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Photos: Following Supreme Court leak, Big Bend residents rally for abortion rights

Sarah Vasquez for Marfa Public Radio

Text by Annie Rosenthal, photos by Sarah Vasquez for Marfa Public Radio

A crowd of about 40 people gathered outside the federal courthouse in Alpine on Tuesday, carrying signs that read, "No to forced pregnancy," "Never again," and "My body, my choice."

The small but vocal group joined thousands of other people around the state and country rallying to show their support for abortion rights that evening, less than 24 hours after a leaked draft opinion showed that the Supreme Court is likely to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Nearly 50 years after the landmark Supreme Court decision that enshrined the right to abortion nationwide, Big Bend residents are now reckoning with the possibility of an imminent future without it. Below, a series of attendees explain why they showed up to protest.

Alpine resident Erica David organized the rally on Tuesday morning, reaching out to people around the tri-county area via text and social media. "I just woke up and I was so mad," she said. "The news said that people were gathering at five o'clock local time in all these towns and cities. So I just said five o'clock local time, we have a federal courthouse right here with a parking lot. Why not?"

Mollie Durkin, a resident of Alpine, said she had shown up to emphasize the dangers of overturning Roe.

“It’s insane that we’re in the year 2022 and we’re still fighting for reproductive rights," she said. "You can’t ban abortions. It’s impossible. You can only ban safe abortions.”

Texas is one of more than a dozen states that have passed so-called trigger laws that would make nearly all abortions illegal if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Abortion is still currently legal in the state up until about six weeks of pregnancy. SB8, the controversial state law that bans abortions after that point, is one of the most restrictive in the country.

"With [Roe] possibly getting overturned, it’s gonna be completely unlawful to have an abortion in the state," Durkin said. "It’s already so hard as is. I’m just trying to show with my presence how wrong I feel that is."

Mike Green, also of Alpine, told Marfa Public Radio he took issue with what he saw as hypocrisy in the pro-life movement. “I never, ever hear anti-abortionists describe how they’re going to take care of all these unwanted children, how they’re going to fund the care. Are they going to accept raising their taxes to take care of all these children?" he asked. "I never hear that discussion."

Alpine resident Surrena Rub remembers having to get her husband's written permission to get a tubal ligation decades ago. "I really fear that we are going back in that direction where my choices are not mine anymore, and it’s very sad," she said.

Seeing other people out demonstrating made her feel more optimistic. “In a smaller, rural Texas town, it’s very easy to feel that you’re trying to fight these battles alone," she told Marfa Public Radio. "But we’re not."

Sara Griffing, 76, and Bennye Meredith, 91, said they turned up to protest because they're mothers who believe they should be able to make up their own minds about whether or not to have more children. "I was a young woman in the sixties and everybody in the sixties was out fighting for something," Griffing said. "And these young people gotta get their butts in gear."

Nancy Thompson, left, of Austin, was on vacation in the Big Bend region when she heard about the leak. "I'm supposed to have some downtime. But then everything happened with the Supreme Court yesterday. So it turns out here I am at a protest," she said.

Thompson explained that she was demonstrating on behalf of her fifteen-year-old daughter. "It's unfair that I got to grow up with so many rights and I never had to worry about this. And I don't want her to have to worry about it. She needs to be safe," she said. "I just want to tell everyone in West Texas that this isn't a Democratic issue or Republican issue. This is a human rights issue. And so we really just need to fight for each other and for the women and for doing right by Texas."

The rally wrapped up after about an hour. Before attendees parted ways, Marfa resident Lisa Kettyle collected their contact information on a piece of lime green paper. She said she hopes to turn the momentum of the event into an organizing effort to protect abortion rights around the Big Bend. "We are going to make sure that West Texans are represented in the state capitol and in the country's capital," she said. "This is the time to organize. This is the time to do something."

Annie Rosenthal is Marfa Public Radio's Border Reporter and a Report for America corps member.