I’m Not Leaving My Red State of Texas After Roe Overturned
MYour San Antonio home office is filled with sunshine. The outside world is witness to a young roadrunner racing through the dirt and buffelgrass in the lot. My parents call it another scorcher. They were born in Laredo. I grew up there. The Rio Grande crosses into Mexico. It’s where three generations of South Texans migrated. Some long-ago family members must have looked back at their children to decide that the U.S. is a better place, more secure and less expensive.
I call the U.S. my home. Texas is my home. They both break my heart.
On May 19, 2021, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed SB8, a draconian law banning abortion after six weeks (before most people even know they’re pregnant) and turning private citizens into bounty hunters by authorizing them to sue abortion facilitators or providers. Abbott signed SB4 (a law banning medication abortion after seven week and making it illegal to mail any abortion pills anywhere in Texas) on September 17, 2021.
You have 30 days to comply with the Supreme Court June 24 decision. Roe V. WadeThirteen trigger-law states including Texas will implement complete or close-total prohibitions on abortion. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton didn’t waste any time, quickly issuing an advisory saying that abortion providers could be criminally liable for violating pre-Roe statutes. “I will work tirelessly to ensure our laws are fully enforced and Life is protected in Texas,” he tweeted.Then he closed his officeJune 24 is declared an annual holiday.
A month ago, the Supreme Court devalued our lives and stripped millions of bodily autonomy. On September 18, an 18-year old gunman attacked and murdered 19 elementary students from Uvalde. The town is about an hour away from my house. On that fateful day, three of my friends and their 9-year old daughters were killed.
“Lost”—a thing you say about keys, your page in a book, your way. You are not your children being torn apart using a weapon in war. Your full humanity, not your fundamental rights.
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Days after the Uvalde massacre—let the horror of that word settle: a massacre, of children—the NRA held a convention in Houston as planned. There, Senator Ted Cruz said attempting to restrict gun access wouldn’t work, unlike, apparently, restricting abortion access. The hypocrisy of Texas lawmakers is enough to disintegrate any trust in public institutions, any belief that democracy isn’t for sale.
I can already hear the comeback, flung out smugly by progressives in blue states: “Just move!” They said it in February 2021, when the electrical grid in Texas failed and people froze in their homes. It was repeated a year later when Abbott sent a letter to Texas’ state health agencies declaring that providing gender-affirming treatment to trans children is child abuse and parents should report such requests to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. After six weeks of ban on abortion, the group said it, then they repeated it in Uvalde after children had been killed.
If you ask people to quit their homes to escape dangerous, discriminatory laws, you’re ignoring that only those with enormous privilege CanIt is possible to move around and the laws that affect those in need of protection are most harmful. You’re assuming there are no ties that bind tightly enough to keep a progressive person, with and without privilege, in a red state—and you’re wrong.
May Cobb was an author who moved with her husband to California, August 2020. She and their eight-year old son are severe autistic. He’d been receiving full-time applied behavior analysis therapy in Texas, but California’s nonpublic school system for kids with autism seemed promising. They arrived at the same time that COVID-19 was spreading in communities, making it impossible to attend school in person. Their son went on a downward spiral over the next two-months.
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The school finally reopened. However, it did not help their son. They soon realized that they needed much more than what a typical classroom setting could provide. There were only a handful private ABA providers in their area, compared to dozens in Austin, and their insurance company denied coverage because their son didn’t have a recent diagnosis. Cobb, Cobb’s wife brought her son home to Texas five months later in desperate search of a new center. Each week, he receives 40 hours worth of one-on-1 services.
“Coming back was monumentally life-changing,” Cobb says. “It recovered him from the depths of hell.”
Their son was able to receive the necessary therapeutic support, and they were also able to rent a house at Austin for $1000 less per month than their California-area apartment of 900 square feet. They could be close to family and have easy access to the rivers and hiking trails their son enjoys. “Even if Trump gets reelected,” she says, “it would be very hard for us to leave unless our son is much further along, because his therapy center here is really so much better.”
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Megan Pillow is a writer and Roxane Gay project manager. She moved from Kentucky to middle school and left to study at college. After completing her MFA she returned to Kentucky for a short time. Then, Megan Pillow left to return to Kentucky for ten years before returning with her husband and their children for her PhD.
“I couldn’t do a PhD without childcare help, and my mom and stepdad, who also live here, offered to provide that while I was in school,” Pillow says.
Kentucky, like Texas, is also a trigger state. Roe was overturned, HB 148 went into effect, banning all abortions—including those for rape or incest—except in rare cases when they’d save the mother’s life. “I believe that restricting abortion deprives especially Black and brown Kentucky residents of essential rights and makes their reproductive autonomy more likely to be criminalized in a state where their rights overall have historically been minimized, ignored, or outright abandoned,” says Pillow, who also fiercely opposes several other recently passed laws.
Still, she isn’t going anywhere for the time being. Pillow shares custody with her husband, who lives in Kentucky. “I cannot and will not ever leave my children,” she says. “I also think the people living in blue states and especially in white utopias of all political persuasions are living under an illusion that they are safe. They aren’t. The ramifications of the destruction that this rogue Supreme Court and everyone who supports them are inflicting are monumental, and they’re going to have a ripple effect across this entire country. No one is safe.”
Diana Cejas was raised in North Carolina as a pediatric neurologist. In the D.C. region, she attended medical school, followed by graduate school, before moving to New Orleans, where she completed her pediatric residency. Finally, she went on to Chicago, to finish her pediatric neurology training. But she knew from the beginning that she would love to help children in her hometown. That didn’t change even when North Carolina passed the so-called “bathroom bill” in 2016, preventing transgender people from using the public bathrooms aligned with their gender identity.
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“It’s one example of many egregious, discriminatory bills that North Carolina politicians have passed in recent years,” Cejas says. But, in a now-viral tweet after Roe was overturned, she pointed out that, “Writing off the South means writing off some of the most diverse communities and fierce advocates in the nation and leaving those who will be most harmed [by] these policies behind.”
Cejas is a tireless advocate for increased access to and better care delivery, as well as expanding the social safety net. Cejas works in the health sector, but she has spoken with federal and state representatives. She also teaches medical students about activism within medicine.
“I won’t be moving out of state, because my family is here,” she says. “The farm that I grew up on is here and I want to protect it, and I know that’s a privilege that a lot of Black farming families don’t have. My goal is to support disabled children as well as other children like my own. This place is my home, despite all the challenges. This is my home.”
Even with all the challenges, I am still in love.It’s also a great place. I love the way my toddler laughs when he sees his grandparents, all five teeth on display, his eyes crinkling like mine, like my dad’s, like my grandpa’s. I love the way my 4-year-old and her cousins find “secret hiding spots” whenever they’re together. I love spending time on our family’s ranch just north of Laredo, the kids’ cheeks flushed with heat as they drop food in the dam for the catfish that roil the murky water. When we visit Laredo I enjoy hearing Spanish just as much as English. It’s amazing how deeply rooted our Mexican heritage in South Texas is. My husband and I enjoy backroad motorcycle rides, Hill Country wineries and Christmas morning tamales. Within the easy, dismissive label of every “red state,” there are things—and people—worth fighting for.
Stop telling us that we have to move to be able to enjoy the same rights as people living in blue states. In the South heavily gerrymandered, only the most disadvantaged of us are considered to be the majority. There may be a day when it becomes impossible to stay, and the dangers looming over the lives of our loved ones, the children we love, are too frightening to bear. With great sorrow and care, those who are able to go will dig up their roots and search for new fertile soil. Don’t tell us to stop moving.
Begin asking for help.
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