Three Days in Austin: A Texas Rising Story

This is the latest in a series of blog posts on Texas Rising, the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund’s campaign to uplift the voices of the rising electorate, 18-29 year olds, across the state.

By James Carneiro (writer bio)
TFN Student Activist

They came from every corner of the state.

Some only had to make a quick jaunt over from San Marcos, others had to endure the eight-hour drive from El Paso. Some had been working with the Texas Freedom Network for years, a few of them had only just heard of the organization. They were a cross-section of an increasingly diverse state, representing every race, religion, and sexuality. No matter their differences, these people all had one thing in common: They are young, they are pissed off, and they are most certainly voting.

The 2014 Texas Rising Summer Institute ran from July 31 to Aug. 3, and in that brief time a whole lot got done.

Reproductive justice was an essential component of the institute. Activists gave presentations on combating the cultural stigmas surrounding abortion. Many people who have abortions are degraded as “selfish” and “irresponsible,” making it easier for anti-choice advocates to say abortion is immoral. The activists turned this argument on its head, letting people who had abortions tell their stories. This helps to humanize them and give them a voice they never had in the national conversation. Allowing people to tell their abortion stories is what the 1 in 3 campaign is all about, the activists said, and their stories clearly show why access to safe and legal abortion is a human right.

Holly Doyle, the leader of TFN’s Texas State chapter, gave an incredibly insightful presentation on why reproductive justice matters. Doyle said the legal right to an abortion is meaningless without actual access to one. In order to bring about reproductive justice, we must address structural inequalities rooted in racism and classism, she said.

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Posted in Texas Rising, TFNEF | 1 Comment

Erasing Dolores Huerta from History?


Have you been checking our #ThrowBackTexas page, where we look at what happened when right-wingers on the State Board of Education vandalized social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools four years ago? Even the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute has called the U.S. History standards adopted by the state board back in 2010 a “politicized distortion of history” filled with “misrepresentations at every turn.” Among the changes far-right board members made to the standards was deleting revered labor organizer and civil rights icon Dolores Huerta.

Now the state board is considering new textbooks based on those deeply flawed and heavily politicized curriculum standards. The state board will hold two public hearings on the textbooks this fall and is scheduled to vote on which ones to adopt for Texas public schools in November.

Click here to find out how you can help ensure that Texas students get accurate textbooks that are based on facts and honest scholarship instead of the personal and political agendas of right-wing politicians on the State Board of Education.

And keep an eye on our #ThrowBackTexas page for updates every Thursday.

Posted in Dolores Huerta, social studies adoption (2014), TFNEF | Leave a comment

And This Matters How?

The religious right’s response to the indictments against Gov. Rick Perry has at times been comical. We’re not going to get into the details of the legal case against Gov. Perry itself — it’s not our thing here at TFN, and we’re not a law firm.

What is our thing is monitoring and reporting on the loony things the religious right says and does. Like this tweet from Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, the Mississippi-based hate group that helped organize Gov. Perry’s prayer event in Houston just before he announced his first presidential bid in August 2011.

A few things about this:

1) There was no district attorney indicting anyone in this case. Grand juries, not district attorneys, are the ones tasked with indicting people.

2) There really isn’t a district attorney litigating this case either. What there is, however, is a special prosecutor – appointed by a Republican judge.

3) The special prosecutor in this case is San Antonio lawyer Michael McCrum. And she is actually a he, making it incredibly difficult and therefore unlikely that he is a lesbian.

But in any case, you probably know who Fischer was trying to attack in this mess of a tweet. Whether she is or isn’t a lesbian is irrelevant to most reasonable people. But to extremists like Fischer, that kind of thing matters, as he believes being gay or lesbian should disqualify you from holding ANY public office. A ridiculous claim, for sure, that we may get to at another time in another blog post.

Posted in American Family Association, religious right, Rick Perry, TFNEF | 13 Comments

Former NOM Official’s Message to Texas: ‘I’m Sorry. You’re Not Going to Be Able to Hold Out.’

It will be interesting to see in the coming months and years how many of the individuals now fighting against same-sex marriage begin to moderate their tone, or flat-out change their minds, as they come to terms with what now seems inevitable, and realize they don’t want to be immortalized in history as the people who fought against equality until the bitter end.

While not yet moderating her tone, one high-profile anti-equality figure has at least recognized the reality of the current state of the marriage fight, bluntly telling an audience: “It’s over.”

That figure is Jennifer Roback Morse, a former senior official for the anti-gay group the National Organization for Marriage who served as a spokesperson in favor of California’s unconstitutional ban on same-sex marriage, Proposition 8.

The site Good As You has audio of Morse telling audience (the date and location of her remarks are not specified) that the battle against marriage equality is over and that all 50 states will have equality by 2015.

Morse even took a second to address any Texans in the room:

“If anybody is here from Texas, I’m sorry. You’re not going to be able to hold out.”

A federal judge in San Antonio has already ruled that Texas’ same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott wants a federal appeals court to overturn that decision. But the trend across the country seems to point to Morse’s prediction of 50-state equality ultimately being correct. The only questions are: When? Will state officials embrace equal rights for all? Or will they be dragged kicking and screaming to the right side of history?

Here’s the Good As You audio of Morse:

Posted in LGBT issues, marriage equality, TFNEF | 3 Comments

The Week in Quotes (Aug. 10 – 16)

Here are some of the week’s most notable quotes culled from news reports from across Texas, and beyond.

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Posted in The Week in Quotes | Leave a comment

HERO Won’t Be on the Ballot in November

TFN just sent the following message regarding today’s developments in the effort to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.

Photo By Thomas B. Shea,
for The Houston Chronicle

Today a state district judge set a trial date in January for a lawsuit filed by religious-right groups seeking a public election to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). That court date eliminates the possibility of a November public referendum to repeal the sweeping anti-discrimination measure. You can read more on today’s proceedings here.

The judge’s decision today came after HERO opponents asked the court to put the repeal referendum on the November ballot. The Houston city attorney said earlier this month that those opponents had not properly gathered enough petition signatures to put repeal up for a public vote.

We’ll continue to update you on any developments regarding HERO, and we’ll let you know of any opportunities to get involved to ensure that all Houstonians have equal rights.

Posted in civil and equal rights, Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, LGBT issues, TFNEF | 39 Comments

Talking Points

From today’s TFN News Clips:

“I think everyone here is doing it because we believe in the message and we ultimately want people to be saved. We want people to realize the Bible is trustworthy in matters of history and when it touches science. And because you can trust it in those areas, you can trust it when it comes to how to inherit eternal life.”

– Jason Lisle, an astrophysicist and research director at the Dallas-based Institute for Creation Research, which wants to show that science proves the biblical version of creation.

Stay informed with TFN News Clips, a daily digest of news about politics and the religious right. Subscribe here.

Posted in creationism, TFNEF | 1 Comment

Texas Pays Thousands to ‘Long-Discredited Quack’ to Help Defend Anti-Abortion Law

Today an attorney for plaintiffs seeking to block implementation of the state’s draconian anti-abortion law, last year’s House Bill 2, accused Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office of hiding the full extent of its collaboration with a discredited marriage therapist who insists that abortion causes mental illness. Quorum Report (subscription required) has the story on today’s action in the federal court case in Austin.

Whole Woman’s Health, which at one time provided abortion care at clinics in Austin and South and Southeast Texas, has asked the court to block implementation of HB 2 because it imposes an undue burden on women seeking an abortion. Far-right lawmakers and allied groups have celebrated as the onerous and medically unnecessary requirements in HB 2 have forced many abortion clinics to close in Texas. If HB 2′s final provisions go into effect on September 1, the number of abortion clinics in the entire state will drop to as few as six from a total of 41 in June 2013.

According to Quorum Report, the attorney for Whole Woman’s Health says the state AG has failed to disclose how much Florida therapist Vincent Rue had helped the state in the case against HB 2. The AG’s deception appears to have angered federal District Court Judge Lee Yeakel, who is hearing the case against HB 2. From the Austin Chronicle:

The state also sought to defend as common practice anti-abortion advocate Vincent Rue’s paid consultant work for the Attorney General – including extensive editing and drafting of defendant testimony. But Judge Yeakel slammed the AG’s office, saying the “state effectively tried to hide Rue’s involvement,” and describing the evidence as “very disturbing” in the eyes of the court.

Mother Jones reported on Wednesday that the AG has paid Rue more $42,000 in less than six months to aid its defense of HB 2. The AG did so despite Rue’s poor reputation. From Mother Jones:

(T)o defend its abortion restrictions, Texas brought in Rue, who helped draft, edit, and find citations for the reports its experts witnesses submit to the court. But Rue, who holds a doctorate in family relations from the University of North Carolina School of Home Economics, is an odd choice for the job—”a long-discredited quack,” in the view of one state representative from Wisconsin, where Rue performed similar defense work. Although Rue testified about the harms of abortion in two landmark abortion cases in the early 1990s, the judges in those cases dismissed his testimony as personally biased and lacking expertise. Rue has pushed the medical mainstream to recognize “post-abortive syndrome”—a mental illness that supposedly results from abortion—only to have organizations such as the National Center for Health Statistics pan his research. In 1981, he claimed in a report to the US Senate that “abortion re-escalates the battle between the sexes” and “abortion increases bitterness toward men.”

“He has been really thoroughly discredited by trial courts,” Priscilla Smith, who directs Yale Law School’s reproductive justice studies program, told Mother Jones in June; Smith faced Rue many years ago as a litigator.

This hasn’t stopped Rue from getting regular work as an expert on abortion, although he no longer testifies in court. In the past two years, Republican administrations in four states—Alabama, North Dakota, Texas, and Wisconsin—have paid or promised to pay Rue $192,205.50 in exchange for help defending anti-abortion laws.

Your tax dollars at work, folks.

The law’s final provisions will go into effect September 1 unless Yeakel blocks them.

Posted in abortion, TFNEF | Leave a comment

Undercover Audio Reveals Intimidation Tactics of Anti-Abortion Extremists

An anti-abortion extremist gunned down Dr. George Tiller as the physician attended services at his church in 2009. Dr. Barnett Slepian lost his life after an extremist shot him through a kitchen window at his home in 1998. Another rifle-toting extremist murdered receptionists Shannon Lowney and Lee Ann Nichols and injured five others at their clinics in 1994. Anti-abortion extremists created “wanted” posters of Dr. David Gunn that included his photograph, telephone number and schedule. He was shot to death during an anti-abortion protest in 1993.

These are just a few of the doctors and other workers at abortion clinics who have been the victims of violence — including shootings, stabbings, bombings, arson — over the past two decades. Yet, anti-abortion extremists continue to stalk, intimidate and harass providers, clinic employees and even patients seeking abortion care. Now NARAL Pro-Choice Texas and Progress Texas have released an undercover audio (above) that reveals some of the disturbing tactics those extremists use: identifying and monitoring patients, providers and clinic staff; lining sidewalks outside clinics to dissuade patients from entering clinics; tracking and cataloguing the physical descriptions and car license plates of patients; searching tax records to find locations of new abortion providers. Learn more about the audio here.

Here’s a question to ask every candidate for office in Texas this year: will you stand up to anti-abortion extremists and condemn their dangerous intimidation and harassment tactics?

It’s time to #FightBackTx and tell politicians to stop the attacks on legal, safe abortion care for women in Texas.

Posted in abortion, TFNEF | 2 Comments

The Right’s Contempt for Women

You really have to wonder why some of the leading voices on the right have such a difficult time hiding their contempt for women.

This weekend, for example, the Houston Chronicle reported that Erick Erickson, editor-in-chief of the influential far-right website RedState, admitted he had been wrong when he called First Lady Michelle Obama a “Marxist harpy wife.” But he expressed dismay that his description of state Sen. Wendy Davis, the Democratic nominee for Texas governor, as “Abortion Barbie” might be offensive:

“The phrase was intentional to discredit Wendy Davis, but I never thought about ‘Barbie’ being something that demeaned women. I have an 8-year-old daughter who loves Barbie.”

Oh sure. Equating an accomplished attorney and elected official with a pretty-woman doll known for her remarkable figure, cute outfits and popularity among girls in elementary school? And using that to create a dismissive moniker for someone who opposes government interference in women’s reproductive health care? Gosh, who would be offended by any of that?

Erickson isn’t that stupid, but maybe he thinks everyone else is. In any case, he knows what he said is offensive. The problem is: he also knows that kind of misogynistic rhetoric is red meat for the far-right base.

And RedState’s attacks on Texas women aren’t limited just to Wendy Davis. Last week another post on RedState took aim at Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder of Whole Woman’s Health. Whole Woman’s Health offers abortion care to women but has been closing some of its clinics in Texas after the Legislature passed draconian an anti-abortion bill (House Bill 2) last year. Comparing those clinics to Nazi death camps, writer Steve Berman calls Hagstrom Miller a “monster” and a “witch.” And this:

“If Wendy Davis is, as Erick has so aptly bestowed upon her, ‘Abortion Barbie,’ then Amy Hagstrom Miller … is the High Priestess of the Coven of Death.”

Berman’s piece even repeats the discredited myth, manufactured and promoted by right-wing activists, that opponents of that anti-abortion bill last year brought jars of urine and feces to the Texas Capitol in protest. Berman calls those protesters “deranged.”

That’s how the right views women who think government has no business interfering in the personal decisions they make with their doctors about whether or when to have children.

Posted in abortion, TFNEF | 7 Comments