Holy wow, you guys! Who scheduled all the news to happen all at the same time? This week has been the kind of whiplash-inducing emotional roller coaster that your drama queen friend from college only wishes she could produce. But we have moxie, you and I, and so we will soldier on.
No, wait. Not moxie. From now on, when we wish to explain that we have true grit, heart, and staying power, we will say that we have Wendy.
This Week in Holy Jumping Uteruses, Did You See What Happened in Texas?!:
If you were online Tuesday, your heart was probably close to bursting. If you recall, Texas Governor Rick Perry is not so much a friend of women or ladybits. He prefers to keep them locked down and out of options. He’s backing a Draconian anti-choice bill (no need for mandatory ultrasounds; the Texas GOP already got those) that the state House approved and needed to clear the Senate. It didn’t in the regular session thanks to a moving citizen filibuster.
(Read this account of the Republicans’ behavior during that if you want to get your rage on.)
Special sessions of the Texas legislature are supposed to be called only for emergencies, but Perry decided that really wanting to effectively ban abortion in his state counted. So he officially called the special session for a couple of other bills and, whoops, lookee here, while we’re talking, why don’t we just tack on the abortion bill too, just for giggles. How bad is the bill? 80% of the people in the state didn’t want it addressed during the special session, and it closes all but five of the 42 abortion clinics in the state. That’s a state the size of France. Women in West Texas will be essentially out of options if it passes. And, yes, of course there’s one of those inhumanly cruel 20-week abortion bans, because apparently there’s nothing Republicans love more than to punish women who discover grave medical issues with wanted pregnancies. What’s a little mental and physical cruelty when there are donations and headlines to be had?
Well, the women of Texas who think they should get to decide who controls their bodies (not to mention many wonderful men who agreed) were not having it.
The legislators of the Texas GOP figured they could still slide the abortion bill by — and under the national radar — by passing it in that special session. But they didn’t count on State Senator Wendy Davis, who said:
The special session started and Wendy arrived in pink sneakers, ready to filibuster. And that’s a Texas-rules filibuster: No drinking, eating, or bathroom breaks; no letting a colleague fill in for you for a few minutes; no sitting down; and not even any leaning on the podium. And you have to keep talking — no reading the phone book either. You have to stay relevant to the bill at hand, which will become very important in a minute. Three strikes on going off-topic and you’re out. Women from all over the state and country e-mailed their personal stories to Davis so she could keep filibustering.
Davis started her one-woman filibuster at 11:18, ready to keep going until the session ended at midnight. Once the Republicans realized she might actually make it, they started trying to ding her on bogus fine points of the rules.
Ding 1: Davis brought up Planned Parenthood’s budget. Which was deemed “not germane.” To the topic of abortion and women’s health clinics.
Ding 2: Another senator tried to help Davis put on a back brace, which was called “assisting.”
Ding 3: And then Davis brought up the charming forced sonograms that Texas makes women who need an abortion go through. That was also deemed “off topic.” For an abortion bill. I repeat: The fact that Texas already forces women who undergo medically unnecessary sonograms — essentially punitive sonograms — before they can get an abortion was deemed “not germane” to the discussion of unconstitutional abortion restrictions. Third strike. This happened at 10:00, with just under two hours to go.
The crowd in the gallery did not care for the weaseling. Thank you, Texas Tribune, for the live feed, for so many reasons. (There’s some NSFW rowdiness in here. Put on your headphones and enjoy.)
The Democrats raised parliamentary questions and stalled like the heroic grooms of mighty racehorses, while the Republicans kept trying to declare the filibuster over. Wendy Davis, just in case she would be allowed to continue her filibuster, continued to stand for the women of Texas.
Finally, with 15 minutes to go before the session ended at midnight, Senator Leticia Van De Putte — who had rushed back from her own father’s funeral to make the session and help the filibuster — had the moment that made the crowd break out again. And then the crowd realized that they might be able to just keep screaming.
I had several ideas about what my Wednesday night might be like, but crying in front of my laptop over a screaming protest in Texas had not been one of them. And yet. You want to hear some more joyful noise?
The crowd, tired of dickishly applied points of order and broken rules, broke some of their own and shouted down the clock. The Republicans tried to hold a quick vote as the clock ran out — Oops! After the clock ran out, even though the vote mysteriously got backdated — but they lost.
Wendy’s victory is only for now, of course. Rick Perry has already called for another special session for his creepy bill on Monday — Where is the emergency, exactly? — while lobbing a truly crass attack on Senator Davis in the meantime.
But now the nation knows what Rick Perry and the Republicans in the Texas legislature are trying to do, the Texas voters are pissed, the national media just got a huge wake-up call about state politics, and we have a new hero who just might be persuaded to run for higher office.
Like against Rick Perry.
Oh, and with luck, newspapers have learned that they need to get live feeds into all the state legislature sessions. Because that’s where things get seriously cray. For example…