Activists rally at Capitol for reproductive rights

Part of a nationwide women’s march, Austin protesters directly attack SB8, the local politicians who supported it

One+of+many+reproductive+rights+protests+going+on+across+the+country+on+Saturday%2C+the+Austin+event+on+the+steps+of+the+state+Capitol+attracted+thousands+and+focused+on+making+the+case+against+SB8%2C+which+became+law+on+Sept.+1.%C2%A0

Meredith Grotevant

One of many reproductive rights protests going on across the country on Saturday, the Austin event on the steps of the state Capitol attracted thousands and focused on making the case against SB8, which became law on Sept. 1. 

Meredith Grotevant, staff reporter

A crowd of about 1,000 activists gathered on the south lawn of the Capitol building Saturday morning to protest Senate Bill 8, a new, restrictive Texas abortion law that went into effect Sept. 1. From around 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. speeches and performances amplified out to the protestors from a stage at the steps of the Capitol. 

With all the news and stuff about what Abbott was passing for Texas regarding the SB 8 bill, I felt like I needed to get more involved.”

— junior Chloe Anderson, who attended her first protest march today

The rally was organized by Women’s March ATX, a local advocacy group for reproductive rights, LGBTQIA+ rights, and workers’ rights. The Austin rally was one of many reproductive rights protests going on across the country on Saturday. 

Scattered throughout the large crowd, many McCallum students attended the rally.

“It was definitely a very positive and empowered crowd.” sophomore Audrey McClellan said. “It was an amazing experience, and it was crazy to look behind you and see thousands of other people there standing up for the same cause.”

Junior Chloe Anderson was also in attendance at the march, the first she had ever taken part in. “I had never been to a march before,” Anderson said. “With all the news and stuff about what Abbott was passing for Texas regarding the SB 8 bill, I felt like I needed to get more involved.” 

Both McClellan and Anderson found a speech from Vienna, the leader of the Austin National Organization for Womens’ youth committee to be one of the most impactful. “Her message was so powerful and she did such an amazing job speaking,” McClellan said of the 12-year-old’s speech. Echoing this, Anderson said, “Honestly, it was so impressive.” 

Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick, Ken Paxton, we see what you are doing. We know that you are willing to force a child to have a child … forcing women to flee the state to seek the health care and the privacy that is our right.”

— state Sen. Sarah Eckhardt

Other speakers included U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, Travis County Judge Andy Brown, former state Sen. Wendy Davis, and various middle and high school students from local schools. While speakers mainly focused their speeches on reproductive rights, other topics brought up included homelessness and discrimination against the disabled. 

The most repeated phrase of the day seemed to be “Vote them out.” referring to the Republican lawmakers that advocated for SB 8. Some speakers even chose to call out those lawmakers directly. “Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick, Ken Paxton, we see what you are doing,” state Sen. Sarah Eckhardt said. “We know that you are willing to force a child to have a child… forcing women to flee the state to seek the health care and the privacy that is our right.”

A small group of around 30 anti-abortion counter-protesters gathered to the right of the stage where the performances and speaking took place, holding signs that said: “I am the pro-life generation.” As the counter-protestors entered the area, Women’s March attendees attempted to block them from entering the lawn or speaking loudly.  The two groups clashed and had verbal exchanges but Texas State Troopers monitored from nearby and the rally remained mostly peaceful. 

Crowd estimates for the march varied. The Statesman, Reuters and KUT all reported that there were hundreds of marchers present. The Daily Texan and The Daily Mail both estimated the crowd to be around 1,000. KVUE, Fox Austin and The New York Times reported the crowd to be in the thousands.

Photos by Katherine Boyle, Josie Bradsby, Amaya Collier, Meredith Grotevant and Anna McClellan.