Roe v. Wade anniversary march keeps locals engaged with reproductive rights

Calletana Vargas, Sam Salazar and Louise Culbertson lead a group of individuals marching for reproductive rights down Highland Avenue this week. Photo by Mary Cantrell.

MARFA — This week, a group of around 30 individuals turned out for a reproductive rights march down Highland Avenue led by local teenager Louise Culbertson, marking the one-year anniversary of the overturning of Roe v. Wade

Culbertson, 15, held a similar march in Marfa last year, and this summer organized “post-Roe action” marches throughout the state in cities including Houston, Austin, Dallas and El Paso to keep the fight for abortion rights on the forefront, she previously told The Big Bend Sentinel. 

Angela Pastor and Lisa Kettyle prepare abortion rights and resources pamphlets at a post-Roe reproductive rights march held this week in Marfa. Photo by Mary Cantrell.

Attendees gathered at The Sentinel to hear brief speeches from Culbertson, Marfa resident Calletana Vargas and Big Bend Reproductive Coalition organizer Lisa Kettyle before taking up protest signs and marching to the Presidio County Courthouse. 

“Living in an incredibly red state whilst Roe v. Wade is overturned has distorted my view of my childhood, my town, my fellow Texans, healthcare workers, and how I see this place as my home,” said Culbertson addressing the gathered crowd. “We are witnessing a degradation of our rights, and I don’t feel safe in my home anymore.” 

She went on to share statistics about the healthcare dangers presented by abortion restrictions and bans, and how maternal death rates have climbed in certain states. Vargas then related the ongoing fight for bodily autonomy to broader political issues in America, including border crises and gun violence, and encouraged people to both mobilize for meaningful change and take care of one another. 

“It takes us coming together, building networks and communities that put our well-beings above the capitalistic culture we have been born and raised in,” said Vargas. “Now is the time to come together and take action to tear down these fruitless, patriarchal, colonial, wasteful and fatal ways of thinking and living and come up with healthier, sustainable solutions.” 

Fort Davis resident Dedie Taylor attended a reproductive rights march in Marfa this week to show support for bodily autonomy and safe abortion access. Photo by Mary Cantrell.

Kettyle was the last to address the crowd and spoke about her experience organizing for reproductive rights in the area throughout the past year. 

“As the only reproductive rights and access group in the Big Bend, the Big Bend Reproductive Coalition has heard from a lot of people across the region from Marfa, from Alpine, from Fort Davis, all the way down to Presidio, Terlingua, Marathon and Van Horn,” said Kettyle. “The number one thing people tell us when they tell us they’re pregnant and they want an abortion is that they think they are alone.” 

She said she recognized the reality was grim, but said there were “so many ways to fight,” including contacting elected officials, protesting, volunteering, donating and more. BBRC will soon launch a community needs assessment — a multi-step, months-long bilingual process that will involve a series of town halls, surveys, and door-to-door canvassing across the region to discover what Big Bend residents need from a reproductive healthcare organization, helping inform their mission moving forward. Kettyle said anyone interested in participating or helping out with the study can contact the organization. She rounded out her address by thanking attendees and Culbertson for her efforts in organizing the speeches and post-Roe march. 

“I think it’s really important that someone like Louise, who is a teenager, who is of the youth, is being supported by all of you in this march,” said Kettyle. “I think it’s important that the youth know that they are powerful, and they can do a lot to make change.”