Jan 29, 2023

Six Months Post-Roe, Activists at Texas Rally for Life Vow to Continue Fight

Reporting Texas


Anti-abortion demonstrators wait to hear Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speak at the Texas Rally for Life on Saturday. Maya Wray/Reporting Texas

College Station resident Sarah Spellman has been attending anti-abortion rallies since she was ten years old. This year, Spellman, her husband and their four children carried signs with the slogan “Baby Lives Matter,” at The Texas Capitol during the Texas Rally for Life on Jan 28. 

“I feel like we have made a little progress but the battle isn’t over to save these lives,” Sarah Spellman said.

Sarah Spellman holds her son outside the Texas Capitol during the Texas Rally for Life which was the first time the event was held since Roe v. Wade was overturned. Maya Wray/Reporting Texas

Spellman, like several of the hundreds of rally attendees, told Reporting Texas that even though the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade — the 1973 case that concluded that women have a constitutional right to abortion — it is vital that advocates in Texas continue to fight abortion providers and assure that the state remains a leader in the anti-abortion movement. 

Several attendees also said that the end of Roe v. Wade has further entrenched an increasingly hostile fight over the abortion issue. 

While abortion opponents have celebrated the end of Roe, pro-choice advocates call the ruling an infringement on a women’s right to healthcare. The United Nations noted that “access to legal abortion is essential health care and pivotal to women’s enjoyment of a full spectrum of human rights and must be taken out of the realm of partisan politics.”

A dog wearing an anti-abortion sign stands with its owners before the rally begins. Maya Wray/Reporting Texas

With state legislatures now in control of determining abortion laws in individual states, nearly two dozen states have passed near-total bans on abortion. 

Texas has banned abortions in almost all cases, including rape and incest.

Angelica Park, a prominent pro-life activist and student at  Baylor University, sang America the Beautiful at the rally. Park also sang the national anthem in Washington D.C at the March for Life in 2020 before an address by former President Donald Trump

Park said she has heard cases of anti-abortion advocates receiving death threats for their pro-life beliefs on social media. Parents and friends have also reached out to her to thank her for speaking up for young people in the anti-abortion movement, she added. Park urged advocates to continue to fight.

“Being aware of what the movement is turning into which is local, not national. It’s up to you. You can’t blame it on the president or the government, it’s up to you now to be aware of the abortion industry and activate against it,” Park said.

Mikayla Hope, left, and Abigail Dagosta, who has amassed a large following on social media, say they have experienced hostility and anger because of their anti-abortion posts. Maya Wray/Reporting Texas

Mikayla Hope, 26, drove by herself from Louisiana to attend the rally with her friends in Texas which she met online. Hope described herself as pro-life, vegan, anti- death penalty and anti-euthanasia. 

The fights on her social media feeds over abortion have gotten out of control, Hope said.

“My whole Facebook page turned into an absolute war zone, and it stressed me out. There were friends and family that I didn’t think were pro-choice and some unfriended me. It was mostly just anger and hatred,” Hope said. 

Abigail Dagosta, 23, has amassed a large following on social media due to her anti-abortion advocacy. Her TikTok profile reads, “non-partisan, secular, anti-abortion content.” She has garnered over 14 thousand followers and her collection of videos have over 400 thousand likes. At the rally, several people recognized Dagasta and asked for pictures.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott addresses the anti-abortion advocates at the Capitol. Maya Wray/Reporting Texas

Much like her fellow activists, engagement with her TikTok page became aggressive after the U.S. Supreme overturned Roe v. Wade. The hate mostly comes from people who don’t even read the bills, Dagosta said. “The people who are clearly there to insult and don’t want to have a conversation, I disengage,” she said. 

“The fight has just begun. It’s about changing minds and that is through polite conversation and challenging existing ideas and also just representing the different kinds of pro-lifers. A lot of people think you have to be a Republican or very far right leaning but the reality is that we are very diverse,” Dagosta said. 

Becca Andrews is a reproductive rights journalist and author of “No Choice: The Destruction of Roe v. Wade and the Fight to Protect a Fundamental American Right.”In an interview after the rally, Andrews said that overturning Roe was a huge mistake that has had negative repercussions for women around the nation.

“As a person who lives in the South and whose family and community and friends are here it’s been really surreal to have conversations with friends who want to have children and who want to get pregnant and are terrified to do that in this current context,” Andrews said.  

In Texas, residents are divided on how strict abortion laws should be. Almost 50% of Texans believe abortion laws should be less strict, 25% believe they should stay as they are, and 18% believe they need to be more strict, according to a 2022 survey from The Texas Politics Project.

Many of the rally attendees said abortion in any instance is wrong.

Andrew Spellman holds the sign he designed for the rally while his child wears one nearby. Maya Wray/Reporting Texas

Andrew Spellman, husband of Sarah, attended the rally with a holstered gun at his waist.  All abortions should be outlawed, even in cases of rape or incest, he said.

“If you view the abortion debate as one of human rights then you can’t punish the child for the actions of a rapist,” Spellman said. 

A woman leads a child toward the rally which was organized by Texas Alliance for Life. Maya Wray/Reporting Texas

The rally was organized by the Texas Alliance for Life. This is a “celebratory event in one way this year in the light of the fact that Roe never saw its 50th anniversary but it’s also a grieving time,” said Amy O’Donell, communications director of the The Texas Alliance for Life.

“As much as we celebrate the Dobbs decision to overturn Roe, we still have work to do to maintain our gains and to see life valued,” O’Donell said.