When Nancy Thompson, 52, drove to the Texas State Capitol building on August 6, 2021, she only had one thing on her mind: her children.
The mother of three had recently been in the hospital with her son, who was battling a virus that impacted his organs. Doctors told Thompson that his recovery would take several weeks and that, due to COVID-19, she should take extra precautions to keep him healthy. Unfortunately, Gov. Greg Abbott removed the mask mandates from schools that same week.
“They really wanted me to consider making sure that he was masked or keeping him from school while he was so ill,” Thompson tells Yahoo Life. “I was so concerned about the fact that they got rid of the mask mandates in school, and I was worried that my son was going to get ill and possibly pass away.”
She added, “I couldn't sleep, and I decided I'm going go protest down at the Capitol because I was just done. I'd had enough.”
Holding a sign that read "Mothers Against Greg Abbott" (only realizing later that the acronym was MAGA), Thompson stood proudly in protest of the governor, whom she calls "Pro-COVID and anti-children." She posted of photo of herself on Twitter, and that moment of activism quickly inspired a movement.
“I didn't expect the photograph that I took of myself to go viral, and it did,” says Thompson, of Austin, who works in the tech industry. “At first I was thinking I was alone, but it turns out that there were tens of us, and then there were hundreds of us, and then there were thousands of us. Now there's tens of thousands of us."
One year later, the Mothers Against Greg Abbott Facebook group has more than 53,000 members who are united across party lines to vote Abbott out of office in November — something the group is particularly passionate about, as, since the last election, Texas Republicans passed a bill that restricted access to voting for some residents, disproportionately impacting poor people and communities of color.
“Texas is number one in business, it's at the bottom of every other issue that is important to Texas families," says Thompson. "I think we could be doing better. So in order to vote for change we need people to go out, register to vote, actually make a plan to vote, and vote for change for Texas. And this year that means voting for Democrats.”
In order to reach more voters before November, Mothers Against Greg Abbott has released several campaign ads to connect with Texans. The first, "Breaking Bread," features friends and family members reuniting after being divided by politics. The second ad, "Nothing Changes," shows mothers from all different backgrounds speaking out about the changes they want to see in Texas politics.
One mother in the ad stands alongside her transgender child — part of a community that has been relentlessly targeted by Texas Republicans considering that in 2021, more than 40 bills were proposed that would have impacted trans and nonbinary youth in the state. These bills attempted to ban trans kids from playing sports and classify gender-affirming treatments as child abuse. “The way he's encouraging the families to be turned into CPS that seek gender affirming care. That's just wrong,” says Thompson. “He's creating a fascist state where Texans are turning on other Texans.”
Another powerful ad, "Whose Choice," was released in July after Roe v. Wade was overturned. It challenges Abbott's decision to make most abortions illegal in the state.
“He took away women's rights to choose what they do with their own bodies. The fear that it's created, where neighbors can tell on other neighbors if someone has an abortion, he put a bounty on women and that is just one way to turn Texans against one another," says Thompson. "It's just a horrible way to live. It's a horrible way to govern."
“I've never experienced a government actively seeking to hurt other Texans like I have under Greg Abbott,” Thompson adds.
The political ads are a collaboration with Michelle Mower, a filmmaker who reached out to Thompson and offered to help get the message out. Mower connected Mothers Against Greg Abbott with 40 filmmakers from Texas, California and New York to collaborate on the scripts and video shoots. Thompson says the actors, cinematographers and producers all work together, most on a volunteer basis, to complete the ads.
“We need to recreate our approach to messaging,” she says. “So it's just our group taking the bull by the horns and saying, 'Okay, this is what we wanna see. This is how we wanna fight.'”
Their latest video First Day of School, takes an emotional look at the stress parents have in preparing their children to go back to school, just months after the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, which claimed the lives of 21 victims.
“I mean, every single day we've been asking Governor Abbott for common sense gun laws, and he keeps on turning us down. Even the parents in Uvalde — they put together a petition and they've tried to talk to him numerous times asking for common sense gun laws and over and over again he has turned parents down. He's turned children down. He's turned Texans down, and that’s just not acceptable," says Thompson.
As election season approaches, the political polling site FiveThirtyEight has Governor Abbott leading Democratic opponent Beto O’Rourke by about 9 points. Some polls have the margin narrowing to 7 points, which means the Gubernatorial race will be closely watched until November.
In the meantime, Thompson remains laser focused on connecting with other Texas mothers to create a brighter future for their children.
"I'm really hoping that all women across Texas, regardless of your political affiliation, if you want change in Texas, come and vote for Democrats. You don't have to vote the same as your husband or as your grandfather or as your father or as your uncle or as your boyfriend," says Thompson.
"It's really important that women team up with other women and that we work with our allies to rise up and say that we've had enough."
—Video produced by Jacquie Cosgrove
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