AUSTIN, Texas—Ten-year-old Samuel Castillo of San Antonio, Texas, usually doesn’t think twice about the clothes he puts on every morning. But Monday was “wear blue day” for pro-life supporters in Texas, so he purposefully donned blue jeans and a blue polo shirt. Even his eyes are blue, he noted with pride: “I was kinda hoping someone would notice that.”
Castillo and his older brother, David, woke up at 3 a.m. that morning to drive to Austin with their family to support a pro-life bill under consideration in both the House and Senate. Sitting on the Capitol steps with blue-and-white signs that read, “Protect Women. Protect Life,” the brothers explained they weren’t there just because their parents dragged them along for the ride.
“I’m here to support this bill 100 percent,” David said. The 12-year-old wore an “Unborn Babies Feel Pain!” sticker and a silver “Precious Feet” lapel pin, made in the exact size and shape of an unborn baby’s feet at 10 weeks after conception. “We’re trying to make abortion as difficult as possible in Texas. God gave us a right to life in the Constitution and the Bible.”
The Castillo brothers were not the only ones using color to give voice to their beliefs in Austin Monday. Texans from both sides of the abortion debate converged at the Capitol to show their true colors. About 2,000 pro-life advocates dressed in all shades of blue gathered to support the omnibus pro-life bill, HB 2, and its companion, SB 1. Opponents wore their signature orange. That evening, the “Stand for Life” rally featured national leaders—including former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Concerned Women for America’s Penny Nance—along with pro-life Texas lawmakers.
Texas has become a flashpoint in the national abortion debate, thanks to a nearly 13-hour filibuster by state Sen. Wendy Davis June 25 that blocked the new restrictions from becoming law. Texas Gov. Rick Perry was forced to call a special session to get the legislation passed. At stake are identical House and Senate bills banning abortion after 20 weeks. The bills also require abortion be performed at ambulatory surgical centers and mandate that abortionists obtain admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. The legislation would close nearly 90 percent of the state’s abortion centers. While opponents call the requirements controlling and unnecessary, rally supporters spoke of protecting the unborn and improving women’s health.
Nance, president of Concerned Women for America (CWA), said pro-abortion advocates who oppose the legislation’s reasonable limits on abortion are unwilling to accept both science and public sentiment. “A baby at 20 weeks gestation has all her organs. … She can respond to her mother’s voice and feel pain,” Nance said, adding that multiple polls prove Texas women “overwhelmingly support” the bill’s ban on late-term abortion.
Inside the Capitol, nearly 500 people registered to testify about the bill before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. Meanwhile, on the Capitol’s south side, activists from both sides began gathering for the 7 p.m. rally hours before it began. Pro-life demonstrators sat on the steps and milled about the lawn, many wearing bright red “LIFE” stickers on blue shirts and holding homemade signs: “A Person’s a Person No Matter How Small;” “1/3 of My Generation Is Missing;” and “Pre-Born Babies Feel Pain! Choose Life.” Other pro-lifers quietly prayed, sang, and chatted, while protestors spread free pamphlets on the grass and hand painted T-shirts reading “Smash Patriarchy” and “You Oppress, We Resist.”
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst addressed the pro-abortion advocates during his rally speech, after noting that under current Texas law, women undergo abortion procedures without proper safety nets. “As Christians, we love you,” Dewhurst told protestors. “As a Texan, I respect your toughness. But as a leader, we’re going to pass this bill.” The statement was met with loud applause and repeated chants of “Pass the bill!” from the pro-life supporters.
Other speeches frequently drew loud outbursts of applause. During her speech, Sen. Donna Campbell said the 80,000 abortions performed annually in Texas are not only morally wrong but “morbidly wrong,” and the state must unify against the abortion industry “cash cow.”
“What will we do?” she prompted the crowd. The supporters called back in unison: “Stand for life!”
By the rally’s official start time, attendance had swelled from scattered groups to a blue sea of tightly packed supporters of all ages—from the elderly in wheelchairs to toddlers in strollers. Missy Martinez, operations coordinator for the largest youth pro-life organization, Students for Life America, addressed young adults specifically in her speech, calling on them to help break the “stronghold” of abortion in their state.
Grace Einkauf, a 20-year-old from Thrall, Texas, attended the rally as a volunteer with CWA. An hour before the rally began, she jogged around with a clipboard collecting signatures on a petition supporting HB 2. “It’s a much bigger issue than just this one law, and that’s why this event is important,” she said. “It’s waking up sleeping dragons in our nation. The sanctity of life is what’s behind this.” Three teens from Springtown, Texas—Bethani Taylor, 15, Maigan Gee, 16, and Landon Mears, 18— drove nearly three hours to Austin with a group from their church. Their pastor encouraged them to attend because even though supporters have full confidence the bill will pass, “the nation is watching us and we can influence them by taking a stand,” Mears said. “Plus, we just want to be a part of something truly significant in the history of our state.”
Various pro-life leaders on the front lines of the debate encouraged the crowd from the stage. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott—who has used a wheelchair since he was 26, when a tree collapsed on him during a jog and left him paralyzed in both legs—told supporters he would “stand for life” with them. When Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar from TLC’s hit television show 19 Kids and Counting took the stage with their eldest son and 3-year-old daughter, Josie, born at only 25 weeks’ gestation, the crowd erupted in cheers. Michelle Duggar said the blood of a modern-day “baby holocaust” would be on America’s hands if Christians failed to pray and legislators backed down on their convictions: “Duty is ours. Results are up to God.”
Huckabee reminded the crowd that the issue for Americans when it comes to human life is not abortion, but that “all of us have been created equally” with the divinely endowed rights historically affirmed by America’s founders. “We are the voice of the weak and vulnerable. Let us stand for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” he said, to thunderous applause.
At the start of the rally, 100 yards away from the pro-life crowd, about 1,000 orange-clad, pro-abortion protestors gathered at the Capitol gate to march through downtown Austin. At the end of the rally, when a team from Austin’s Bannockburn Baptist Church led the crowd in worship, protestors surged toward the stage loudly chanting, “Not the church! Not the state! Women must decide their fate!” For the next 30 minutes, while the band played and pro-life advocates sang, protestors crowded the stage area shouting chants against the music—orange-clad opponents shoulder-to-shoulder with blue-clad supporters, pro-abortion and pro-life signs raised together in the air.
“I look at these protestors and I think of the first time I voted back in 1972, in support of Roe v. Wade,” said Barbara Holliday from Jonestown, Texas, who wore a bright blue shirt and a red “LIFE” sticker. She grew emotional as she looked at the crowd and described how, after 50 million babies have been aborted in the U.S., she realizes that abortion is “just for convenience” and not the safety of women: “My heart is broken, and I’m ashamed I ever supported it. So it’s time to speak up for what’s right. We will keep fighting.”