On Friday, the Texas Senate passed sweeping anti-abortion restrictions, that unconstitutionally ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy and will unnecessary require abortion clinics to meet the standards set for hospital style-surgical centers, among other provisions. The bill now awaits Gov. Rick Perry’s signature. Once signed, it will force most of Texas’ 42 abortion clinics to close. This is certainly a sad day for women’s health.
But, there is a silver lining. In order to get the bill passed, Gov. Perry was forced to call not one but two special sessions. Women and men in my home state of Texas stood in line for hours to testify against the bill. During the first special session, they protested noisily, keeping the Senate from taking a vote until after the session expired. Not just the state, but the whole country has watched the Texas Lege’ (as we call it) treat women with such utter contempt that a movement to “Stand with Texas Women” has been born. Yes, it was disgraceful to watch a woman be dragged out of the Texas Statehouse for doing nothing more than provide testimony on the rank hypocrisy of the supporters of the bill. But it was also moving to see the steps of the Capitol awash in orange, the color of the movement.
Last week, I was at a barbecue with a college friend who now lives in Texas and he asked me about what was happening. I started telling him about Wendy Davis’ filibuster – how she stood and talked for 11 hours before she was stopped for being “off-topic.” After a while, the conversation around me stopped and I realized everyone was listening. They all wanted to know what had happened – what would the law mean if it were passed, what they could do to stop it. It was kind of amazing. Sometimes in this work it feels like you are just shouting in the wind. But something is changing. I can feel it. As Molly Ivins said, “What you need is sustained outrage…there’s far too much unthinking respect given to authority.” I think we are getting some of that outrage now.