This week, we wrote about some of the kick-ass goings-on in the political world thanks to real-life superheroes like Senators Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte, who became the voices of many Texas women silenced by the senate’s proposal of SB5, a controversial GOP-backed bill which sought to criminalize abortions performed after 20 weeks of pregnancy and close 80 percent of the state’s currently operating abortion clinics.
Davis staged a filibuster to block voting on SB5– something that had to occur before midnight on Tuesday– and proceeded to do so for 11 tireless hours without so much as a restroom break or slump in posture. Although Davis’s filibuster ended after she received three strikes, Sen. Watson, Sen. West, and Sen. Van de Putte proposed enough parliamentary inquiries to push SB5 past its voting deadline, effectively killing the bill to the tune of hundreds of thousands of cheering women’s rights advocates, both in the senate and all over social media.
Among the inquiries from the Senators’ filibuster-within-a-filibuster, one posed by Van de Putte stood out to be powerfully on-point:
“At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over the male colleagues in the room?”
If there is a quote to capture the theme of recent events, this is it.
While there is definitely cause to celebrate Davis’s and Van de Putte’s iconic displays of political heroism, both the circumstances which brought them to this point, as well as the responses (or the complete lack thereof by some), from institutions of power are harrowing reminders of just how far we still have to go before non-male and non-white voices are heard and respected.
Here’s why this week’s victory is really just one more reason to stay angry:
No Coverage? Not Important.
Many of those who viewed the filibuster live-in-action observed the total absence of mainstream media coverage for what clearly turned out to be a heated top story. Countless viewers followed the filibuster late into the night, but they depended on social media and small-name journalism to do so. And while the following day’s (admittedly more popular) DOMA ruling boasted day-of coverage from sources like CNN, such networks sooner gave their attention to pastries and “planes that make you say ‘Wow!’” than a woman speaking on behalf of her rights.
It’s true that the filibuster pressed on until early morning, and it might be possible that all of these well-funded, influential networks just didn’t have the time or resources to send reporters all the way to Texas at odd hours. But seeing as filibusters aren’t a spur-of-the-moment ordeal and Davis had announced her plans ahead of time, it’s more likely that these outlets simply aren’t interested in issues that directly affect people who are still “considered special interest groups”– like women.
The Filibuster Itself
Regardless of mainstream coverage, by now most of us are familiar with the filibuster play-by-play and it’s no stretch to say it was laden with GOP fouls, but the mere fact that a woman opted to endure thirteen hours without food, water, leaning, or using the bathroom to make her government listen to her should speak for itself. Undergoing a government-instated practice that borders on physical torture should not be necessary for opening a woman-led discussion on reproductive rights.
Three (Subjective) Strikes
Although the filibuster’s restrictions may easily be found absurd, Sen. Davis obeyed them with a smile only to be shot down by three questionable strikes. Let’s review exactly what got her in trouble:
1. Mentioning Planned Parenthood’s budget (considered off-topic).
2. A colleague adjusting her back brace (considered aiding and abetting).
3. Mentioning Texas’s sonogram law (considered off-topic).
Points one and three are entirely relevant to the discussion of abortion access. As most of us are aware Planned Parenthood provides abortions, and the Texan law in question requires women seeking abortions to undergo a sonogram.
To make strike two particularly infuriating, recall the longest filibuster in senate history which was staged by a Republican who was assisted (aiding and abetting) in two bathroom breaks (not allowed), one of which took place on the senate floor. These acts would most certainly have been considered strikes had Sen. Davis pursued them today, but at the time, neither Democrats nor Republicans considered them violations.
GOP Bends Time, Votes for Democrats
Despite the grueling conditions of a filibuster and the aforementioned strikes, Texas Democrats still filibustered until after midnight, which should have rendered SB5 invalid right then and there (Spoiler: It didn’t).
Instead, the Texas GOP did everything it could to ignore the deadline by continuing with the vote and changing the bill’s timestamp from 6/26 (after midnight) to 6/25 (before midnight). Voting started at 12:03 a.m., and Texas Democrats stated they weren’t even aware it was happening. Sen. Juan ‘Chuy’ Hinojosa explained that Republican senators knew they were voting, but he and other Democrats were holding up their cell phones to show that the deadline had passed.
For having followed such strict rules about Sen. Davis’s strikes, the GOP sure pulled out all the stops to skirt these ones, demonstrating a frightening commitment to restricting women’s rights.
Rick Perry. In His Entirety.
And finally, in case that wasn’t enough, Rick Perry is sure to piss you off, just as he already has for all of those tweeting #PissedAtPerry.
Unsatisfied with the filibuster’s results, Gov. Rick Perry announced Wednesday that he’s ready for round two. The Legislature is to meet on July 1 for a second special session with a Republican-backed plan to close most Texas abortion clinics and further limit abortion procedures.
Perry also managed to shame Davis, who was a teenager mother, for not “heeding her own example.”
“It’s 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.”
With all of this and even more upcoming anti-abortion bills in mind, it’s crucial that we don’t grow complacent in light of recent events. Progress must be taken in stride to maintain its momentum, and small victories, however rewarding, shouldn’t make us lose sight of what’s left to accomplish.
I’m with The Hulk on this one: If we’re going to keep making progress, the secret is to always be angry.
Written by Marinda Valenti
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