Texas lawmakers traded barbs on Wednesday in response to a visit to the state Capitol in Austin by a delegation from the reproductive rights organization Planned Parenthood.
According to the Texas Tribune, state Rep. Jonathan Stickland and other Republicans embellished their office name plates with the phrase “Former Fetus,” intended as a jab at Planned Parenthood, who anti-choice activists view with hostility because of the range of reproductive services the nonprofit provides to women, including abortion.
“In honor of their visit, I put this sign up on my office door,” proclaimed Stickland in a Facebook post. “Organizations that murder children are not welcome in my office.”
Other lawmakers, like Republican legislator Charlie Geren, found the signs offensive. Geren took Stickland’s sign down and handed it over to personnel in Stickland’s office, which angered the anti-choice legislator.
“It’s just been ripped down and thrown in my staffer’s face by Charlie Geren,” fumed to the Tribune.
Geren responded that Stickland is overreacting, saying that the doctored signs are a violation of rules instituted by the State Preservation Board.
“Tearing them down is hardly the deal,” Geren said minutes after Stickland took to the social medium Twitter to complain. “If Stickland wants to act like a child, that’s fair, but I did not rip it down.”
Melissa Conway, a spokeswoman for the anti-choice group Texas Right to Life, expressed disappointment that Stickland and other lawmakers were not being allowed to express their distaste for Planned Parenthood and its mission to make reproductive health care accessible to all women.
Conway told the Tribune that she is “saddened by reports of intimidation to remove the signs.”
According to the Tribune, “More than 100 Planned Parenthood supporters attended a rally at the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon. Many had come to lobby state lawmakers to continue funding the state’s breast and cervical cancer screening program for low-income women. The conservative Texas Senate is considering restructuring the program, which last year served about 34,000 women.”
Democratic state Sen. Kirk Watson said at the rally, “I believe we will get to a point where decisions that are made in this building, when it comes to issues of women’s health, will be decisions based upon health, and not based upon politics.”