Women

11.18.13

Hello, Texas? Abortion Rights Calling

Why I’m joining a telethon to raise money for abortion services in Texas, land of Wendy Davis and Jane Roe.

For a while in America, when the reproductive freedoms of women were fairly set in stone or even taken for granted, there was a concern that the next generation of women and women in general were not sufficiently prioritizing choice within their feminist agendas and political litmus lists in general. Consider that concern once and for all, well, aborted.

Nothing fires up a resurgence of pro-choice fever and fervor in America like the wholesale unilateral attack on the basic rights of women to control their own bodies, restricting access to everything from contraception to in vitro fertilization to abortion services. This is, after all, 2013, not 1813, and modern American women have become used to a certain amount of autonomy over their own bodies and their own lives. When misguided conservative legislators literally invaded that autonomy with transvaginal probes, women decided they would not take it lying down. One by one, millions of American women have been standing up and speaking up for comprehensive reproductive justice—yes, including the right to all women have an abortion if they choose.

On Monday, November 18, this chorus of voices will be even more loud—and laughing. Comedians Lizz Winstead and Sarah Silverman, in conjunction with NARAL Pro-Choice America and the New York Abortion Access Fund, are hosting an online streaming telethon from 7:00 to 10:00pm EST to raise money for abortion services in Texas. Texas, of course, is ground zero in the abortion fight. Texas is the state where conservative Republicans defunded reproductive services for poor women and have placed so many restrictions on abortion providers that one-third of the state's clinics will be forced to close, and reports are growing of women resorting to unsafe illegal abortions instead. But Texas is also the state where the phoenix of a revived reproductive rights movement has spring from the ashes of right-wing destruction, where Wendy Davis filibustered for 13 hours and women all across the country were inspired to buy her sneakers and encourage her to run for governor. And lest we forget, Texas is also where the fight for access to abortion arguably originated in America, where a Texas woman filed a petition under the name Jane Roe that ultimately led to the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in America.

That saying "Don't Mess With Texas"? It has an equally threat-laden flip side: Texas shouldn't mess with women.

Monday evening, Winstead and Silverman will be joined by comedians including Amy Schumer, Dave Hill and John Fugelsang, actresses such as Natasha Leone, Kathy Najimy and Emily Mortimer, writers like Joan Walsh and Anthea Butler (and, full disclosure, myself) as well as activists in Texas like Heather Busby and Sarah Slamen who are leading the fight to restore choice and justice in the Lone Star State. The telethon, dubbed "Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can Choose," will be streamed live online. Already viewing parties are springing up in Texas and across the nation.

In America, one in three women have had an abortion by the age of 45. New York magazine recently published a beautiful collection of 26 women telling the stories of their abortions—some positive, some negative, some simple, some complicated. The essays are a reminder that underneath all of the 53 anti-choice laws that conservatives have pushed in state legislatures in the last two years alone, there are real women—women who want safe and legal choices to make personal decisions about their own lives and medical decisions about their own bodies.

We should all feel appalled by the deep irony that while Republicans are trying to kill the Affordable Care Act based on their criticism that the law forces Americans to have health insurance they may not want, many of the same conservatives are trying to force women to have babies they may not want. It reveals the reality that the conservative agenda has nothing to do with freedom and independence and everything to do with constraining choices those of which conservatives politically or morally approve. Conservatives accuse liberals of pushing the nanny state, but there is nothing more controlling and paternalistic than restricting the decisions that women, especially low-income women of color, can make with respect to their own bodies.

But instead of feeling angry and helpless, Monday night you're invited to laugh and feel powerful—joining with millions of women across the country who trust women to make their own decisions and want government to focus on our economy, not our uteruses. Tune in to the "Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can Choose" telethon online Monday, November 18 between 7:00pm and 10:00pm Eastern time and watch, learn, laugh and be inspired. And be part of the revitalized and unstoppable movement in this country standing up for reproductive justice.