Yesterday, on June 25th, I along with up to 200,000 others watched live streaming from the Texas Senate as Senator Wendy Davis took the floor to filibuster Senate Bill 5 (SB5), a horrific piece of legislation that would have closed down most abortion providers in Texas and banned abortion after 20 weeks. Under legislative rules in Texas, Senator Davis was able to delay the vote for as long as she was able to talk continuously about her objections to the bill without stopping to eat, drink, use the bathroom, sit down, or lean into anything. Senator Davis started her fight around 11am on Tuesday – and the events that followed were nothing short of inspiring and incredible.
After hours of relentless filibustering and exceptional stamina, Senator Davis’ filibuster was halted by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R), who considered Davis’ remarks about ultrasound to be “not germane”, i.e. not relevant, to the abortion bill – a ridiculous claim to make, especially given how fond of ultrasounds Texas Republicans have been with their previous abortion bills.
The crowd in the Senate gallery erupted in roars, shouting “Let Her Speak!” while Twitter exploded with demands to allow the filibuster to continue. Senate Democrats, namely Senator Leticia Van De Putte and Senator Kirk Watson, stepped up to delay the proceedings through parliamentary inquiries. Van De Putte turned Texas Senate into what resembled more a rock concert as she at one point stood up and asked the presiding president: “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over the male colleagues in the room”.
As midnight neared, the viewers in the gallery started what is now being called “The People’s Filibuster”, erupting in cheers, roars and chants, essentially stopping the proceedings. The clock finally hit midnight, but Republicans still attempted to vote on the bill, claiming the vote had started before midnight. The final ruling did not come until hours later – declaring SB5 dead.
What Wendy Davis did was not only courageous and inspirational, but also a measure that most likely saved the lives of countless women in the state of Texas. Abortion discussions are almost always presented as “pro-life” versus “pro-choice” – but I think this is a false dichotomy. Nobody is “pro-abortion,” and everyone believes that we should minimize women’s need for abortion services – but blocking women’s access to abortion and other reproductive and sexual health services is not only careless and dangerous, but against their legal and human rights. Abortion rates are brought down through education, health services, sexual education in schools, affordable and accessible contraceptives, access to information and facts, proper maternity and paternity benefits – not by making life saving services illegal or hard to obtain. The recent trend in the U.S. to throw women’s reproductive rights back to the stone ages is not only extremely scary, but also speaks volumes about the fact that women are still viewed as passive recipients with no or little control over their own bodies and own health. The fact that majority of the people trying to push this particular law in Texas were – you guessed it – privileged, wealthy men is a testament to the skewed nature of the sexual and reproductive health discussion in the U.S.
The decision of abortion should never be the State’s or the government’s. The government won’t carry the consequences of that child. The government won’t feed the child, love the child, or educate the child. Abortion is never an easy decision, nor should it be treated as one – but it also should never be a decision dictated by senators or politicians. What happened in Texas was nothing short of miraculous. It was a testament not only to the incredible determination of Senator Davis, but also to the power of democracy. Texans in the gallery and people from across the country rose up against an oppressive bill and demanded their voices to be heard and rights to be respected, and those voices were too loud to be ignored. This must continue – so let’s be inspired by Senator Wendy Davis and others like her, and let’s continue the fight for women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights to be recognized and realized. I Stand With Wendy – and I hope you do too.
— Cesar Kuriyama (@CesarKuriyama) June 26, 2013
• To find more information about this issue, and ways to get involved, visit Planned Parenthood website
• Though the filibuster succeeded, the fight is not over. Stand with Wendy and share your story!