‘Shame On You’: 16-Year-Old in Texas Refuses To Be Silent About Her Reproductive Rights

I’m only 16 and I’m not backing down anytime soon. Abortion is essential healthcare and should not be denied to anyone.

An abortion rights rally on the steps of the Texas Capitol on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021, the day the six-week abortion ban went into effect in the state. “Abortion is essential. Abortion is health care,” the group chanted. “Bans off our bodies!” (Roxy Szal)

I am a human. I am a daughter. I am a minor. But most importantly, I am a young woman in Texas whose reproductive rights are under attack.

You have likely heard people across America, especially in Texas, debate abortion laws—but have you heard the viewpoint of a 16-year-old facing a potential future without the protections of Roe v. Wade? A teenager who wakes up terrified of what bills Congress may or may not have passed? 

Bans like S.B. 8, Texas’s near-total abortion ban, are forced onto our bodies, yet very rarely does news coverage provide the perspective of my generation.

To the adult lawmakers who legislate our bodies but refuse to hear our voices and opinions, shame on you. Shame on you for silencing the future. Shame on you for acting entitled because of your age. Shame on you for dismissing us before we can even speak.

I was raised by a single mother who worked tirelessly to provide for us. She taught me to fight for what I believe in and to always stand up to injustice. Because of her, I continue to fight for reproductive rights.

Even though I was judged and belittled when I first called myself a feminist, I didn’t listen when I was told to “stop talking” or to “wait until I grow up” to start asking questions. Instead I took their sexist ideology and made a name for myself. I became a volunteer at an early age and am now a team leader for our community outreach and mobilization program at Planned Parenthood.

I’m only 16 and I’m not backing down anytime soon.

Abortion is essential healthcare and should not be denied to anyone. Texas’s abortion ban is a complete setback and an assault on women’s health.

In 1970—three years before Roe v. Wade guaranteed our constitutional right to abortion in the U.S.—Hawaii became the first state to decriminalize abortion, followed by New York, Alaska and Washington. Fifty years later, our rights are now back on the line. 

To be clear, S.B. 8 will not stop people from having abortions, it will just make it harder and potentially less safe.

As a teenager, I should not have to be afraid of what is going to happen next for my body, what laws are going to be passed or when this war on women will erupt into something even more dangerous. Our rights should not be up for debate, especially by politicians who prioritize their religious beliefs over other people’s humanity. I’ve been told by many people that “God will find me” or they will “pray for me.” I don’t want your God or your prayers—I want my rights back. Feel free to practice your religion and hold your values, but let me have the choice to do what is best for my body.

What is right for you, may not be right for me. What is right for me, may not be right for you. But what is NOT right for either of us is being stripped of the freedom to choose what is right for ourselves.

Anna Gala

Although S.B. 8 is buzzing around the media, it’s not the only law restricting access to reproductive healthcare. In 2021, state politicians introduced more than 600 abortion restrictions and more than 100 became law—the most in any year since Roe was decided. Some of these include targeted restrictions on abortion providers or TRAP laws, which are designed to cut off abortion access by imposing severe, expensive and unnecessary restrictions on health centers.

And there’s more: Since 1976 the Hyde Amendment has blocked Medicaid from covering any expenses related to abortion, even when a patient’s health is at risk. Because of Hyde many people simply cannot afford essential healthcare. 

For all these reasons and more, we need the U.S. Senate to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act and protect abortion access across the country. As your right to reproductive healthcare should not change based on your zip code.

I am a 16-year-old young woman who continues to fight for justice, for liberation of our own bodies and for access to abortion. While I have never had an abortion, the ability to access this essential healthcare should not be taken away from me or any other American. The United States was built on the promise of freedom for all, so what’s different here?

Sign and share Ms.’s relaunched “We Have Had Abortions” petition—whether you yourself have had an abortion, or simply stand in solidarity with those who have—to let the Supreme Court, Congress and the White House know: We will not give up the right to safe, legal, accessible abortion.

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Haley Reyes is a high school student fighting to protect reproductive healthcare in her home state of Texas. She serves as a team leader for a community outreach and mobilization program at Planned Parenthood.