I was not at the Texas State Capitol last Tuesday night while State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Ft. Worth) was conducting her epic filibuster against Senate Bill 5. I was at Party City, helping my girlfriend Jeanie pick out Strawberry Shortcake items for her daughter Sophie's upcoming fourth birthday, taking her girls to the bathroom, and wrangling a broom, ladder, and member of staff to help rescue Rory, her daughter Lily's beanbag lion, after he had been flung skyward and snagged on some architecture fifteen feet off the ground.
While Senator Davis was speaking in front of a gallery packed with observers and the hashtag #standwithwendy was trending nationally on Twitter, I was giving the girls their bath while Jeanie cleaned the dinner dishes. While Senator Davis was swaying with fatigue, and 100,000 people were watching the livefeed of the Senate Chamber on YouTube, I was reading bedtime stories about animals playing practical jokes on each other, brushing teeth, and saying prayers with the girls while Jeanie took Fletcher the ancient beagle out for his final potty break of the night.
Many nights, Jeanie would be doing all these things all by herself. A single mom like Senator Davis, she knows the joys and the difficulties of that reality, and even with my help, even by the time we had gotten the kids in bed and talked through plans for the rest of the week, she still had things to do.
Too many things, in fact, to follow the debate at the Capitol, although as a former TV reporter, she desperately wanted to.
Jeanie loves her girls. I do, too. I hope someday to claim them all.
And I hope to do so in a state where a woman's legal right to a safe and accessible abortion is still intact, where women who are poor or isolated are not treated as second-class citizens.
Our friend Tricia Mitchell, a mother and working musician who attends St. David's Episcopal Church with us, was at the Capitol, and she summed up what many of us feel, female and male alike. The opposition to SB 5 was not simply about keeping abortion a viable option; those of us who support choice for women do not like abortion. As Tricia posted, who does?
I'm not getting into this because I want my daughter to grow up and have an abortion. I'm getting into it because I don't want her to grow up and exist in a world where it is assumed that her voice doesn't matter. Just no.
If you don't like abortion (and who does?), don't have one. Work to educate and empower girls and women. Work to promote research to prevent congenital defects. Work to support mothers in fulfilling their most important of roles. Work to end rape.
Like many progressive Christians, I am a registered Democrat, which means that for decades I have been a voting, contributing, and sometimes volunteering member of a party supporting choice for women. In recent years, I have developed growing theological reservations about abortion on demand, and I have come to believe, as Bill Clinton said years ago, that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare, as rare as we can make it.
But as much as I dislike abortion, I can see that there are times abortion may be the better or only option to protect the health of the mother, or to prevent the mother from having to shoulder an insuperable burden. SB 5, while packaged by its supporters as a bill protecting women's health, does the precise opposite. SB 5 is a sweeping omnibus bill that would have closed down all but five women's health centers in the state of Texas offering abortions, and would have prohibited all abortions after twenty weeks, although sometimes lethal congenital defects aren't revealed into well into the second trimester.
Hundreds of women (and some men) filled the senate chamber and the Capitol rotunda, stairs, and halls. Some of them were legal activists, like my friend Andrea March. Some were clergy, like Jim Rigby. Together, all of them showed the state—hell, the world—that women in Texas were not going to be railroaded or bamboozled. When one party tried to push through legislation that would have harmed many Texans, they shouted it down. They offered a bodily response to this attempt to deprive their bodies of options. Like most of those in the media or observing on Facebook, Twitter, on YouTube, this was something we had never heard; like my friend Owen Egerton wrote, it was like Texas life as Les Miserables, "the song of angry women."
Of course, in the midst of all this—at the Capitol, online, in the comments feed on YouTube, on my FB page—there was the inevitable and ongoing debate about the morality of abortion. I'm a Christian who believes abortion should be rare and legal, and that it should never be considered lightly. Other Christians believe abortion is always wrong, always sinful, no matter what the circumstances. I believe we can lovingly disagree—and both agree to work to make abortion rare.