Wendy Davis, New Democratic Hero For Texas and There Are Many More

Texas State Senator Wendy Davis is a new Democratic hero. Last Tuesday, she stood with mike in hand, wearing comfortable hot pink sports shoes, and filibustered for over eleven hours against SB5 until a trumped up third challenge (on the germaineness of her mention of the legislature's 2011 sonogram bill) ended her discourse. (You do know as readers, that all blue colored words and phrases in this post link to news stories and videos? Click on them.)
There are other Texas women who can be considered heroes in the fight to hold on to lawful women's rights in this state.  Returning to the Senate floor from her father's funeral and attempting in vain to be recognized by the chair, State Senator Leticia Van de Putte asked this question close to midnight, "At what point does a female senator need to raise her voice to be heard over the male colleagues in the room?" Her words sent the visitor's gallery into a spat of cheers.
And then there is my long time friend Martha Northington ,who at the end of Wendy's courageous filibuster and shortly after midnight, was lifted from her seat in the Senate gallery, hand cuffed and taken to jail. See this clip: Martha  After watching the video, it looks like this could have happened to any one of us.
All three women were engaged in the democratic process that ran amok on Tuesday night in Austin. And as with the Arab Spring, the filibuster and the late hour chaos on the Senate floor and in the visitor gallery, all played out live in real time on folk's cell phones. As many as 180,000 people throughout the country were live streaming this intimate look at Texas politics in action.
There's been a sea change in the ways that news crests. Apparently the networks, newspapers and cable news didn't feel the need to cover Wendy Davis's filibuster. No, we got coverage of this event with live streams. Over 70,000 folks were watching The Texas Tribune's live coverage, I among them. PBS News Hour headlined 'Social Media Makes Texas Politics a National Affair.' There may be some hope for democracy after all, because if we know what's going on when it's happening, we can better take action, pro or con. Our news is too often dumbed down to entertainment or simply becomes opinion and most folks don't know the difference. It's wonderful, or not, to see events unfold without a filter and then, be able to offer our own response.
Seeing the evening's events streaming live galvanized all the women I know and love. And here is what we know at this moment in time. We fought this fight decades ago, stood with our daughters and sons at the entrance to Planned Parenthood in support of women's reproductive rights. We saw women's reproductive health penned into the law of the land. A 21st century world without choice is earthshaking, to the very core. Young women don't know a world without choice. This confrontation about choice is serious and life changing.
There are new laws already passed or now brewing in Texas and other states with Republican governors all hell bent on undoing decades of women's progress toward equity. Ahead of us are years of litigation. Tens of thousands of Texas women, who because of time and distance and economic circumstances, will be effectively cut off from basic reproductive health care service and their right to choose. So, yes, Wendy Davis's filibuster and the responses on the Senate floor and in the visitor's gallery galvanized us. We are in the fight, for the second time in our lives.
Take a look at Rolling Stone's commentary on the filibuster, the aborted midnight vote (pun?) and the ensuing chaos on the Senate floor and the cheers and shouts from the visitor's gallery. See FOX News coverage of Wendy Davis. No surprise here. See Burnt Orange Report video of Martha's extraction from her seat by beefy Texas Rangers. Absolutely scary.
It's interesting to see how media characterized protesters of SB5, a bill which would severely limit Texas women's right to reproductive health care and to abortions. Martha was described by The Digital Texas  as an 'abortion activist'. Why not 'activist for choice'?  This is about CHOICE. FOX characterized Wendy Davis as a 'leftist woman..isolating herself from her own party in her own state'. That's doubtful. She managed in one evening to galvanize tens of thousands of Texas women and I am sure, thousands of fathers and husbands and brothers. Wendy Davis even has her own song now. 'Wendy Davis Eyes'. Remember Rod Stewart's 'Betty Davis Eyes'?
After that raucous Tuesday night, Governor Rick Perry immediately called another special session of our legislature, beginning Monday, July 1. We are calling our senator's offices, speaking to staff, all trying to ascertain when to be in Austin. For Monday's noon rally hosted by Planned Parenthood and a coalition of reproductive choice groups? For the 2:00 p.m. Senate convening? For the open committee hearings on what will be a brand new bill? Aren't they all tired of talking about it? Will they suspend rules and vote on Monday?
We understand that the opposition - those Texans who want the bill passed - are 'galvanized', just as we are because of the proceedings on Tuesday night. They will be there in force. Do we now owe Texas women our presence in the capitol? Headline on Dallas Observer Blogs? 'The Tea Party Will Use Gandhi-Style Tactics' to Battle Fascist Pro-Choice Mobsters.' I am definitely not fascist and can hardly be described as a mobster. I've read that those in the Senate gallery last Tuesday night were 'out of state agitators' attempting to undermine Texas values. Really.
Passage of this bill will hit poor and young women hard because it will close down all but five clinics in  this huge state (remember that recent and interminable car trip we took across Texas in May?). Most women do not have the time or money to travel hundreds of miles to a family planning clinic, pay for a hotel room for the time between sonogram and procedure, who cannot leave work or who need child care or simply do not have the funds for travel or the procedure. Or maybe, a lot of women don't want an abortion at all. Maybe they simply want a well-woman exam, a PAP smear or contraception. None of this will be available to most Texas women if this bill passes. Only five clinics in this huge state can remain open under the new restrictions. Read the parameters of this bill. Sure, the bill is meant to close off the right to abortion, but it also leaves Texas women without any easy path to general reproductive health care.
So, get on over to Austin. I hear that on Amazon, reviews of Wendy's sports shoes include political opinions such as this, 'When I first began wearing these shoes I thought my reproductive rights were secure.  Turns out, I couldn't have been more wrong.  Luckily these shoes are really great for kicking Republican legislators out of office!'  The reviewer notes that the shoes 'go perfectly with any back brace you may need after a good old fashion filibustering.'
Hey, where did the Republicans of yesteryear go? Presidents, Republican and Democrat, supported the efforts of Planned Parenthood without question. Ford, Reagan, the senior Bush and their wives supported women's reproductive health.  Seems to me that Republicans of this ilk have been shunted aside.
Forty years ago, I voted for a few Republicans, albeit at the state level - think Governor Nelson Rockefeller, NY. I worked for Illinois Senator Charles Percy's campaign the year we lived in Chicago. Those days are long gone. Things have changed in this new century and women's control over their own bodies is being harshly questioned by a different sort of Republican.
Could this confrontation about choice really be about woman's ever rising status and her increasing ability to live life on her own terms? It is because there are now more women than guys in medical and law school? Is it that more women are financially independent these days and need not follow the traditional patriarchal household set up? Is it that young women today have never experienced what it was like not to have a credit card or the ability to buy a home or a car without father or husband's consent? This fight is about some by-gone golden era, when women had little or no control over their bodies and lives. This is what the fight is about.  I mean, lawmakers don't appear to care what happens to a baby after it leaves the womb.
Enough. Get thee all to Austin. Wendy Davis, Letitia Van de Putte, Martha Northington and thousands of other Texas women need us to stay the course.


Kem said…
Hopefully I'll see you amidst the crowd on the Capitol grounds today, as I will be there, too!