AUSTIN, Texas — More than 5,000 Texans gathered on the lawn of the State Capitol Monday to voice their outrage about stringent new abortion restrictions that, if passed, would make it virtually impossible for women in large swaths of the state to access reproductive care.
Large turnout for the rally came after Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) called a second special session in order to try to pass legislation that had been defeated by State Sen. Wendy Davis (D) in a remarkable 13-hour filibuster last week. If it succeeds, the legislation would, among other changes, criminalize abortion after 20 weeks and create onerous new regulations that would force virtually all of the state’s abortion clinics to shut down.
One hallmark of Monday’s massive protest was the number of men who joined the rally for women’s rights, some even driving from as far as Houston and Dallas to attend. Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, remarked to ThinkProgress that their presence showed “these are not just women’s issues, they’re family issues.”
ThinkProgress spoke with over a half-dozen men at the rally about what it meant for them to be there and the importance of women’s rights being a universal issue. Here’s what they told us:
PHIL PERKINS: “They may pass it, but I’ll still protest it. And when they pass it, I’ll keep protesting it. Inside that building there are a lot of men working against women. I’m just representing all the men that are outside this building that support women.”
MICKEY SHANAHAN: “Just like every civil rights fight, if someone is not free, none of us are free. All of our rights are at stake. This is not the first issue where our rights have been eroded, but this is one that happens to affect 52 percent of the population. We all need to fight for this.”
BILL LAMBERT: “I drove all the way from Houston. I want society to be better than it is today and I wouldn’t have the right to hope for such a thing if women were still not fully emancipated and equal partners in that process. They hold up half the sky.”
MICHAEL COOK: “I’m the coordinator for the clinic defense team out of Houston. We have about 50 people in our clinic defense team, and about 35 of them are men. So in Houston there’s a lot of men standing up for this issue. There’s a lot of men who feel very strongly about it. We’re going to stand side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder with the women of Texas and show them that we support them.”
BEYRL ARMSTRONG: “I have a mother, I have a wife, I have nieces. It’s real important they be treated as competent human beings who can take care of themselves. These women are pissed off. Don’t kick sand in a Texas woman’s face, it’s not going to work.”
TED KRAUSE: “Women’s healthcare does not belong in politics. I’m a father of two girls and I have to protect their healthcare rights and their ability to control decisions about their body. I don’t think politics should be determining how a woman has access to her healthcare.”
ZACK MUNSTERMANN: “We really need to stand up and support women. I think it’s more of a civil rights issue as opposed to a gender-specific issue. I think women need to see that men understand this.”