texas anti-abortion bill halted by fantastic filibuster
Yesterday in Texas, Senator Wendy Davis literally took a stand for women’s rights in her state. As the Republican Party attempted to push through a Bill that would severely limit access to abortion for Texan women, and reduce the number of clinics legally allowed to perform such procedures from 42 to 5, Senator Davis took to the Legislature floor for an epic 13 hour filibuster to stop the Bill from passing.
Under American law, a member of the senate can, under strict rules, filibuster in order to stop a Bill from passing. Essentially, this involves taking the floor and talking non-stop until the Legislature has expired and the Bill is unable to be voted on. Under the rules the Senator must remain standing, must not lean on anything, or take any breaks, eat or drink, stop talking, receive assistance from colleagues or stray from the subject matter of the Bill concerned.
It was under these conditions that Senator Davis dug in her comfortably shod heels, and with great stamina and success, took on the Republican Bill. Her feat was eventually cut short (after a phenomenal 10+ hours) by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who, acting as Senate president, upheld three objections that the Senator had breached the rules and strayed from the topic (a debatable matter).
While she wasn’t allowed assistance from her party she did not lack in support. On social media sites #StandWithWendy gained mass attention, including from President Barack Obama who voiced his support.
In the Texas state house, it was the supporters in the gallery who eventually sealed the Bill’s fate. After a series of appeals from the Democratic party, and with only 15 minutes remaining on the clock, the public gallery erupting with cheers and screams of support for Senator Davis which disrupted events enough for the final Senate vote to take place three minutes after the crucial midnight deadline.
The achievements of everyone who helped prevent this Bill from passing are admirable and show what can be accomplished when people unite behind a cause, and perhaps more importantly, have someone to unite behind. We need strong individuals like Senator Davis to hold their ground and to stand up for reason, for fundamental rights, and for women everywhere.
Within Australia, the abortion debate has been put back into the political sphere with concern for what an ultra-conservative religious leader will mean for women’s rights in this country. The sensationalism accompanying pro-life campaigns hinges on the idea that abortion is the easy option; that women who choose to have them are reckless or heartless or both. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Abortion is the hardest decision that any woman could face. It is the last resort for women who, due to their circumstances, are simply unable to have the child. And it is a decision that they know they will have to live with every day.
If we allow women’s health and rights to be determined by politicking and conservative minorities we put women in harm’s way. After her triumphant performance, Senator Davis tweeted that the result was ‘An incredible victory for Texas women and those who love them.’ A wonderful statement from a wonderful leader. Should it ever be necessary in Australia, I only hope that we have equally strong politicians willing to stand up for women’s rights in our Parliament.