The Election Was Just the Beginning: The Future of Women’s Rights in Texas

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Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick may have won the top two seats on state government last week, but that doesn’t mean the movement to turn Texas blue is ending anytime soon.

In a conference call focusing on women, reproductive rights, and the election, leaders from Annie’s List, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, and the Texas Women Vote Project spoke on Monday about what went right last week and what the road ahead looks like for women’s rights advocates. The hosts of the conversation emphasized that, although Wendy and Leticia didn’t win, the work leading up to the election has created a foundation for future support of progressive candidates and opportunities for collaboration between organizations.

NARAL Pro-Choice Texas Executive Director Heather Busby opened up the call by stressing that “this year was not supposed to be the end, but just the beginning,” a sentiment echoed throughout the call.

Colleen Loper, Campaigns Director for Annie’s List, noted that the organization recruited women to run in competitive legislative races and secured more female campaign managers than in recent legislative cycles. “Throughout the election cycle, the atmosphere was one of, ‘How can I help?'” she noted.

Going forward, Annie’s List will prioritize examining voter information to figure out how to encourage Texans to vote. Although the filibuster was a catalyst for mobilizing Texas women, Loper said, “this is a long-term game.

Genevieve van Cleve of the Texas Women Vote Project also highlighted her organization’s successes leading up to the elections. TWVP is a relatively new PAC with a small budget that works on identifying electoral work opportunities to “unleash the awesome power of Texas women.”

This year, TWVP helped to organize the Women’s Caucus at the Texas Democratic Party Convention. “Because of the amazing women on the ticket, all the way up and down the ticket, we grew that event from about 150 to about 1,000,” van Cleve said. “It was, as many people told me afterward, a high point of the convention.”

Additionally, TWVP provided election protection support and training to both Waco and Lubbock. The organization also drummed up statewide support for Diane Henson, a Democratic candidate for Chief Justice of the 3rd Court of Appeals. Henson lost by only 8 percent on Election Day.

TWVP also conducted a media training for 25 women who will, in the future, be able to speak credibly to the media about their area of expertise. “There aren’t enough women being quoted in stories, and there aren’t enough women that are being used as experts in stories,” van Cleve said. “I cannot tell you how many times I read articles about Wendy and Leticia where not one woman was quoted in the story.”

Planned Parenthood Texas Executive Director Yvonne Gutierrez shared that her organization “executed the largest electoral effort ever by Planned Parenthood in the state of Texas this year.”

“What Tuesday showed us is that there is still a lot of work to be done to make Texas a healthy, thriving democracy where all voters understand the importance of their vote and participate in the electoral process,” she said.

However, Gutierrez emphasized that the conservative victories last Tuesday are not “an endorsement of an agenda to restrict women’s access to healthcare.” Leading up to the election, both Texas and the nation saw conservative candidates backtracking on their previous stances on abortion and contraception access late in the game.

“Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick were not elected to restrict women’s access to healthcare and we all must continue to work to make sure they do not interfere with a woman’s ability to access preventive and lifesaving care, as well as access to safe and legal abortion,” Gutierrez said.

You can listen to the call in its entirety here.

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About Author

Natalie San Luis

Natalie is a native Texan, a feminist, and a writer, focusing on reproductive justice, race, and pop culture. When she's not writing (and sometimes when she is), she's brewing beer, drinking beer, and reading stuff on the Internet. Her work has been featured on The Huffington Post, xoJane, The Billfold, Culturemap, and E3W Review of Books. She tweets from @nsanluis.

2 Comments

  1. Although the “war on women” strategy didn’t work in Texas or for that fact nationwide this election cycle, it should not be abandoned.

  2. kristine weibel on

    I really have my doubts about this in it’s entirety. Abbott & Patrick have made their position clear on abortion. Abbot is 100% against it, and Patrick is a religious zealot. Abbot was responsible for shutting down the Texas Women’s Health Program and stands by that decision. Abbott was responsible for unfunding Planned Parenthood. Abbott was (is) against expanding Medicare under Federally Funded Exchanges.

    What exactly does this author think will change. Will these men wake up in January and ‘see the light”? Oh, make no mistake there is a light and it is aimed at women.

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