Why This 20-Year-Old Texan Has Been Standing Outside the Governor’s Mansion All Week


She’s sunburned. She’s exhausted. But Sadie Hernandez, front,  will keep standing till her message is heard — and others are joining her in droves. (Photo: Katy Waters-Cofer / Twitter)

Right now, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has a budget waiting for his approval on his desk that would eliminate the funding that allows Planned Parenthood to provide cancer screenings to low-income women.

Right now, 20-year-old Sadie Hernandez is standing outside the Texas governor’s mansion, as she has daily for the past week, protesting the budget proposal and urging Abbott to meet with her and others who have joined her to let him know that “by targeting women, you’re targeting everybody.”


Hernandez, right, in red, is pictured with Representative Wendy Davis, center, and supporters in front of the governor’s mansion in Austin, Texas. (Photo: Courtesy of Sadie Hernandez)

Here’s the backstory: In a compromise proposed by Texas’s House-Senate in late May, the budget committee decide to remove Planned Parenthood from the state’s program to provide breast and cervical cancer screenings to low-income women, according to the Texas Tribune.

The conference committee is targeting 17 Planned Parenthood clinics; under the proposed budget — which slots all available cancer-screening providers into a three-tiered system — Planned Parenthood and other family-planning clinics that provide screenings would be in the lowest tier and last in line for funding, because they also provide abortions.

“There are many members [of the Texas legislation] that feel very strongly that the facilities that receive funding should not be facilities for performing abortions, so the answer is, don’t perform abortions and you get the money,” Sen. Jane Nelson, right, the state’s chief budget writer, said to the Tribune in January.

However, the Texas Observer reports that women’s health advocates, providers, and Democratic lawmakers have raised concerns about the “collateral damage” to low-income women that would occur if funding was cut from their local clinics. 

That’s where Sadie Hernandez comes in.

Hernandez first became involved with Planned Parenthood after attending a protest against HB2, the Texas law that would force the closure of all but eight abortion clinics in the state.


So when the news broke about a budget proposal that could affect low-income women and their prognosis in the face of cancer, Hernandez told her colleagues: “I’m going to be there every day.” She’s since become a hashtag, with her supporters tweeting out #StandWithSadie.

“They’re trying to politicize something that shouldn’t be politicized,” Hernandez tells Yahoo Health, regarding the budget proposal and the way it jeopardizes the lives of women in need of cancer screenings. “Cancer affects everybody, and they’re trying to take away access. They’re leaving women on the outside.”


And while the Texas heat has left Hernandez sunburned and exhausted as she continues to wait day after day for Abbott, she says, “My sunburn and my struggle is nothing like what women have to go through when they get cancer. And what women who can’t afford health care have to go through when they find out if they have cancer. And if the budget passes, these women will have to drive hundreds of miles to go get a screening. All their problems will just explode. I’m out there every day protesting for the women who can’t. I want to give a voice to women usually without a voice.”


Hernandez is concerned that, should the budget pass, “there might not be a place for [low-income women and women of color] to go at all” for these critical cancer screenings.

She shares with Yahoo Health that her sister’s boyfriend’s mother recently found a lump in her breast. She is an uninsured single mother working multiple jobs to make ends meet and, in looking for a place to go get a screening to evaluate her lump, she found that other than Planned Parenthood, there are only two women’s health centers available to women in her situation — each with a three-month wait for an appointment.


“If you take away Planned Parenthood [as a place for cancer screenings], [all low-income women] get thrown into two clinics — and a three-month waiting period that is already outrageous” will only get longer, forcing women into a position where they must “let their cancer spread until it becomes fatal” before they can even see a physician, she says.


Hernandez is from Brownsville, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley, an area of the state with high levels of poverty where many lack health insurance. Now Hernandez about to head up her own Planned Parenthood Leadership and Advocacy Council in Brownsville, where she hopes to “destigmatize a lot of things.” She says that “even the topic of comprehensive, age-appropriate sex ed” is taboo in her low-income Catholic community. “I want to teach the community that everything is a cycle. If you don’t want unwanted pregnancies, if you don’t want our community to have unintentional teen pregnancies, then you need to start young” with education about safe sex and birth control.

Speaking about Wednesday’s ruling by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that has upheld HB2, the anti-abortion law that sparked Hernandez’s interest in advocacy, Hernandez says, “The HB2 ruling and [the budget proposal and other proposed state laws] — these are attacks on women’s health care in Texas.” By planning to reduce access, Hernandez says, the courts and state legislators are failing to realize “that these are human lives at stake.”

Related: Should a Women Ever Need a Man’s OK to Get an Abortion? 

“They’re trying to interfere with our individual liberties, our personal lives, and our personal decisions,” she adds. “They talk about the importance of individual liberties, but are interfering with our human right to have accessible health care because of conflicting views” about reproductive rights.

“These constituents, these women — to them, they’re just data,” Hernandez says. “But these women have families and jobs to do. They are mothers, friends. They’re human beings with lives.” Continuing to legislate against women’s ability to make their own health care decisions is telling women to let “their health go to waste and degenerate until they die,” she says.

And should Hernandez get a chance to speak with Abbott himself?

“I want to let the governor know that he has the lives of thousands of Texas women in his hands,” she says. “The budget may be a piece of paper, but it represents so many people.”

Read This Next: Birth Control Pills a Step Closer to Being Sold Sans Prescription 

Let’s keep in touch! Follow Yahoo Health on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. Have a personal health story to share? We want to hear it. Tell us at YHTrueStories@yahoo.com.