Hundreds protest what they call a war on women's health. Over the last week and a half Planned Parenthood's Women's Health Express tour has visited 16 cities. Tuesday night's protest was the culmination of that tour. Organizers hoped to send a strong message to the governor's office. Those who support the state's exclusion of Planned Parenthood funding wanted to send a message as well.
11th Street and Congress Avenue was the battleground for the latest war over women's health. Supporters of Planned Parenthood are protesting the Texas law that prohibits tax dollars from funding abortion providers and their affiliates.
"Healthcare providers in the healthcare systems say we need Planned Parenthood," said Cecile Richards, the President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "We are a vital part of the health care system in this state. They simply cannot absorb the demand in the state. A quarter of the women in the state of Texas have no health insurance. If I were Governor Perry I would be a lot more focused on how to expand access to care rather than throwing hundreds of thousands of folks off of basic preventive care in the state."
"For Planned Parenthood to insinuate that any type of healthcare is going away for these women is completely false," said Catherine Frazier, Governor Perry's Press Secretary. "It is still there."
Frazier says that Planned Parenthood only makes up 2% of the women's healthcare providers in Texas. She says there are still more than 2,500 providers in the Women's Health Program that will continue to receive funding.
There were protesters on both sides of the issue lining both sides of 11th Street.
"I think what is ridiculous about it is that Planned Parenthood's abortion services account for maybe 3% of what they do and the rest of it is providing affordable healthcare for women," said Jordan Crow, who supports Planned Parenthood funding.
"They are worried about Pap smears, birth controls and other sorts of health services," said Ashley Granger, who opposes Planned Parenthood funding. "There are so many pregnancy resource centers and women's resource centers around Austin that provide all equal services to that, minus abortion."
Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell attended the rally and proclaimed Tuesday Women's Health Day in Austin. Leffingwell told there will always be differences of opinion in government, but he supports trying to get more and better healthcare for women in Texas.