The past two days have been a roller coaster ride in the legislative department. First, the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, striking down the section that provided for federal oversight of voting regulations and redistricting in places where those measures have traditionally been used to prevent minorities from voting. Within two minutes of the ruling, Texas had passed restrictive Voter ID laws.
But something else was brewing in Texas that day: abortion rights. The Texas house had passed, and the Senate was considering, a bill that would shut down all but five abortion clinics in the state of Texas. Activists had organized a people’s filibuster when the bill was in the House that was ultimately ineffective. The real drama came when the Senate considered it.
Senator Wendy Davis, representing the 10th District (which includes Fort Worth), stood up and filibustered the bill from 11am to about 10pm, when Senate Republicans finally managed to shut her down using procedural points of order. The POO were appalling in and of themselves — in one, the Senate ruled that Davis was out of order because she had been assisted by another Senator in putting on her back brace. In another, GOP Senators claimed that the issue of sonograms was not “germane” to the discussion of abortion, despite the fact that laws requiring them are widely popular attempts to restrict abortion access.
When Senator Davis got shut down, what was beautiful became transcendant. First, other senators including Senator Kirk Watson and Senator Leticia van de Putte stood up and began to appeal the decisions of the chair. They argued points of of procedure. Senator van de Putte had left her own father’s funeral to get to the vote, and insisted that the day be recapped for her.
It wasn’t enough. The bill still would have been called to vote and passed except that when the Lieutenant Governor tried to call role and then call a vote, with approximately a half hour remaining until the special session closed at midnight, the brave and amazing people of Texas who called themselves a feminist army began to make noise. They chanted Senator Davis’s name, they chanted “Texas!”, they booed, they screamed to the heavens not to let Texas Republicans make a mockery of the democratic process. They refused to be silent despite multiple calls for order.
The men and women of Texas made so much noise, despite state troopers being called in to arrest people and clear the gallery, that no vote could be taken. The fight began with them while this bill was in the House; Senator Davis picked up the baton and ran with it for 11 hours, never sitting, leaning, drinking, or taking a bathroom break; Senators Watson and van de Putte lent an assist; but in the end it came down once again to a people’s filibuster, and the people delivered it.
I am so proud of you, Texas. You are a beautiful southern people, and you have given this fellow southerner hope. Thank you for your hard work and the hope and inspiration you’ve given all of us who refuse to let these assholes have the south. You are awesome.