Women and men in the Houston restaurant industry are speaking out against the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the historic decision which provided women with the right to an abortion. Feelings of anger and sadness are common in the wake of the 6-to-3 ruling, handed down on Friday, June 24.
“It’s a sickening feeling to think that I don’t have control over my own body in this state where I grew up,” Mary Ellen Angel, owner of downtown charity bar Angel Share, tells CultureMap. “Can I even live here anymore? It’s jarring to think these people I’ve never met have so much control over my uterus.”
Feges BBQ co-owner Erin Smith expressed a similar sentiment. “It’s a giant punch to the gut. The wind has been taken out of me,” she says.
“It makes me scared for what the future of this country holds, to be honest,” Mary Clarkson, owner of Avondale Food & Wine and a regular guest on CultureMap’s What’s Eric Eating podcast says. “A lot of women in our industry don’t have affordable access to healthcare. I’m at a loss for words when I think about this decision.”
The biggest concern for many is the loss of bodily autonomy reflected in the ruling. “This is not pro-life,” Sasha Grumman, a contestant on Top Chef Season 18 and the owner of Sasha’s Focaccia says. “This is protecting life at the expense of another life. A zygote is more important than my 34-year old, living, breathing body.”
Men are speaking out, too.
“I’m furious because the Supreme Court decision has effectively made women second-class citizens in our state,” Brasil chef AJ Ede says. “I’m speaking out against the overturning of Roe v. Wade not just because I have a wife and sisters. I’m speaking out because all women should have agency over their own bodies and reproductive health.
“I’m speaking out because women and their children will be forced to stay in abusive relationships and dangerous environments if they cannot access abortions. Most importantly, I’m speaking out because abortions will not stop, they will just go underground, and women will die without access to professional, regulated care.”
Even though the day has been difficult, people are already starting to think about the future. For some, that means trying to persuade opponents to rethink their views on abortion. For others, it means raising money or going to the ballot box.
Smith notes that many people she speaks to don’t realize the realities of abortion. She cites a range of statistics that include declining rates, a high percentage of procedures performed for women who already have at least one child, and that as many as 11 percent are for women aged 35-39. “I’m not going to question someone’s beliefs, but I want people to understand exactly what they’re talking about — informed beliefs based on facts,” she says.
Angel’s downtown bar donates a portion of its profits to a different charity every month. She chooses up to four candidates, and a winner is selected by the bar’s patrons. As a first step in her response, both the ACLU and Planned Parenthood will be among the potential recipients in July.
Benjy Mason, owner of Heights cocktail bar Johnny’s Gold Brick and a partner in Midtown bar Winnie’s, remains resolved to continue the fight. “At this point, all we can do is regroup and do what we have been doing all along — continue to fight for the rights of all Americans to live their lives free of government oppression.”
In a similar spirit, Grumman calls on those who are upset by the decision to get more active in politics. “I think more than ever we have to stand up and fight this,” she says. “We need people to show up in November. We need to vote these motherf*****s out.”