In case you haven’t heard, the fight over Women’s rights in Texas is far from over. Like the summer in this state, it’s just now heating up.
From the Burnt Orange Report…
Here in Texas, Republicans are waging an all-out assault on women. After the close of the regular legislative session, Governor Rick Perry called a special session to fast-track severe abortion restrictions that would close 37 of the state’s 42 abortion providers. This comes on the heels of vicious cuts to women’s health and family planning in 2011, which slashed 75% of the budget for what is primarily preventative care and access to birth control. Oh, and Perry also vetoed the Texas Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that passed with bipartisan support in 2013.
During the regular legislative session in which female legislators from both parties stood up against further attacks on women’s health — though let’s be honest, there wasn’t much left to dismantle. However, Perry decided to add abortion restrictions to an initial special session that was initially called to pass redistricting maps. (The maps suck and are intentionally discriminatory against minorities, but that’s a topic for another time).
Texas women stood up against the abortion restrictions. Planned Parenthood organized women to stand in the Senate dressed in 1950’s garb, while NARAL sent “tangerine vagilantes” in orange shirts to silently display their opposition. The movement grew when several of the abortion bills were heard in a State Affairs committee — pro-choice groups and the Democratic Party organized hundreds of women to attend to tell their stories about why they oppose the bill. When Committee Chair Byron Cook silenced the women by cutting off testimony, he tossed gasoline on a long-smoldering anger of women who had long ago grown sick and tired of Republicans’ endless chipping away at reproductive rights.
Hundreds of Texans thronged the Capitol for the second reading of the bill on the State House floor, during which Democrats valiantly offered sane amendments and sharp commentary on the bill in an effort to slow its passage. Eventually the bill made it out of the House and back to the Senate, but a mandatory 24-hour waiting period — which Dewhurst tried to out-maneuver due to the absence of Democratic Senator Leticia Van de Putte, who was attending her father’s funeral — put the firm Tuesday, June 25 midnight deadline within reach of a valiant last stand by the Democrats.
The first session ended with the now-famous filibuster by State Senator Wendy Davis, who read testimonies cut off by Cook and others submitted via email and engaged in debate with her colleagues on the Senate floor for over 11 hours, until she was silenced by Republican points of order. Her Democratic colleagues debated those points of order until with less than 15 minutes to go, the Senate Gallery erupted into shouts and screams against the bill and the gross abuse of Senate rules that was facilitating its passage. The clock ran out on the special session, and after it was ascertained that the bill did not pass, Perry called everyone back to do it again.
So that’s where we are: back for a second special session to pass unwanted abortion restrictions that a galvanizing citizen-led effort helped shut down the first time.
The first Stand With Texas Women rally begins at noon in Austin at the state capitol. But other events are also being held for those that cannot make it to Austin, but want to stand in solidarity with the protesters.