Thanks to the bravery of Texas senator Wendy Davis, the Texas democrats, and hundreds of Texans in attendance at the capitol yesterday, Senate Bill 5––a bill that would have legislated widespread restrictions to abortion access––is dead. Secular Woman applauds this brave stand by Davis, whose filibuster last night that made national news and quickly garnered massive support on social media (including a tweet linking to the livestream from President Obama, using the hashtag #StandWithWendy.).
Though Texas lieutenant governor David Dewhurst suspended the filibuster at 10 p.m. last night, claiming Davis digressed from the topic at hand with her discussion of mandatory ultrasounds, the Democrats appealed the decision immediately, and the already-inspired crowd became even more animated.
Spectators filled the chamber gallery, chanting “Let her speak” for several minutes after the filibuster was suspended. The Austin Statesman reported that the senate struggled to vote on the bill “over the sustained and screaming protests from spectators in the gallery,” especially when Republicans motioned to call off all debate. Senators tried to vote on the bill, but the crowd continued its protests, exploding into cheers when State Sen. Leticia Van De Putte, challenging the ruling against Davis, asked, "At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?” The "people's filibuster" delayed the vote until the clock ran out on the session, the Statesman reported this morning; Secular Woman donated to RH Reality Check’s call for funds to help provide food for the protestors. Lt. Gov. Dewhurst expressed his frustration to the Statesman, remarking, "An unruly mob, using Occupy Wall Street tactics, disrupted the Senate from protecting unborn babies.” If the “tactic” he is referring to is democracy, he couldn’t be more correct.
Monday night, Davis tweeted, "The leadership may not want to listen to TX women, but they will have to listen to me. I intend to filibuster this bill. #SB5 #txlege" Beginning at 11:18 a.m. on Tuesday, and sporting pink tennis shoes, Davis began an eleven-hour filibuster against a bill that would have closed all but five of the state's abortion clinics, prohibited abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, forced clinics to upgrade to ambulatory surgical centers, and restricted access to medication abortions, reported the Huffington Post. The bill also would have required any doctor at a clinic to obtain admitting rights at a local hospital, reporter Ben Philpott told NPR. “In rural Texas… you don’t have a hospital within 30 miles of some of these clinics, let alone one that would then be able to give you admitting privileges.” While Republicans argued that the bill would help ensure women’s safety, it would effectively have shut down all but a handful of clinics in the state.
Secular Woman supports every person's right to bodily and sexual autonomy and opposes all attempts to criminalize or limit access to comprehensive reproductive services such as contraception and abortion. Our @AbortTheocracy campaign, which covered the session proceedings until the wee hours via Twitter, is specifically focused on the intersection of religious power and women's bodily autonomy and sovereignty and dedicated to terminating that connection by opposing religious influence in government. We stand with Wendy Davis and applaud her activism to protect women’s health in Texas. “Women are entitled to full and complete ownership of their bodies,” says Secular Woman President Kim Rippere.
The connection between full bodily autonomy and religious influence in government must be terminated so that women are free, empowered, and in control of their lives and their futures.
Davis began her filibuster by accusing the GOP of "a raw abuse of power," citing their decision to allow the bill to be debated without the required two-thirds support and accusing them of placing a political agenda over the well-being of Texans. “The reality of this bill is not to make women safer … it’s to force the closure of facilities across the state of Texas that would provide proper care to women,” Davis said. “The actions intended by our state’s leaders hurt Texas; they hurt Texas women and their families.”
Texas rules for a filibuster prohibit leaning on one's desk, pausing, or straying off subject; warnings work on a three-strike system, reports NPR. Davis took no bathroom breaks, spoke with no food or water, and wore a back brace to avoid needing to lean. At one point Republican Sen. Tommy Williams attempted to have her filibuster suspended because of the back brace. Democratic Senator Kirk Watson expressed support for Davis's filibuster, telling the Statesman,
There’s an assault on women in this state and this legislation is a prime example of that. It’s important that a woman who’s the mother of two daughters will be the one standing. We will all be there providing assistance and help.
Though The Texas Legislative Service originally listed SB5 as having passed on “6-26-13,” the listing was changed shortly after 1 a.m. to reflect passage before midnight; at 3 a.m., Dewhurst announced that although the bill passed on a 19-to-10 vote, it was dead.
“Today was democracy in action,” Davis told her crowd of supporters last night. “You all are the voices we were speaking for from the floor.” In response to Lt. Gov. Dewhurst’s “unruly mob” remark, Davis retorted, “I think that’s a disservice to the people who were here. The people who were here were justifiably upset about an attempt to infringe upon a constitutional right they hold dear, primarily one that would have an impact on women but also on the men who love them.”