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West Texans protest Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade

Demonstrators gathered in Alpine Friday evening to speak out against the high court’s decision ending the constitutional right to an abortion in the U.S. The protest was led by a newly-formed reproductive and abortion rights advocacy group focused on serving the Big Bend region.

By Travis Bubenik

Big Bend area residents gathered at the Brewster County courthouse in Alpine Friday evening to speak out against the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the nation’s decades-old constitutional right to an abortion.

The ruling paves the way for a near-total ban on abortion to take effect in Texas within weeks, thanks to the state’s recently passed “trigger law.”

About 40 people gathered for Friday’s protest, where speakers decried the high court’s decision and vowed to continue fighting for abortion rights in West Texas.

“We need to take care of ourselves, and the way that we’re going to do that is by educating ourselves, sharing the education that we have, and helping our neighbors however we can,” Lisa Kettyle, a co-founder of the Big Bend Reproductive Coalition, said during a speech from the courthouse gazebo.

The coalition, a recently formed grassroots group of abortion rights activists, coordinated Friday’s protest.

Kettyle urged those gathered at the demonstration to not lose hope in the longer-term fight for abortion rights.

“It was just 50 years ago that Roe v. Wade became real, and I refuse to believe that I’m going to die in this world before it’s legal again,” she said. 

The Big Bend group has vowed to continue sharing educational resources across the region about where abortions are legally provided and the changing laws surrounding reproductive care.

Mo Eldridge, another member of the coalition, reminded the crowd that even before Friday’s court decision, the Big Bend region was already a “desert of resources.”

“There are a lot of people in our community even in the last six months who have had abortions, and they’ve had to travel far, and they’ve had to jump through a lot of hoops, and they’ve had to feel fear alone,” Eldgridge said. “And I don’t think that’s okay.”

Republican leaders and lawmakers from West Texas spent Friday praising the high court’s ruling.

“Millions more will get to experience the beautiful gift from God that is life on earth!” U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, whose district includes the Big Bend region, wrote on Twitter.

“This is a day that the pro-life movement has prayed for and worked toward for 50 years,” U.S. Rep. August Plfuger, whose district spans the Permian Basin, said in a statement. “I will continue pushing to protect and defend unborn children. Nothing can be more important.”

As previously passed abortion bans rapidly took effect in most of Texas’ neighboring states on Friday, people living in rural parts of West Texas suddenly found themselves physically closer to abortion care than Texans living in major cities like Houston or Dallas.

New Mexico, where abortion is expected to remain legal, is already gearing up for an anticipated influx of Texans traveling to the state for abortion care, as the Texas Tribune has reported:

New Mexico is expected to become a “haven state,” where abortion remains legal and largely accessible. That state currently has six abortion clinics and is gearing up for an influx of patients. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Mississippi abortion clinic at the center of the Supreme Court case, has said it’s considering relocating to New Mexico.

But even the closest New Mexico clinic is a 10-hour drive from Dallas and 12 hours from Houston — Texas’ two largest population centers.

Kettyle, with the Big Bend Reproductive Coalition, said in an interview ahead of Friday’s protest that one of the demonstration’s goals was giving communities in this rural region a louder political voice in the fight ahead.

“We always hear about how West Texas is the middle of nowhere, and it’s super tiny, and there’s not a lot of people here,” she said. “But the people that are here are powerful, and the people that are here can make change together, and we’re tired of being told that we just have to sit here and let the rest of Texas do what it wants to do.”

Editor’s note: Lisa Kettyle is a former employee of Marfa Public Radio.

Travis Bubenik is All Things Considered Host and Big Bend Reporter at Marfa Public Radio.