Wendy Davis’ Filibuster and Women’s Rights: I Wish Molly Ivins Were Here

Wendy DavisI never expected that my entertainment last night would be watching the Texas State Senate debate Senate Bill 5 – the devastating anti-abortion bill that would decimate women’s access to reproductive health care by closing most abortion clinics in the state and by contending that the use of rape kits is just like an abortion  — on YouTube. Normally at that time of night, I’m madly knitting the baby blanket for my niece’s baby (who will be born at any moment) while I watch a rerun of Star Trek, the New Generation.

But last night I watched as the Texas Republican state senators valiantly battled fairness, democracy, and the rule of law in order to take away the right of women to control their own bodies.

The Democrats in the Texas State Senate were successfully slowing the process so that midnight and the end of the special legislative session would arrive before it could vote on an extreme anti-abortion bill, which Texas Governor Rick Perry is just salivating to sign. State Senator Wendy Davis toiled through 11 hours of a stand-up filibuster before being stopped by Republican false claims.

I watched, my knitting forgotten, as Democrats brought up parliamentary inquiries, as they made point of order after point of order, as they quoted the Texas Senate rule book, as they patiently (and in the case of Democratic State Senator Kirk Watson, very slowly) explained the importance of this bill and why Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis talking about Roe v. Wade or an ultrasound requirement for abortion is germane to the proposed law about abortion. I listened and cheered as State Senator Leticia Van De Putte, who raced back to the state senate from her father’s funeral, took on the male leadership (who seemed totally dependent on a woman parliamentary procedural expert):

“Did the President hear me or did the President hear me and refuse to recognize me?” she asked.

And later, just before midnight, she lamented: “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?”

But the Republican state senators shut down the Democrats anyway (the Texas Republican Senate apparently has ways to “shut that whole thing down”).

I left off watching at 12:06 am after hearing that the Republicans claimed they had passed the bill in time over the steadfast opposition of the Democrats and the boisterous objections of the gallery. I knew the vote had not been finished by midnight – I was watching YouTube, along with almost 175,000 others, as they called the roll and it was after midnight (my computer told me so), but the Republicans seemed unfazed by anything so pedestrian as real time.

I woke up this morning to find that the Republicans couldn’t disappear the time stamp documented by screen grabs, proving that, for now, we have a win and that the Texas GOP was unable to stop the filibustering powerhouse Davis. Yes, the governor will probably call another special session, and yes this rights-killing bill will probably pass eventually. But for now I’m going to savor the happy ending that didn’t come from a Star Trek rerun.

If only Molly Ivins were here to write this up….

Marti Teitelbaum lives in the Washington, D.C. area. She is the mother of two high-energy girls (a twenty-something future radical social worker and a finally full teen 13-year-old!) and is married to a psychiatrist who devotes half his work life to a child mental health clinic. For almost 20 years, Marti used her degree in public health to work for the Children’s Defense Fund, producing most of their numbers on children’s health, disability, health insurance, Medicaid, and immunization. She has always been a political junkie and a fiber-holic and now, for the first time in her life, has the time to indulge in both of these addictions. Politics and weaving have a lot in common: both take a lot of thought and preparation and both have a lot of complicated entanglements. But the difference is that weaving calms the soul and produces something useful and potentially beautiful. Politics doesn’t.

Image via wendydavisforsenate.com/Ralph Lauer

  • If this had been a health bill on any other women’s procedure—mammograms, pap smears, prenatal exams—clinic standards for women’s health and safety would be welcomed, demanded even. Absence of such women’s health and safety laws is often cited as an illustration of continued discrimination against women. But this is abortion. Abortion is different. The message from pro-choice women is to never regulate it.

    After the horror of Gosnell, people asked how this could happen. Because abortion regulation of any sort is out of bounds and so the clinic wasn’t inspected in 17 years. After that news, a 20 week cap–long by European standards–and surgical clinic standards is too much? Given the massive vascular structure that is the uterus and placenta, if complications arise, a woman can bleed out quickly. Any woman who has lost a second trimester baby can attest, there is a lot of blood. Sites describing Dilation and Evacuation, the most common second trimester abortion procedure, warn women to expect bleeding for 2 weeks post procedure–and that’s with the vacuuming and scraping.

    Requiring a nearby hospital isn’t some crazy scheme to hurt women, but a provision to protect them. “Safe, legal, and rare” is apparently just a slogan.

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