The Winners and Losers of the Great Texas Abortion Filibuster
If you were anywhere near a computer, a phone, or the Hill Country over the past 24 hours, you'll know that Texas witnessed one of the most memorable, remarkable displays of political will it's ever known. In lieu of allowing nearly 90 percent of the abortion clinics across the state to shutter, Sen. Wendy Davis stood in front of her colleagues, and in front of hundreds of thousands who watched alongside, to cover all the reasons Senate Bill 5 was an affront on both constitutional right and basic decencies.
Well done, Sen. Davis. And thank you.
And while the filibuster didn't technically run through its intended deadline -- a handful of short-sighted points of order derailed her speech just short of its intended 13 hours -- the move was, in the end, a success. Sen. Rodney Ellis helped Davis put on her back brace. Sens. Kirk Watson, Judith Zaffirini, and Leticia Van de Putte picked Davis up when she faltered. And, with ten minutes remaining until midnight, the crowd began a round of cheers that drowned any final attempts to all but ban access to abortion for millions of women.
Senate Bill 5 is dead. Abortion clinics remain available to the 13 million women in the state. And some have come out of the debate looking far better than others:
Wendy Davis: There are only so many words you can offer to capture the effort Davis offered on Tuesday. For anyone who had a chance to catch any of the 11-odd hours of her speech -- for anyone who saw her tears through the testimonials, or the fire through her soliloquy -- you witnessed the forging of a political brand. Through her sustained, inspired efforts, Davis has not simply helped shift national perceptions of Texans, but has instantly tossed herself to the fore of the Democratic pack in the gubernatorial race. A teenage mom, a Harvard Law grad, and a woman who just sacrificed herself so that others wouldn't have to? We'll see you in 17 months, senator.
Texas women: This may be a bit of a cop-out, but no demographic comes out of this abortion debacle looking as dedicated and responsive as the women of this state. There were millions of men who offered support alongside. And that's great -- we're not going anywhere. But the women of the state: Those were the ones organizing. Those were the ones rallying. Those were the ones who brought Davis forward, and who buried this bill where it belongs. This ruling belonged to the most powerful electorate the state suddenly knows. Ann Richards is smiling, wherever she may be. And you should be, as well.
Transparent government: As the clock ticked to midnight, and as the crowd in the rotunda turned its waves into a roar, Dewhurst realized his efforts at order were in vain. This cadre of supporters was not going to allow the most restrictive abortion regulations in the nation to take effect. Huddling with his compatriots, going over tactics and procedure, Dewhurst's colleagues produced sound bytes of victory and claims of passage. They pointed to the document detailing the bill's movements. Everything had taken place before midnight. Everything in the bill was set for implementation.
But, wait! Look at the time-stamp on those documents. Look who's taken these screencaps of the original, and look at what's changed. And look at the data on the bottom of the live stream -- look at those hundreds of thousands who've just witnessed the midnight bell ring, without SB 5's passage. Get a sense of how many people just witnessed what took place. Because Dewhurst seemed to. Three hours later, after the whispers of Sen. Dan Patrick proved false, Dewhurst returned to reporters, realizing there was no way he could pull the wool over Texas's eyes. Realizing that people had watched their government at work. It's no coincidence that debate led the crowd to burst into the largest rendition of "The Eyes of Texas" you'll ever see.