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Anti-abortion rally draws large crowd to Texas Capitol

Forty-four years after the Roe v. Wade abortion ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, a large crowd of anti-abortion demonstrators who would like to see it overturned gathered Saturday at the Texas Capitol.

Anti-abortion demonstrators march up Congress Avenue toward the Capitol in Austin for the Texas Rally for Life on Jan. 28, 2017.

Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.

Amid Texas' battle to remove Planned Parenthood from Medicaid, thousands of Texans participated in this year's March for Life. Marchers made their way to Capitol grounds Saturday morning carrying signs calling for the defunding of Planned Parenthood and for overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion across the country 44 years ago this week.

Heather Gardner, a member of Coalition for Life and one of the march’s organizers, said at least 4,000 people marched. Maybe even more, she said, because of “the hype of everything that’s been going on.”

During the march and the rally that followed, organizers and participants said they felt confident about the future of the anti-abortion movement under the new administration — as well as with the policies Texan lawmakers have introduced to restrict abortion across the state. 

Sally Flowers, a participant visiting from Sugar Land, said she hopes President Donald Trump continues establishing policies that "protect life."

"I want him to pick a Supreme Court justice that will overturn Roe v. Wade," Flowers said.

Texas Rally for Life marchers on their way to the Capitol on Jan. 28, 2017.Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

Marchers filed in to Capitol grounds around 2 p.m after assembling several blocks away. State Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, spoke to attendees and celebrated the implementation of the state’s sonogram law, saying it has "saved over 50,000 lives." The Texas law requires doctors to perform a sonogram at least 24 hours before an abortion, display the sonogram images, make the heartbeat audible and provide a verbal explanation of the sonogram results to the woman. Doctors must also describe the medical risks of an abortion and determine the gestational age of the fetus.

The new administration, Cook said, gives him hope for the passage of more anti-abortion policies. In his first week in office Trump reinstated what’s known as the Mexico City policy, which prohibits U.S. agencies from funding organizations that perform or promote abortion services.

"The new administration might prove to be the most pro-life administration," Cook said.

Though U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks on Friday issued a preliminary injunction to prevent Texas from enforcing rules that would require abortion facilities to cremate or bury fetal tissues, many demonstrators remain hopeful the ruling will be overturned and aborted fetuses would be “humanely disposed of.” Mike Ruiz, a marcher from Corpus Christi, said fetal remains shouldn’t be thrown away like “pieces of trash.”

“We came from the earth and it's only right for us to be returned back to the earth,” he said.

Since the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops has offered to provide burial services for free, Gardner said there’s no financial reason for the state to turn down “humane” burial practices for fetal remains. Gardner, who says her group is not so much about making abortion illegal but rather about making it “unthinkable,” also said she expects both the new administration and the Texas government to redirect funds that are being removed from Planned Parenthood and the Mexico City policy to better healthcare for women and children.

“The pro-life movement is certainly pushing hard to hold the new administration to their promises,” she said.

Abortion-rights protesters made an appearance at the rally, offering pamphlets and information to attendants. Gardner said though she expected protesters, she didn’t notice their presence and attributed it to their peaceful demonstration.

Here's a short clip of the marchers from photographer Bob Daemmrich

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Politics Abortion Texas Legislature