Texas women stand up to bullying

Texas women stand up to bullying June 26, 2013

Late last night I got caught up in the drama unfolding in Austin, where hundreds of women rallied to stop a state senate vote that would have effectively shut down most of Texas’ abortion providers.

The effort to ram this bill through in a non-emergency “emergency” session of Texas’ legislature led to a very strange week. We heard Republican state legislators explain about “accurate intercourse” and about how “in the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out.” And then we saw more than 700 Texas women sign up to testify against the bill — many of them sharing their personal stories, the kinds of stories supporters of this bill usually deny or ignore or choose not to hear.

With acoustics like this, you’ve gotta sing. (Dallas Morning News photo by Louis DeLuca from linked gallery.)

But the not-emergency session was on a tight schedule, and if lawmakers had allowed every woman who would be harmed by this bill to testify then those hearings might have gone on forever. So hearings were cut short and so were procedural corners and the bill was set for a vote yesterday, the final day of the session.

Sen. Wendy Davis planned to filibuster the bill, but its supporters weren’t worried. Texas’ rules for filibusters are quirky, draconian, and nearly impossible to follow. For Davis’ filibuster to succeed, she would have to speak for 13 straight hours without pausing, sitting, leaning, eating, drinking, going to the bathroom, or addressing anything other than the specific topic of the specific bill in question — with the bill’s supporters allowed to define that as narrowly as they like.

Just consider that for a moment. A single topic, no exceptions, for 13 hours. Speaking aloud for 13 hours straight without wetting your throat. Thirteen hours without a potty break.

Plus, well, Davis is a woman. Supporters of this bill support bills like this one because they believe that women are inherently irresponsible and untrustworthy, requiring legal guidance because they cannot be expected to make correct choices on their own. They tend to underestimate women. And did they ever underestimate Davis.

In the end — after Davis had held the floor for more than 11 straight hours — the only way to silence her was with a bit of procedural Calvinball. When Davis began discussing sonograms, the Republican majority ruled that she had introduced subject matter not “germane” to the bill in question and declared her marathon filibuster over.

Problem is that by that point it was too late. It wasn’t yet midnight — the majority still had time to ram through a vote on the bill — but Davis’ 11-hour ordeal had drawn the eyes of the world to that chamber in Austin. It was a live-stream, YouTube, Twitter sensation. Everybody was watching, and that put a crimp in the original sneak-this-through-while-no-one-is-looking plan. Plus all those people tuning in to watch had heard Davis speaking, sharing more of those stories that the bill’s supporters had been trying so hard not to allow to be heard.

After another hour or so of parliamentary tit-for-tat, it was suddenly 10 minutes to the midnight deadline. That’s when Sen. Leticia Van de Putte set things off in the gallery. Remember all those women who hadn’t been allowed to speak when the hearings were cut short? They spoke. They spoke loud.

Lt. Gov. Dewhurst scrambled to regain order and called a voice vote — at 12:02 a.m. That’s Wednesday morning, after the session had officially ended.

No problem, just tweak the time-stamp. Who’s gonna notice?

Well, everybody, as it turns out. As karoli writes:

There was a YouTube live stream, there was a paper record with a timestamp of 12:02 AM for the vote, there was this image of the date discrepancy, and there were plenty of reporters who put it together and deduced that hijinks were afoot.

Oops. Dewhurst had to concede that the vote came too late. Live by the procedural shenanigans, die by the procedural shenanigans. The Texas women who would not be silenced had successfully staved off a bill to silence Texas women.

For now, anyway. Gov. Rick Perry could choose to call another “emergency” session this afternoon, and just keep calling them until the thing passes, as Charles Kuffner says:

Rick Perry can order another special session five minutes after this one ends, and without redistricting to clog the calendar a bill like SB5 would pass with plenty of time to spare. But some fights aren’t about whether you win or lose, they’re about whether you fought or rolled over. Say what else you want, Democrats didn’t roll over. Wendy Davis sure as hell didn’t roll over. Oh, and she kept standing after her filibuster was interrupted by that last point of order.

Here’s my one suggestion for the next round, or the one after that. The roar of “Let her speak” from the gallery was impressive, but chanting can seem unruly and it’s hard to sustain.

This is where we should take our cue from our Kiwi friends. This is where we should be singing.

Sing “The Star Spangled Banner,” or “America the Beautiful,” or “God Bless America,” or “The Yellow Rose of Texas” — they’d be afraid to stop you, since cutting those off would look bad.

Sing “We Shall Overcome” or “I Shall Not Be Moved” — those songs have historical resonance and, more importantly, they have an infinite number of verses and an endless permutation of harmonies. You can keep them going for hours if you have to.

Sing “This Land Is Your Land” because Woody Guthrie still scares all the right people. Heck, you can sing anything just as long as enough of you know the words and the tune. “Amazing Grace.” “Sweet Caroline.” “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” “Hey Jude.” “Don’t Stop Believin’.”

It doesn’t really matter what you’re singing as much as it matters that you’re singing. Singing works.

Next time — and there will be a next time — I’d love to hear some singing.

Update: My bad … there was singing, after the bill’s failure became clear, the crowd sang “The Eyes of Texas”:


Excellent. Next time, let’s hear even more singing.

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  • Demonhype

    That’s what my mom says, and she wanted kids and even had three of them! She said it’s something NO ONE should ever get into without making a serious assessment as to whether they are ready, and that is as much for the potential child’s sake as for her own. She always made it clear that there are serious impacts on both your body and your life that will never ever go away, and that it’s not a decision to be made idly, nor is it something another person should force on anyone. But then, she was an unwanted kid who suffered for it, and has often said that she would have preferred to be aborted rather than be forced to be born to people who just didn’t want her or weren’t prepared to be parents. Not one of us has ever heard “when ya gonna get me some grandchildren” from HER, nossir! :)

    Now I like kids, sometimes. But I look at them like my one friend’s fishtanks: I like his fishtanks and adore his fishies and love to watch them swim around when I’m there. But do I want fish of my own? NO! Too much work, and if you fail at that work the poor things will suffer and die! I am simply not willing to put that much work into them, so I avoid having fish. And for the same reason, I avoid having kids–I don’t really want any, they’re too much work, PLUS they’re just not worth all those negative impacts involved with pregnancy (and that’s when everything goes RIGHT!). If my sister has a kid, great, I’ll be an awesome aunt and give my sister some free time that I’m sure she’ll appreciate greatly! :D But going through a surreal and nightmarish condition that will only lead into a 24/7 parenthood with no escape? I don’t think so.

  • Demonhype

    I think some of the “parasite” things are to point out that pregnancy isn’t some kind of passive joy-filled motherhood internship, as some people seem to think it is. As if it’s totally okay to expect a woman to suffer through that condition and then just dump the kid in foster care, as if the pregnancy itself is a simple walk in the park that will leave no serious impacts on her either short term or long term. Sure, there’s pain in the labor, and that’s “God’s punishment” for being a woman/whore (as if there’s a difference in the biblical worldview), but “everyone knows” that pregnancy isn’t actually dangerous or health-threatening or life-threatening, nossir! It’s “natural”, and as we all know, natural things are always harmless and benevolent!

    I mentioned the parasite thing to my mom, and she laughed and agreed, saying “to be fair, it IS a parasite!” She said that’s how she felt, like some alien creature had taken up residence in her middle and was sucking her up, right up to when I (firstborn!) came out and she saw it was a baby and that it was the weirdest thing ever.

  • Demonhype

    Well, if I’m so unwomanly and unmotherly and unnatural as to not want kids, how is it selfish of me not to want to inflict my horribleness on a potential kid? I’d like for them to answer that.

  • Alix

    Me too.

  • AnonaMiss

    The dorsal fin was an extreme example, but it would be the best treatment for a person with a severe and unusual case of body dysmorphic disorder.

  • Demonhype

    I love this. I understand when someone else is pregnant and they want to be, it’s a happy thing for them, but it’s hard for me to be genuinely happy FOR them because it’s like “you have cancer, how wonderful!” or “congratulations on your impending root canal!” It’s hard for me to be seriously genuinely verbally happy for them and sound like I mean it.

  • Demonhype

    Except that Zimmerman is a violent bigot who only believed that a black kid wearing a hoodie was a “vile non-human attacker”. Trayvon Martin was not attacking him in any sense of the word, and it was entirely his own bigoted mind that drew that conclusion. A fetus, on the other hand, is directly inside a woman’s body, sucking out sustenance and doing damage. If Trayvon had somehow been hooked up to Zimmerman’s kidneys against his will, that might be a little closer to the situation a woman is in when she is forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy. A woman in that situation thinking of the fetus as a “vile non-human attacker” is not doing so out of simple bigotry and hate, like Zimmerman was, nor is she imagining the very real harm that is being done to her.

  • Demonhype

    Especially disgusting when you consider how much they’d like to imprison those who disagree with them, and don’t consider that “silencing” at all, just “protecting society”. Somehow them making your POV illegal is a-ok and freedom-loving, but you simply exercising your right to say you don’t agree is the same as abject persecution. How do you argue with minds as warped as dan’s?

  • Baby_Raptor

    There was that one politician wanna-be in Texas who made his campaign slogan “If babies had guns, there would be no arbotion.”

    Of course, babies don’t get aborted. And if fetuses had guns, there would likely be no pregnant women, because HELLO HEALTH ISSUES.

    But none of that mattered to this tough guy. He pulled heartstrings.

  • Isabel C.

    Sure, except that there was *empirical proof* that Martin was a) a human being with an independent existence and b) not at all attacking Zimmerman. (Actually *proving* B may be contingent on the trial, but it seems relatively clear-cut.)

    So the slippery slope doesn’t actually apply. Rarely does.

  • Given Texas’s Stand Your Ground laws, I would think that if babies had guns, it would be entirely legal to shoot them in self-defense. I mean, it’s legal to shoot most people even if they’re unarmed in Texas, but if they’re armed, that’s got to be really clear-cut.

  • SO you’re saying that the difference is that a woman is objectively right about a fetus being a mere attacking parasite?

    So that would be not “Whether or not a fetus is a vile attacking parasite depdends on whether the pregnancy is wanted or unwanted” then?

  • Isabel C.

    Nope. I’m saying the difference is that the subjective view George Zimmerman had of Martin was contrary to all empirical evidence. “Fetus=vile attacking parasite” is *not*, for a woman with an unwanted pregnancy, contrary to all or indeed any evidence. Neither is “Fetus=potential child” for a woman who does want to carry her pregnancy to term. That’s a subjective and emotional issue; whether someone is capable of independent life, sapient, and/or presenting a clear and present danger to your person really isn’t.

    And if you’re going to go into snippy questions, I might point out that I don’t appreciate being compared to a racist murderer just because your emotional worldview doesn’t accommodate adjusting for context. Especially when everyone involved has been pretty careful to specify “unwanted” and that this is their view.

  • Isabel C.

    I know, right? Plus, y’know…Polanski.

  • I find that a better tactic is to go the technical route, and start bringing up all the medical realities of pregnancy — including the fact that even today, women do sometimes die in childbirth.

  • Yeah. So I finally read some more on the Davis filibuster, and it was finally broken because the Texas legislature has a “three strikes” rule where you can get your filibuster aborted if you violate the rules three times, and hers was ended because she paused to put on a back brace, and went off-topic two times.

    The two things where she was dinged for going off-topic? Discussing planned parenthood funding and texas’s forced transvaginal ultrasound law.

    Because yeah, planned parenthood and forced ultrasound are offtopic to restrictions on abortion.