On Sept. 29, Austin Woman attended Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas’ annual fundraising event, A Night Under The Stars.
By Anne Cox, Photos by Bryant Hill
On Sept. 29, Austin Woman was honored to attend Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas’ annual fundraising event, A Night Under The Stars. Held at The Long Center for the Performing Arts, the event raised over $935,000 toward the many services that Planned Parenthood offers to help women and others receive the care they need.
Per the event’s official website, these funds will “help meet the skyrocketing demand for birth control and emergency contraception, while also allowing us to continue to provide life-saving breast and cervical cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment, PREP and PEP HIV prevention medication, gender-affirming hormone therapy and other essential sexual and reproductive healthcare for all Texans, no matter their insurance, documentation status or who they love.”
The feeling of community was apparent almost immediately after arriving. This has been one of the most difficult years for abortion-rights activists, with the Supreme Court making the landmark decision to overturn Roe V. Wade earlier this summer. The Austin-based Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas branch has been significantly impacted since the six-week abortion ban went into effect in December 2021.
Still, even with the forethought of harder days ahead, the energy within the crowd felt hopeful.
Hope Despite Hardship
Dinner was served out of a line of food trucks considered to be Austin staples. Vendors wore denim jackets emblemed with a uterus-shaped snake with the phrase “Don’t Tread On Me” underneath it. There was also a spin-a-wheel game where players could answer reproductive health questions in exchange for small prizes. With an “Austin Chic” dress code, attendees were seen in anything ranging from cowboy boots to formal gowns splattered with blood and the words “Respect freedom” written across the front.
Following a performance by the local band Ley Line, former Texas Senator and founder of Deeds of Not Words Wendy Davis took the stage with a few words of encouragement. “We’ve got to keep our belief and the possibility of a better world.”
Davis is famously known for her 13-hour filibuster that successfully stalled a bill that would enact highly restrictive abortion regulations in 2013. Since then, she has continued her activism and remained a voice in the pro-choice movement. Most recently, she sued the state of Texas for SB-8 (which states that any individual or organization who aids in a person obtaining an abortion should receive legal penalties).
“Hope is not blind optimism,” she continued. “Hope is that thing inside us that insists despite all evidence to the contrary that something better awaits us if we have the courage to wait for it and fight for it.”
Marcia Levy & Her Daughters
Former Austin Woman cover woman Marcia Levy and her two daughters, Beth Levy Cohen and Sara Levy Sherizen, were the co-chairs of this year’s event.
Marcia is the co-founder of the Seton Breast Care Center and an advocate for women’s rights in the health care space. She began her speech by taking audience members back in time with her. When the precedent of Roe V. Wade was originally established, she was still a graduate student.
“I rallied and fought for a woman’s right to choose,” she said. “While it was a huge victory, more importantly, it was the right decision.
“As we gather here tonight, I am angry. Outraged on behalf of my daughters, my granddaughter and all women. But I want to remind you we have the power to right this wrong. Working together, pooling our resources, our talents, our voices and our utter determination, and by asserting ourselves at the ballot box we are unstoppable.”
Marcia’s daughters, Sara and Beth, went on to tell personal anecdotes about their relationship with Planned Parenthood. They detailed how the criminalization of abortion affects not only accidental and unwanted pregnancies, but wanted pregnancies as well.
“I stand before you tonight as a woman on a fertility journey,” Sara said. “When Roe was overturned, my journey became more complex. I experienced a miscarriage this past winter, and I worried about when I could get pregnant again. That was my biggest worry. Today, I fear not only losing another pregnancy, but I also fear living in a state that doesn’t offer complete health care for women in my shoes who might have a complication in their pregnancies.”
Because that’s what we do in Texas!
The final speaker of the night was Olivia Julianna, the 19-year-old leader of Gen-Z for Change making powerful moves in the fight for reproductive health care in Texas.
Julianna gained significant recognition for her activism earlier this year. She took what was originally a sexist, fat-shaming comment from Florida Representative Matt Gaetz and turned it into a campaign to raise over $2 million in donations to abortion funds across the country. She recently filmed her first TED Talk, “Why Texas is Worth Fighting For,” which will be available online soon.
Julianna gives a voice to younger activists. “We are demanding that we be a part of this conversation…not just to move our state forward but to protect one another. Because that is what we do here in Texas.
“I am so damn proud to be a born and raised Texas woman,” she continued. “I know that we will do right by each other come this November.”
The night ended with a performance from singer, guitarist and Austin star Jackie Venson.
There’s still time for you to donate on the Planned Parenthood website. You can also visit the Planned Parenthood website for more information on the organization and next year’s event.