by Steven Monacelli
Over a thousand people were drawn to downtown Dallas on Saturday, July 9 for the second Dallas Reproductive Liberation March. Triple digit heat caused many to huddle under tree shade and pop-up tents, but others still dared to dance to music under the sweltering sun. They were there to demonstrate what polls already show: the majority of Texans support access to abortion at some level, despite the recent total-ban on the procedure across the state.
The atmosphere for the first two hours of the Dallas Reproductive Liberation March oscillated between festive and intense. From a makeshift stage in Main Street Garden Park, a handful of speeches by local reproductive rights activists made clear the urgency of the situation now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned. In between speeches the organizers handed out reproductive health kits, encouraged protesters to register to vote, and handed over the stage to an upbeat live band that tried to keep spirits high in spite of the heavy nature of the subject.
“I need you to make a promise today to show up for your neighbor,” said Nan Kirkpatrick of Jane’s Due Process, a Texas reproductive rights organization. “Our country is full of fascists and they’re not backing down. So we need to get comfortable with doing things that will make us uncomfortable.”
After the speeches and music concluded, the protesters showed their commitment to getting uncomfortable by marching for an hour through the sunbaked streets of downtown Dallas.
“Abortion is healthcare. Abortion is a human right,” the protesters chanted, along with some less family-friendly chants that expressed a clear disdain for the Republican state government.
Unlike other recent protest marches which have featured a car nearly hitting protesters and vulgar harassment from anti-abortion activists, the march went off without a hitch. But after the march returned to the starting point of Main Street Garden Park, a concerning event caused a stir. A shirtless man made a verbal threat of violence to Marsha Jones, the Executive Director of the Afiya Center, after dancing erratically and rushing the stage. The man ran away before he could be identified or detained by police.
The Dallas Reproductive Liberation March was organized by a coalition of local groups. Planned Parenthood, The Afiya Center, In Solidarity, and the local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America all took part as official sponsors. Signs and banners reflected the intersectional nature of the protest, which aimed to center the voices of the most marginalized people who will face the brunt of the burden now that abortion is effectively banned in Texas.
“Dallas specifically has had a long history of refusing to acknowledge, let alone center, the bodies and experiences of its most marginalized people,” said Michelle Anderson, a Policy Associate at The Afiya Center and Chair of the Dallas Reproductive Liberation March. “BIPOC lives have to be centered on the conversations around abortion, healthcare quality, and reproductive autonomy.”
Despite recent polls suggesting that only 15% of Texans believe access to abortion should be completely outlawed, Texas has now completely banned the practice thanks to the passage of what have come to be called “trigger laws.” Which is why reproductive justice advocates like Anderson emphasize that marches are only a part of a much larger strategy.
“There needs to be a long term plan to end this war on reproductive health and rights,” Anderson told DW. “We are pleased with the turnout and support, but marching is not going to do that. Chanting isn’t going to do that. Being strategic in how we vote to ensure Roe becomes federal law will.”
In addition to voter registration and organization — something that was on offer and prominently emphasized at the march — Anderson emphasizes the need for activists and organizations to have collective conversations about how their work falls under the “reproductive justice framework.” According to SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, reproductive justice is generally defined as “the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.”
“We can no longer afford to work disjointedly if we plan to build power against these systems of oppression that go far and beyond abortion access,” Anderson told DW.