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Rally to protect sexual assault survivors aimed to create exceptions in Texas ‘heartbeat bill’

Rally to protect sexual assault survivors aimed to create exceptions in Texas ‘heartbeat bill’

Rally to protect sexual assault survivors aimed to create exceptions in Texas ‘heartbeat bill’
July 15
11:00 2021

Content warning: This article contains language and themes surrounding sexual harassment, assault and misconduct that may be triggering. Reader discretion is advised.

A pro-abortion rights rally in support of victims of sexual assault was held on the Denton Square in opposition to the recently passed Texas “heartbeat bill.” 

On May 19, Texas Senate Bill 8, also known as the heartbeat bill, was signed by Gov. Greg Abbott. The bill bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, even in cases of rape or incest. The bill also puts enforcement of the law into the hands of private citizens who can sue abortion providers or those who help someone get an abortion. 

Tara Sachar, University of Redlands student and psychology major, hosted the rally. The event’s goal was to bring attention to victims of sexual assault and incest, and it aimed for attendees to sign a petition to make exceptions for cases of rape and incest. 

“To force someone to give birth to their rapist’s child or an incest child is a lot of trauma to put someone through,” Sachar said. “I don’t want someone to ever go through that trauma.”

The rally, which took place on July 7, was supported by Indivisible Denton, a community action group that focuses on healthcare, voting rights and reproductive justice and nonprofit Speak Our Truth, Inc. It was also backed by members of Denton Vote, Liberal Women’s Action Network and Elf Army of Light. 

“Senate Bill 8 assaults freedoms on many levels,” said Sharon Kremer, retired teacher and Indivisible Denton organizer. “The bill is a step into the dark ages.” 

Delia Parker-Mims, lawyer and speaker at the rally, said Abbott’s claim to want to protect women and children is false. Texas’s maternal mortality rate is above the U.S. average at 18.5 deaths per 100,000 births, according to a 2018 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Parker-Mims said politicians should be addressing the high maternal mortality rate, uninsured children rate and child poverty rates in Texas instead of banning abortions. 

“[Abbott] cares so much about women and children that he won’t pass or expand Medicaid — he won’t make birth control accessible,” Parker-Mims said. “Shame on you, Greg Abbott.” 

At the rally, small merchandise was sold with all proceeds going to Speak Our Truth, Inc., a nonprofit founded by University of Texas at Arlington student Delashawn Bordeaux that provides education about sexual abuse and hosts sexual abuse peer support groups. As a survivor of sexual abuse, Bordeaux said supporting victims is near and dear to her heart. 

“I don’t agree with taking the rights from women, for one, but then to not include victims of incest or sexual abuse is another thing,” Bordeaux said. “We want our voices to be heard.” 

On the other side of the square, a counter-protest was organized by North Central Texas College student Arianne Vanderstuyf, 19. It was supported by members of Students for Life, Save the One, Texas for Life and other anti-abortion organizations. 

“I am in support of [the heartbeat bill],” Vanderstuyf said. “I am very glad the state of Texas is making pro-life laws.” 

Texas Senate Bill 8 is unique to other abortion bans as it will not be enforced by state officials, but rather by private citizens. Because of this, groups such as Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, who would usually sue the state to stop a restrictive law, cannot sue them. 

The bill goes into effect on September 1. Before then, Sachar aims to take her petition to create an exception in the law for victims of sexual assault and incest to Abbott.  

“You can’t stop abortions — you can only stop legal abortions,” Sachar said. “Women are going to do it one way or the other.”

Featured Image: UNT Alumna Keri Caruthers wears a pro-abortion shirt and holds a “my body, my choice sign” at the pro-choice rally on July 7, 2021. Image by John Anderson

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Hannah Johnson

Hannah Johnson

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