Texas State Senator Wendy Davis’ heroic act of using her political weight to advocate for women who she has never met outweighed the physical feat of standing for over eleven hours talking on a single topic without learning or taking a break for water or the restroom.
I was impressed by the physical act that Wendy Davis accomplished and realize that it was as challenging as the content she spoke on. Davis came prepared – orange sneakers and a back brace – and knew the most important four words – “I will not yield”.
Davis was speaking for women throughout Texas to ensure the government kept its hands off their bodies. In a male dominated environment, she knew walking in that she would take heat after the night ended. But this was not new for Davis, she already cramped Texas Governor Rick Perry’s style once before.
As background, Texas Senate Bill 5 contained language that if enacted, there would have been a ban on abortions after 20 weeks and would have imposed additional regulations on clinics, which would have closed as many as 37 of Texas’ 42 clinics.
Both patients’ and care-givers’ access and rights would have been affected. While the claim that the new regulations, such as proximity to a hospital, would have improved care, it actually would have prohibited the ability for countless women to receive services. For example, a woman would have had to drive more than 30 miles each way, twice, within a 48 hour period to receive the Plan B contraceptive pill. There is no doubt that Texas Senate Bill 5 is an attempt to impose personal opinion and belief onto women’s bodies through the form of law.
Anyone who honestly believes there is a divide between the personal and political is as mistaken as believing that there really is a separation between church and state. Just look to Gov. Perry’s remarks this morning at the National Right to Life Convention where he not only brought up Senator Davis and her (successful) filibuster, but also utilized her in his argument regarding right to life. He stated:
“No life is trivial in God’s eyes. And the fact is, who are we to say that children born in the worst of circumstances can’t grow to live successful lives? In fact, even the woman who filibustered the Senate the other day was born into difficult circumstances. She was the daughter of a single woman, she was a teenage mother herself. She managed to eventually graduate from Harvard Law School and serve in the Texas senate. It is just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example that every life must be given a chance to realize its full potential and that every life matters.”
For Gov. Perry, it is God who dictates the correct decision of legislation pertaining to women’s bodies. Not only did Perry bring religion into a human rights and legislative debate, but he also found it relevant to bring Senator Davis’s past into the matter by claiming her own life choices were a mistake, and degrading her as a woman, daughter and mother – utterly inappropriate. Who is he to say that Senator Davis was born into “difficult circumstances” and share her life story? Would she have not fought the same if she had not had these particular life experiences?
The gender double standard here is unmistakably sadistic. Women seek to terminate pregnancies for a plethora of reasons. A significant number of women seek abortions for rape, to which the rapist of a woman inevitably is a man. Women choose not to carry a child due to financial insecurity, which would not be a staunch problem were it not for the gender gap in pay. And the mere fact that this bill is being brought forward by a government body that is comprised mostly by men, and it requires a woman’s voice to delineate its detrimental effects is by no means a coincidence. Senator Davis is the advocate we needed, now we need women AND men to come forward to defeat this bill permanently.
Instead of narrowly looking at Senator Davis’ personal past, why not expand that view to her accomplishments that have changed the voice of women in Texas. Women chanted “Let her speak” as her words became their own.
This morning, Gov. Perry called for a second special session. I expect this bill will be brought up for a vote early to decrease the possibility of a successful filibuster. However, Senator Davis has shown women everywhere anyone can become an advocate and create change today
Come prepared, be ready to stand up for what you believe in (for a very long time), and don’t let the bullies get the better. And remember those four words, “I will not yield”.