Thousands of Texans met at the Texas State Capitol Saturday for a rally organized by Unite Against the War on Women. The organization aims to restore funding to Texas’ Women’s Health Program and repeal a bill that requires a woman to receive a transvaginal sonogram before getting an abortion, according to Julie Burns, the Texas volunteer coordinator for the organization.

During the last legislative session in Texas, women’s health and family planning services were slashed by $73.6 million, and a new rule that banned Planned Parenthood from receiving funds prompted the Federal Government to stop all funding to the Women’s Health Program.

Texas also passed HB 15, a bill that requires that requires a woman who seeks an abortion to receive a transvaginal sonogram and listen to their physician read a description of the fetus.

“This is a way to shame women we feel. To add insult to injury, the woman will probably have to pay for it herself since it is not an insurance matter because it is not medically necessary,” Burns said.

The crowd at the rally was very diverse, with many men also in attendance to support the fight for women’s rights.

“I am here in support of my wife, daughters and the freedom of choice, contraception and women’s health,” said Ralph Gilby, who was in attendance at the rally. “It is not just for women, it actually affects all of us.”

The first speaker to take the stage was State Representative Dawnna Dukes from Austin. She spoke to the crowd about how the church her family has attended for generations denied her the right to speak.
“They decided to ban me from an opportunity to speak on Black History, not even Women Health care, but Black History because I chose to support a woman’s right to contraceptives,” said Dukes.

Dukes blamed Governor Perry for misleading the public to believe that cuts in the Women’s Health Program were needed.

“We need to let the Governor know that we are not stupid enough to believe that it is the fault of Texas women or Planned Parenthood, but it is the fault of this Governor who doesn’t choose to listen to fifty percent of this state,” Dukes said.

The Reverend Jim Rigby urged the crowd to stand up for all targeted populations and form coalitions.

“How many men here are going to start standing up for women with your entire weight? How many straights are going to stand up for GLBTQ populations? How many of you that have enough are going to stand up for the poor? How many of you that are safe in your homes will stand up for immigrant populations? … When we stand together we are the majority and we will win,” Rigby said.

Genevieve Van Cleve, Deputy Director of Annie’s List also spoke. Annie’s List is an organization started in 2003, which seeks to get more progressive women elected to state office.

“The people in this state matter more than the rhetoric and cynical greed of Rick Perry and his Republican legislature hell bent on dividing us,” Van Cleve said.

Annie’s List has endorsed 10 Democratic women to challenge incumbents in 2012 Texas House and Senate races, as well as eight incumbent women.

“Every time we elect another woman who is on our side, we have another vote against those guys,” Van Cleve said. “Game on ladies!”

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