In case you somehow managed to elude the news of what was going on in Texas last night you really missed out. The Texas Senate was poised to pass a bill that would have closed all but 5 women’s health clinics in the entire state. The Republicans billed it as an attempt to close down abortion clinics but it was more than just that. It was a massive attack on women’s rights in the state of Texas.
Wendy Davis, a state Senator from Ft. Worth, decided that she wasn’t going to let that happen. Davis planned a 13-hour filibuster designed to keep the Senate from being able to take the vote. The rules said that the Senate only had until midnight to vote on the bill. If Davis could keep up her epic filibuster and not cease control of the floor then she would, in effect, single-handedly stop the bill.
— James Poling (@jamespoling) June 26, 2013
At one point 180,000+ people were watching this drama play out live on YouTube. That in itself was compounding the excitement.
In Texas in order to maintain a filibuster you have to stay on topic. If you go “off topic” three times the Senate can vote to end your filibuster. Needless to say the republicans were playing dirty. One of the times that Davis went “off topic” was when a colleague helped her adjust a back brace she was wearing. Why was she wearing a back brace? Because the rules also state that during the her filibuster that Davis also could not sit down, lean against anything for support or use the restroom.
After the republicans managed to end the filibuster things started to get really interesting, exciting even. Davis’ colleagues were doing anything they could within the rules, namely asking a shit-ton of “Parliamentary inquiries” to stall for time. When the republicans tried to take the vote a few minutes before midnight the people who had shown up in the rotunda and the gallery to support Davis exploded and shouted them down.
The tension escalated at about 11:45 p.m., when Democratic state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio, who earlier in the day had attended her father’s funeral, objected as Republican leaders refused to recognize one of her motions.
“At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?” she said, sparking a chorus of cheers and screams that swelled as protesters tried to run out the clock.
This is one time that the voters directly effected the outcome of legislative democracy. Had these women (and men) not shown up to give their support the republicans would have rammed the vote through at a few minutes to midnight and passed this garbage.
Watching all of this unfold was as exciting as any Game 7 and about a million times more important. It warmed the cockles of my heart to be able to witness Wendy Davis and the women of Texas fight for their right to legislate their own bodies.