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Austin 'part of SXSW’s DNA': SXSW condemns Texas abortion ban, commits to staying in city

Organizers for South by Southwest, the long-running festival and conference that takes place in Austin every year to celebrate film, music and tech, said in a statement Thursday that they are “committed to staying” in the Texas capital, in response to calls that the company abandon the state following its passage of SB 8, the most restrictive abortion ban in the country, and SB 1, which limits voting rights.

More: Will Roe v. Wade and the right to abortion be overturned? What would that mean for Texas?

In the statement, SXSW organizers strongly condemned both laws.

“These bills not only negatively impact reproductive freedom and voter rights in Texas, but set a dangerous precedent across the United States,” the statement reads. “The Texas Legislature and Governor Abbott continue to pass punitive legislation while presiding over governmental failures during the last two years that led to the suffering of thousands of Texans.”

However, festival organizers said they do not see these laws as representative of all Texans, especially not of Austinites.

“These grievous bills do not reflect the diversity of Texan voters or the evolving demographic and electoral trends,” they wrote. “And they certainly do not reflect the progressive views held by many in Austin.”

“Austin is part of SXSW’s DNA,” a statement from festival organizers read on Thursday, in response to calls that they leave the state due to recent Texas laws.

Read: Gov. Greg Abbott signs SB 1, the GOP voting bill, into law

SXSW cites economic impact of Texas abortion law

Additionally, organizers said that the city would feel the economic ramifications of SXSW leaving much more than the state would, and that local business owners and creatives would bear the brunt of that damage.

Instead, festival organizers said they plan to fight the laws by supporting activists who are already doing so.

“We are making donations to Planned Parenthood, the Lilith Fund, and Fair Fight, and will be reaching out to these organizations and other activists to give them a platform at the 2022 event,” organizers said. “Additionally, we are looking for more ways that SXSW can make an impact and help change the makeup of Texas politics across the board.”

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SXSW released its statement ahead of the National Women’s March in support of reproductive rights, which is taking place on Oct. 2. Festival organizers said that “a number of our staff will be participating as both representatives of SXSW and concerned citizens.”

“Austin is part of SXSW’s DNA,” the statement said, “and we are committed to staying and fighting alongside the people who have made us who we are.”

This is not the first time SXSW has faced calls to leave Austin due to Texas policy. In 2017, Democratic senators from New Jersey and Nevada penned a letter to festival organizers, calling on them to leave Texas as long as SB 4, a law cracking down on illegal immigration, was law. 

At the time, SXSW co-founder Roland Swenson responded with a statement that said he agreed with criticism of the bill but that “we will stay here and continue to make our event inclusive while fighting for the rights of all.”

SXSW will take place March 11-20, 2022.