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Texans were right to stand up for women's rights

By BY LETICIA VAN DE PUTTE
June 28, 2013 at 1:28 a.m.

State Senator Leticia Van de Putte

As most people know, I rushed back to the Capitol on Tuesday night after saying a final goodbye to my "daddy." When I returned to the Senate floor, it didn't feel like the Senate I had left last Friday. There was an energy that is hard to explain - part tension and part excitement. While you could cut the tension on the floor with a knife, the excitement coming from the gallery and the rotunda almost masked the anxiety my colleagues were emitting. The entire gallery was filled with our constituents, and they were watching politely and attentively trying to follow parliamentary procedures that it takes years for most to understand.

Their disdain for Senate Bill 5 was much like mine, and they were there to say that they would never surrender their reproductive rights without taking a stand. They were "standing with Wendy" (Fort Worth Senator Wendy Davis, who was attempting a 13-hour filibuster of the bill), and I was going to stand with her, too.

I believe that women throughout our state believe they've gained too much to give it back now.

Unfortunately, some of my Senate colleagues do not believe in trusting women with their reproductive organs. It's amazing to me that they do not trust women with a choice, but they trust them with a child.

I was horrified when I learned that SB 5 could potentially leave the state of Texas with only five abortion clinics, and they were all in major metropolitan areas.

I thought, "What is going to happen when a woman working two jobs out in West Texas finds out she is pregnant?" Maybe her pregnancy was an accident. Maybe she was raped. Whatever the reason, she is scared and desperate to terminate her pregnancy. And she has a legal right to do it.

But whether she would be able to exercise this right was another question.

If SB 5 would have passed, this woman would have had to take off work and drive hours to find one of the five clinics to perform her abortion. Once she found a clinic, she would have to obtain a sonogram and wait 24 hours to obtain her abortion. This young woman would then take a pill at the clinic, wait 48 more hours, and then come back to the clinic to take an additional pill. This young woman has been away from her home and her job for at least four days. That's no small matter in any instance, but it makes it impossible if she doesn't have the monetary means to leave her job for an extended period of time.

I don't see how limiting access and choice is anything more than hardship and harassment, especially to the poor.

We advocates of reproductive choices often say that we want to make abortion safe, legal and rare. While those who push anti-choice legislation will likely never agree with us on the "legal" part, I think we can agree on the other two. But the "rare" part cannot come from making abortion inaccessible. It needs to come from making it unnecessary.

That can happen through better health care. If the state is truly concerned with women's and children's health, why do we cut women off of Medicaid 60 days postpartum?

So I stood with Wendy while she filibustered a bill that would cut access to women's health care. And while the lieutenant governor may believe that his constituents who were in their Capitol were an "unruly mob using Occupy Wall Street tactics," I believe that these Texans were only using their voices to be heard after days of being shut off and venting their anger after seeing the rules of the Senate cast aside by the Republican leadership, as well as possible violations of state law. They were taking a stand for a constitutionally protected right, and I encourage them to never sit down.

State Senator Leticia Van de Putte, a registered pharmacist, represents parts San Antonio and Bexar County.

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