By Adrienne Kimmell, Executive Director
Texas State Senator Wendy Davis became a feminist superstar and champion for democracy during her filibuster late last month, momentarily killing a restrictive, anti-woman bill that would ban abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy and close all but five abortion clinics in the state. Despite the resounding voices of constituents supporting Davis and her efforts, however, Governor Rick Perry called another special legislative session for Monday, July 8, where he said the bill “is going to pass”
But that filibuster was a thrilling 11 hours for women’s health advocates across the country—and the world. It showed that our voices matter. That democracy can work. That armed with conviction, the facts, and the guts to stand up to a patriarchal majority, women in politics make a difference.
Most importantly, though, it showed this: What happens in Texas doesn’t just stay in Texas. Texas is but one example of what states such as North Carolina, Ohio, Arkansas, Mississippi, and North Dakota are doing – and have been doing – to limit women’s rights. And it isn’t novel.
State legislatures have been the testing ground for model anti-choice bills that make their way to a larger stage for decades. Case in point: Just days after Texas made headlines, Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) weighed plans to introduce in the U.S. Senate a nationwide, 20-week abortion ban.
If ever there was a time to test the theory that having women in state legislatures nationwide is important, this is it. We may be staring down the barrel of another all-out attack on women’s autonomy. But I opt for a slightly more optimistic route. We are also on the precipice of a real shift in the way women’s voices are elevated and evaluated.
Without Senator Davis literally standing up for women, I’m willing to bet the Texas bill would have passed with little fanfare, silencing Texas women and trampling their freedom. Sure, the bill will still become law with a GOP-led legislature and Governor to match. But without Senator Davis, thousands of women and their allies wouldn’t be part of the discussion.
Her action mobilized the masses. It sent a message to an overwhelmingly male legislature and male governor that, no, they can’t just have it their way with women’s rights and bodies. Women will not sit idly by.
For better or worse, Texas may just be a bellwether for women’s power.