Don’t Mess With Texas Women: Pro-Choice Activists Storm Texas Legislature Over Shady Anti-Choice Abortion Bill Shenanigans

Publish date:
June 25, 2013
abortion, Texas, pro-choice

I am the proudest Texan who ever lived. Just look at this headline -- I managed to say "Texas" TWICE in it!

My house in California is full of Texas-themed crap that I have hand-ferried from Texas via planes, trains and automobiles.

I also have this "inspirational" quote posted on my office wall:

There is nothing I hate more than hearing people yammer on about how stupid, shitty and back-asswards the entire state of Texas is. Except for when those people happen to be dead right.

The 83rd Texas Legislature began their session in early January of this year. The regular session ended May 27. This wasn’t enough time for them to get all their business done, so the governor called a special 30-day session to finish their work. Now I don’t know about you, but when I don’t finish my work within the time allotted me, I get fired.

The Legislature has said all along that they have “bigger fish to fry” in this special session than the restrictive abortion measures that failed to pass in the regular session. Then, in a last minute switcheroo, “Gov'nah Good-Hair,” a.k.a. Rick Perry, added them to the special session.

Sen. Glenn Hegar (R-Katy) promptly introduced SB5, an omnibus abortion bill that includes HB60 and HB16. This was quite a sly maneuver by the Republican controlled Legislature, as a 2/3 voting rule is in effect during a regular session, but a simple majority vote can pass a bill during the special session.

These proposed measures state, among other things, that doctors providing abortion services at a women’s health clinic must have admitting privileges at a hospital within a 30-mile radius. Not only is the state of Texas HUGE, with many rural areas having no hospital anywhere NEAR the prescribed radius, but many hospitals in Texas are faith based and therefore wouldn’t give admitting privileges to a doctor who also performs abortions under ANY circumstances.

A great rundown of the whole bill is here, but that one single provision alone would effectively shutter a good portion of women's clinics in poor and rural areas -- as many of them are hundreds of miles away from ANY hospital. Texas, as you may know, is quite literally a whole 'nother country.

I’m pretty sure Sen. Hegar thought he could sneak this bill past the people of Texas, as we have the distinct dishonor of having the lowest voter turnout in the country. We aren’t even paying attention when you trample our rights, ya know? Well, the joke is on him, as the Texas Legislature recently learned how incorrect that line of thinking really is.

With only a few hours notice, Texas pro-choice groups organized and gathered at a committee hearing on Thursday night to give hour upon hour of citizen testimony as to why they opposed the bill. SB5 still passed the committee, but they managed to drag the proceedings on until the wee hours of the morning and drew a metric shit ton of national attention to the issue in the process.

By the time the bill made it to the House on Sunday, some 1,500 women, men and children in orange shirts filled the halls, stairs, rotunda and gallery to witness the bill be debated on the House floor. And babes, the show did not disappoint.

The House Democrats really worked for their bacon on Sunday. They stalled the proceedings beautifully by breaking out the rulebook and raising procedural point after procedural point. Rep. Jessica Ferrar (D-Houston) gave a "Personal Privilege" speech that made me sob openly at my computer.

After the House refused all proposed amendments to the bill, Rep. Mary Gonzalez (D-El Paso and the state's first openly pansexual elected official) gave a blazing, impassioned chastising to the House as a reminder that the pieces of legislation that best serve citizens come from representative collaboration, no matter what party they belong to. She is just 29 years old, while the collective age of the room she told off so eloquently is approximately 3,946.

Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) brandished a coat hanger as she took the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (R-Murphy) to task over the lack of provisions in the bill for victims of incest and rape.

And what was Laubenberg’s response to Thompson’s questioning as to why the bill made no exceptions for victims of these hideous crimes who become pregnant against their will?

That sound you hear is Rep. Laubenberg’s career imploding.

The House adjourned at 3:30 am Monday and reconvened just 3 hours later at 6:30am. (Nope, that's not a typo.) The Democrat House representatives showed up en masse some 3 hours late, further stalling the vote until roughly 11am CDT. The 24-hour layout rule means that the bill cannot be debated in the Senate until 11am CDT today -- at which time Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Ft Worth) plans to take the floor for an almost 13-hour filibuster to defeat the bill as the clock runs out on the special session at 11:59 pm CDT Tuesday night.

I hope someone had the good sense to outfit Sen. Davis with a GoGirl, as the #1 rule of filibustering is that the speaker is not allowed to sit down or even lean on anything the entire time they speak. This obviously rules out peeing as a lady usually does.

Filibusters are one of the craziest things in US politics. The longest filibuster on record was, of course, in the great state of Texas.

The Guinness book of World Records credits Bill Meir (D-Tarrant County) with speaking uninterrupted for FORTY THREE HOURS on the topic of the state’s open record laws. He ate lightly in the days ahead of the filibuster and used an “astronaut bag” to relieve himself on the senate floor. When he needed to empty it, 2 sergeants-at-arms went with him to insure he never sat down.

I’m not sure how Wendy Davis will answer the call of nature during her 13-hour odyssey to protect the women of Texas’ right to safe and legal abortions, but you can bet I’ll be watching her make history. Live coverage of all Senate activities is right here:

Some have suggested Davis read "The Handmaid's Tale" cover to cover as part of her filibuster. If you have an abortion story to tell, submit it to Wendy so she can share it with the Senate as part of her filibuster. 13 hours is a mighty long time, chickadees.

The people of Texas have learned the hard way that political apathy leads to your constitutional rights being stripped away right under your nose. Take heed. Whatever your political affiliation, GET OUT AND VOTE. Call your state reps and remind them that they work for YOU. Make sure your voice is heard. Because as the women of Texas have shown, one voice becomes two, two becomes three, and then three’s a real rootin-tootin', madder than a hornet's nest honest-to-goodness crowd.

UPDATE 11:15 AM CDT:Davis' 13 hour filibuster has begun. Hat tip to @dedmo for this amazing photo of what Senator Davis is wearing today.

UPDATE 6:10 PM CDT:Wendy is still going strong at hour 7. If you haven't sent in a story, thought, or testimony that Senator Davis can present to the Senate and buy time, DO IT NOW RIGHT HERE!

UPDATE 7:35 PM CDT:2 of 3 strikes have been called against Senator Davis. The next one brings the bill for a vote in the house. The first was for veering off-topic, this one was for a fellow senator helping her apply a back brace. In other news, all hope in chivalry and humanity is now lost. 4+ hours to go.

UPDATE 10:04 PM CDT:Lt. Gov. Dewhurst calls Sen. Davis on a 3rd strike for veering off-topic, ending her filibuster. The gallery erupts, chanting "Let her speak!" Abandon all hope, ye who enter the Texas Legislature.

UPDATE 10:54 PM CDT:Democratic Senators raise a challenge to Dewhurst's ending of Davis' filibuster. A 50+ minute delay ensues as the Senate tries to determine what their rules are. T-ONE HOUR TO SINE DIE.

UPDATE 11:32 PM CDT:Senators Davis and Watson are attempting to finish Davis' filibuster by debating rules of order with 25 minutes to go. 137,200 people watching @TexasTribune's livestream of the proceedings at 11:42pm CDT.

UPDATE 11:46 PM CDT:The senate suddenly moves to vote on SB5 as the gallery goes wild--chanting, screaming, drowning out the vote. They will not go quietly. Senate interim leader attempts to gain order but the gallery of citizens ain't having it. Voting seems near impossible.


UPDATE 12:02 AM CDT:For reasons known only to them, Senate still attempts to continue voting 2 minutes after official end of session while crowd continues to chanting like banshees, drowning out all order. Texas DPS curiously does not move to arrest disorderly crowd.

UPDATE 12:13 AM CDT:Senate claims SB5 passed, 17-12 despite session ending before official vote. One problem: 157,000 people watching live saw what really happened. DEMOCRACY, Y'ALL.

UPDATE 12:20 AM CDT:Crowd outside capital goes beserk, Texas State Troopers lock doors to capital building.

UPDATE 12:32 AM CDT:State Troopers arrest 50+ year old woman and others as Senate lies and robs Texas women of reproductive rights. Still no confirmation as to whether SB5 vote has officially passed or not.

UPDATE 12:45 AM CDT:Senate still has not officially adjourned. State Troopers clear out protesters in gallery, not a female officer among them.

UPDATE 12:49 AM CDT: Livestream from Senate goes dark despite lack of adjournment.

UPDATE 12:54 AM CDT:According to @ProgressTx, Senate updates vote time to show that vote on SB5 indeed taken on 6/26. ADDTL SOURCE HERE at TX Lege online.

UPDATE 1:07 AM CDT:Just checked back in at Official Tx Lege site and vote has magically been changed to being taken on 6/25. Pardon my French, gentle reader, but this is some BULLSHIT.

UPDATE 1:34 AM CDT:Senate allegedly meeting behind closed doors to determine what the hell just happened. Hundreds still lingering inside and outside state capital.

UPDATE 1:43 AM CDT:Filibustering Senator Wendy Davis allegedlly seen sitting inside Senate caucus upon brief opening of door as Senate debates amongst themselves what actually just happened:

A caucus means closed doors. No record, no media, no public input.

UPDATE 2:02 AM CDT:Live feed suddenly back up @TexasTribune. Senators appear to be congregating. @CecileRichards, daughter of legendary Texas Gov. Ann Richards, is present in rotunda with crowd. The plot thickens.

UPDATE 2:15 AM CDT:Only coverage of events at Capital seems to be via @ChristopherDido. Somebody give this kid a job.

UPDATE 2:20 AM CDT: LT GOV DEWHURST DECLARES SB5 OFFICIALLY DEAD. Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, makes announcement to crowd gathered in Capital rotunda.


UPDATE 2:25 AM CDT:Crowd gathered in rotunda sings "The Eyes of Texas". I'll admit, I'm crying.

UPDATE 2:53 AM CDT: Senate has not officially gaveled out. Word is Senator Wendy Davis wants to come greet supporters in rotunda.

UPDATE 3:04 AM CDT:Senate officially gavels out of special session 3 hours after it ended. Lt. Gov. Dewhurst's parting shot: "It's been fun. See ya soon."

UPDATE 3:15 AM CDT:Senator Wendy Davis appears in rotunda to address gathered crowd, gives credit due to Sen. Kirk Watson, Sen. Rodney Ellis and particularly Sen. Leticia Van De Putte, who literally drove from her father's funeral in San Antonio to stand in defiance of SB5. Van De Putte's last statement to the Senate re: SB5? "At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?" Talk about bringing down the house.

What does it say about the mainstream media that the best reporting on the last hours of this drama was from a kid with a cell phone who came to the Legislature straight from his night job in Cedar Park? The revolution has begun.

These, my friends, are bad-ass Texan women and men. Sweet dreams.

EDIT, 3:22PM PDT 6/26: Visit HERE for my detailed recap of the entire night and the current state of events in Texas regarding SB5.

I’m on Twitter: @IveyAlison.