The truth is that filibuster was a flashpoint,” said Watson, “but our broader effort to stop anti-choice legislation has become a tipping point in Texas.”

Few others agree with Watson that it’s possible for a Democrat to be elected statewide in Texas as early as next year.

He says it’s “doable” if supporters build on the current momentum and register voters.

Karen Walbridge, who describes herself as "70-something," says the abortion issue is the reason she drove from Keller to be at the rally.

“I’m just becoming politically active because they’re trying to limit women’s rights,” she said.

The question now is:  How many more Karen Walbridges can the orange bus campaign attract?

Former KERA staffer Shelley Kofler was news director, managing editor and senior reporter. She is an award-winning reporter and television producer who previously served as the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.