Rocio Villalobos: Abortion regulation would disproportionally affect reproductive health clinics for poor women of color
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.
The Texas antiabortion bill has been making headlines recently, especially after Texas Democratic Senator Wendy Davis staged a ten-hour filibuster that killed the bill. But the fight continues with Texas Governor Rick Perry pushing for an antiabortion bill, and the House of Representatives will vote on the bill this week.
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Now joining us to discuss all of this is Rocío Villalobos. She works at the University of Texas at Austin’s Multicultural Engagement Center and volunteers and organizes with local immigrant rights and women rights groups in the Austin area. She also recently testified in front of the House of Representatives there in Texas.
Thank you for joining us, Rocío.
ROCÍO VILLALOBOS, COMMUNITY ORGANIZER: Hi. Thank you for having me.
DESVARIEUX: So, Rocío, my first question is: what exactly is in this bill? And could you describe for our viewers what the consequences would be if the bill was passed?
VILLALOBOS: Sure. One of the things that is in the bill is that it limits the amount of time that women have to get an abortion from 24 weeks to 20 weeks through a pregnancy, during which women can go and get an abortion. It would also reduce the number of clinics that are available for women to receive abortion services in Texas. Right now there are approximately 42 clinics in the state where women can access these services. But based on new provisions in the bill that would require clinics to upgrade their facilities, it would reduce the number down to five clinics in the area. It would also limit the ability of different centers and clinics to dispense the abortion pill [incompr.] something that the women need.
DESVARIEUX: Rocío, who would this impact specifically? What group? What sort of socioeconomic class are we talking about?
VILLALOBOS: Well, we’re seeing that based on the provisions in the bill, the areas that would be most deeply impacted would be in poor areas, rural areas, areas in which there’s only maybe one clinic that serves hundreds or thousands of women. So we’re seeing that the impact of this bill falls along lines of race and class, because some of the areas that will also be most impacted would be along the border. So you have to think about how these closures of the clinics or their failure to provide abortion services in the future would mean that women who live in these areas would have to travel further distances if they were to need to seek an abortion. And the disparities would definitely fall along lines of race and class.
DESVARIEUX: [inaud.] the women who are out there on the front lines, these are–they’re being represented, the women who would be directly affected? Are they the ones protesting in this?
VILLALOBOS: Right now we’ve actually seen a lot of involvement from working-class women, but also white middle-class women who are outraged about the attacks on women’s health care in general. And that’s one of the future steps that the coalition Rise Up Texas really wants to work on, because we recognize that it’s important to have those that will be most affected and deeply impacted by this bill to be able to have their voices heard and to be the ones that are at the forefront of this issue.
DESVARIEUX: Well, this bill is coming up this week, but in North Carolina we actually saw the Senate just recently passed a antiabortion bill as well. Also, in Ohio, the governor signed a new state budget containing antiabortion measures into law. Do you see this as a national trend?
VILLALOBOS: It’s absolutely a national trend, and I think it speaks to the reach of the conservative attack across the board on people’s rights, on women’s rights. And I think that this is going to be a really important moment for women in particular to come together and to get more involved and be more active and to make it clear that we need to stand up for ourselves and that we need to lose some of the fear that we have about speaking out and mobilizing and organizing within our communities.
DESVARIEUX: As you mentioned, women getting organized, are you guys planning anything in the future this week?
VILLALOBOS: We are. We’ve actually been–as a result of everything that’s been happening around abortion rights and attack on women’s access to health care, this coalition called Rise Up Texas came together and is trying to do some work in the Austin and Texas community in order to get women in particular more involved and active and teaching others about what’s going on in order to help them come and testify at the capital. So this weekend we’re planning a series of trainings surrounding the bill, doing some teach-ins, doing some workshops around civil disobedience and direct action, so that we’re prepared in the future if, you know, based on how things happen, we need to be able to plan accordingly and act accordingly.
So what–that’s leading up to the hearing that’s happening on Monday at the Senate. People will get a chance to testify and to state their opposition to the bill. And then after that, I mean, we won’t know the outcome until late Monday evening, probably not until 12 a.m., when the hearings end. But we need to be ready to mobilize and to continue pushing back against these conservative attacks on women’s rights.
DESVARIEUX: Thank you again for joining us, Rocío.
VILLALOBOS: Thank you for having me.
DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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