Good day Austin:
Like the corners of my mind
Misty watercolor memories
Of the way we were
Oh, I’m sorry. I was lost in a reverie, recalling that day three years ago when I, only six months a reporter in Austin, a stranger in a strange land, found myself thrilled to be covering a truly exhilarating moment of genuine historical drama.
The Texas Capitol was the center of the political universe, the building fairly shaking, throbbing, pulsing with tension and consequence, with Wendy Davis – and that terse bard of the Texas Senate, Mike Ward – seizing the Twitterverse by the neck and shaking it for all it’s worth, and the moribund corpse of the Texas Democratic Party, laid out cold on a slab, being thumped and electric-shocked back to life.
I had been up the night before writing an anticipatory First Reading so I had only had an hour or two of sleep before showing up in the Senate that morning, and never leaving until well after it culminated in a delirious moment of confusion/triumph/defeat that made Mr. Smith, and all the fuss made about him, seem quaintly understated.
For that Sunday’s Statesman I wrote:
By standing her ground on the Senate floor for nearly 13 hours Tuesday against legislation that would severely restrict access to abortions in Texas, the petite Davis, in her now-celebrated rouge red Mizuno Wave Rider 16s, had provided downtrodden Texas Democrats with their best moment of the 21st century.
Overnight, Davis had raised the possibility that Democrats, against all odds, might mount a serious campaign for governor in 2014, scrambled Gov. Rick Perry’s political timetable, undermined Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s chances of re-election, and revised the politics of abortion in Texas by pushing final passage of Senate Bill 5 past its midnight deadline.
“That was the moment when the Democratic Party in Texas came alive,” U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, said the next day. “I was in the Texas Legislature for 10 years waiting for that moment. I never got it. It happened last night.”
Castro made the remarks on “All In” with Chris Hayes on MSNBC, the cable TV network of Democratic hopes and dreams, which in the past week, has been wall-to-wall Wendy.
“In my political career – and this is my sixth regular legislative session and 10 or 12 specials – there is nothing that compares,” said Democratic consultant Jeff Rotkoff, who predicted it will leave a profound legacy, whether it’s the more immediate gratification of a Davis run for governor, or the longer term impact on a 15-year-old who tagged along with his or her mother Tuesday to the Capitol and experienced the life-changing exhilaration of the moment.
Even in the time of Twitter – Davis’ Twitter following went from 1,200 before she began talking Tuesday to more than 116,000 – the trending trajectory of Davis’ rise is extraordinary.
When Hayes asked her whether she planned to run for governor, Davis, who this spring had said she would stick to seeking re-election to her closely contested Senate seat, replied, “You know, I would be lying if I told you I hadn’t had aspirations.”
It would depend, she said, on whether the current adrenaline rush among Texas Democrats could be maintained. Davis said she thought it could be.
But Democrats, knowing that only a truly breakthrough candidate has any chance of success statewide in Texas, are caught between wanting her to leap, a la Barack Obama, into what might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and fearing they might squander their new superstar, knowing that, with the state’s changing demography, time is on their side.
Well, the adrenalin rush didn’t last, except maybe for Dan Patrick, who used the public flummoxing of David Dewhurst to launch a successful bid to remove and replace him. Davis’ gubernatorial campaign was a disaster. And somehow, when all the dust had settled, we had Sid Miller occupying the august office of Texas Agriculture Commissioner, once occupied by Jim Hightower and Rick Perry, and Ken Paxton succeeding Greg Abbott as attorney general.
Technically, Saturday was Wendy Davis Day, marking the third anniversary of her famous filibuster of Republican effort to enact legislation restricting access to abortion in Texas.
But, like many holidays, Wendy Davis Day this year was actually observed on Monday, as the Supreme Court, with uncanny timing, struck down the abortion law that she had fought, and, for one brief shining moment, had briefly delayed.
She had ultimately lost, but now, in what is being termed the biggest Supreme Court decision on abortion of a generation, she has won.
She has been redeemed.
“This is the end of Wendy’s filibuster,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, the lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court case.
Some background on Miller, from the Whole Woman’s site:
My name is Amy Hagstrom Miller and I founded Whole Woman’s Health in 2003 with the mission to provide fabulous abortion care; which to me means excellent medicine for your body and mind, compassionate, supportive care for your mind and spirit. Our Whole Woman’s Health clinics provide abortion and gynecological care services. We are in the identity examination, stigma reduction, self-esteem boosting business as well. We understand that no one gets pregnant to have an abortion. We also understand that facing an unplanned pregnancy and choosing abortion involves all the big things in women’s lives – examination of identity, life, death, sex, religion, family. We are advocates for women, plain and simple, and we serve women and families with the best care possible during a difficult time in their lives.
And from ValerieTarico.com:
Amy Hagstrom Miller, who will face the Supreme Court next month in defense of her group of clinics, Whole Woman’s Health, is one of those Don’t-Mess-With-Texas women whose fight for rights has improved the lives of other women and families across America.
Hagstrom Miller is a mission-driven small business owner. At age 21, after graduating from Macalester College with degrees in religious and international studies, Hagstrom Miller accepted a job in a family planning clinic that faced hostile protests and regular threats of violence. She was motivated, she says, by her commitment to human rights and justice, a desire to be deeply present with women facing hard decisions and shaping their own futures with intention. Twenty-seven year later, Hagstrom Miller owns eight clinics in five states, many in hard-hit communities. Their name, Whole Woman’s Health, reflects her ongoing determination to treat abortion care as more than a medical procedure:
“This is the first victory we’ve had in decades,” Miller said Monday.
So, OK, Wendy Davis was not destined to be the next Ann Richards.
But, with Monday’s Supreme Court decision, that failure receded between the twin triumphs of her filibuster and its ultimate affirmation by the highest court in the land.
Her place in history is secure, and her pink tennis shoes, now in storage, are destined for the Smithsonian or the National Women’s History Museum, or maybe Wendy Davis Land.
From Alex Ura’s story, Abortion Ruling a Vindication For Wendy Davis and ‘Unruly Mob’
“I understand Wendy Davis is running a victory lap,” Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said Monday at a press conference in Houston.
Republicans are already gearing up for an “absolute onslaught of pro-life legislation” in the next session that begins in January. And House Bill 2 leaves behind reduced abortion access in a state of 5.4 million of reproductive age. Only 19 clinics remain, compared to more than 40 that operated in the state before the legislation passed.
But there’s little doubt that the filibuster and the organizing efforts that marked 2013 have led to increased awareness, particularly among younger Texans, of reproductive health issues, which were already a lightning rod for legislative and political drama.
“Although you’re not always going to see 5,000 people filling the Capitol, the seeds were planted in 2013, and it’s now spreading around the state,” said Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas.
Among the people spurred to action by Davis’ filibuster was Sadie Hernandez, a 21-year-old student organizer from the Rio Grande Valley who made her way to the Capitol that night.
Hernandez, inspired by Davis’ action, last year camped out in front of the governor’s mansion to protest a provision in the state budget that prevented Planned Parenthood from participating in the joint state-federal Breast and Cervical Cancer Services program, which provides cancer screening for poor, uninsured women in Texas.
Dubbing her protest the “People’s Vote,” Hernandez was joined by many other protesters during her stint at the mansion, including Davis herself.
It was a full-circle moment for Hernandez, who wasn’t deeply involved in politics before Davis’ filibuster.
Now, not everyone joined in yesterday’s fanfare for the filibuster and the filibusterer.
Ken Herman comes to mind.
Brave and contrary and maybe the slightest bit cranky, Herman was sticking to his guns that the Davis filibuster, and the chaos that ensued, was both tragedy and farce.
From his column, posted yesterday almost as soon as the Supreme Court decision was announced:
Let’s be clear here. Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down Texas’ onerous abortion restriction law was a major victory for the politics — not the tactics — of the obnoxious protesters who screamed the Texas Senate into temporary shutdown three years ago.
In a ruling that agreed with the protesters’ protestations that the law went way too far, the high court threw out the statute that effectively closed some Texas abortion clinics by setting standards they could not meet.
But we err if we in any way view this as vindication or justification for the childish protest mounted by folks who didn’t seem to understand how our system works.
Those with the most votes win — at least temporarily — no matter how loud or long you yell to try to prevent the votes from being cast. Absolutely having the votes, of course, does not mean absolute power. A Constitution prevails and courts interpret the Constitution. That’s what happened Monday in the proper process — as opposed to the 2013 Senate gallery protest — available to those who believe they are aggrieved, even if they are in the minority.
I believed in 2013 that the Senate gallery protest was a low point in my more than 35 years of watching the Texas Legislature. The protesters were way out of line, then-GOP Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst screwed up in letting it get out of hand and Democratic senators on the floor acted unconscionably in waving their arms to further rouse the rabble in the gallery.
And the screamers, it turned out, couldn’t have been more wrong in predicting their nonsense would be s a landmark turning point that would change the course of Texas political history.
Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth, the performer of a vote-stalling filibuster — silly stunts of endurance not equally available to all senators — used the attention to launch her 2014 gubernatorial campaign amid Democratic optimism unseen in Texas in many years.
She, of course, wound up losing to Republican Greg Abbott by a wider margin than Democrat Bill White lost to Republican Rick Perry four years earlier. So much for Democratic optimism.
Anybody have a possible 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee with a chance of winning?
Well, as I recall, Ken didn’t like Mr. Smith’s filibuster any better, describing it as both “puerile and vexatious” (that’s how he wrote back then).
Statesman readers rewarded Ken’s forthright statement of principle on the filibuster with a succession of negative comments that might unnerve a lesser man.
A favorite, for its vivid imagery: “Herman is a slug spreading his slime on sour grapes.”
I suspect that Pillorying Herman will become a fixture of future Wendy Davis Day celebrations.
Back to my story in the immediate aftermath of the filibuster.
The fervor for abortion rights – so evident in the din created in the Senate gallery Tuesday night that proved instrumental in delaying final passage until just past midnight – was new.
“Historically, there’s been an emotion and energy gap,” observed Southern Methodist University political scientist Cal Jillson. “The right-to-life people are always more motivated than the choice people. Last week that gap seemed to close.”
It is not that most Texans share Davis’ liberal views on abortion.
According to the UT/Tribune poll, 36 percent of Texans – including 59 percent of Democrats – agree that abortion should always be legal, and those numbers have, in fact, ebbed a bit since February.
The numbers of Texans who support an outright ban on abortion are even smaller – 16 percent of all Texans and 27 percent of Republicans – though those numbers are on the rise.
But, despite the emotion it provokes, only 2 percent of respondents in the survey consider it the most important problem facing the state.
In the days leading up to the filibuster, Democrats succeeded in framing the abortion legislation as tantamount to an effort to ban most abortions. Meanwhile, abortion opponents were largely absent from the debate because they didn’t want to do anything to slow a process that was heading in their desired direction.
“I don’t think that the Republican majority was at all effective in the arguments that this was an attempt to protect women and bring facilities up to speed,” Jillson said. “You can look right past that to the idea of their taking any opportunity to push the right-to-life agenda.”
“That’s why Dewhurst’s tweet was such a big tell,” said Jim Henson, who directs UT’s Texas Politics Project, referring to a tweet by Dewhurst for the bill that linked to a Planned Parenthood Web page predicting, “If SB 5 passes, it would essentially ban abortions statewide.”
It was the first of several miscues for Dewhurst, with state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, grousing off the floor about four hours into the filibuster that it should be brought to a halt sooner rather than later.
“I just find it sad that there were people applauding Wendy Davis when she walked on the floor,” Patrick said. “So, we’re going to stand on our rulebook, our 25-year-old rule, and let a baby die a horrible death in the womb?”
Two days later, Patrick announced he was challenging Dewhurst’s re-election, joining a field that already included Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, in what promises to be a bitter GOP primary and another potential target of opportunity for Davis or another Democrat. (So far, no Democrat has indicated plans to run for any statewide office in 2014.)
We know how this all ends, sort of, but not entirely.
Yes, Wendy Davis is not governor. Yes, Dan Patrick is lieutenant governor.
But I think of what Jeff Rotkoff suggested in the immediate aftermath the filibuster.
It will leave a profound legacy, whether it’s the more immediate gratification of a Davis run for governor, or the longer term impact on a 15-year-old who tagged along with his or her mother Tuesday to the Capitol and experienced the life-changing exhilaration of the moment.
We don’t know how that ends. That 15 year old can vote this year, and, before long, run for office on his or her own.
And, I think the Davis filibuster, in which she read from countless wrenching personal accounts, had something to do with changing the nature of the debate about abortion in ways reflected in yesterday’s decision.
From SCOTUSblog – Symposium: Abortion rights come out of the shadow – by Jessica Pieklo, vice president of Law and the Courts at Rewire.
Nearly sixteen years to the day from the last Supreme Court ruling in support of abortion rights and it is Justice Stephen Breyer, again, leading the push back against state-level abortion restrictions. Only unlike his majority opinion in Stenberg v. Carhart, which struck as unconstitutional Nebraska’s so-called “partial birth abortion ban” and opens with a concession that the Court understands “the controversial nature of the [abortion] problem,” then practically apologizes for describing the details of the specific abortion procedure at issue, Monday’s opinion in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt does just the opposite. It embraces, entirely, the reality that abortion is a fundamental right, a medical procedure that one in three women will need in their lifetime, and should not therefore be subject to the regulatory whims of anti-abortion lawmakers.
For abortion-rights advocates, the decision represents not just an important win, but signals an important rhetorical shift on the legal debate over abortion rights at a time when state-level restrictions threaten to render that right legal in name only.
At issue in this case were two provisions of HB 2, a Texas omnibus anti-abortion law passed in 2013 despite vigorous opposition including the “people’s protest” and an eleven-hour filibuster by then Texas state senator Wendy Davis. Those provisions required doctors performing abortions in the state to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and also required abortion clinics to meet the same architectural standards as surgical centers, even if those clinics did not offer surgical abortions.
Which is why it was important for abortion rights advocates that Monday’s decision not just strike down the Texas restrictions as unconstitutional, but do so in an opinion that dealt with abortion in a frank and unapologetic fashion while instructing the federal courts to do the same. “The statement [by the Fifth Circuit and advanced by the state of Texas] that legislatures, and not courts, must resolve questions of medical uncertainty is also inconsistent with this Court’s case law,” wrote Breyer. “Instead, the Court, when determining the constitutionality of laws regulating abortion procedures, has placed considerable weight upon evidence and argument presented in judicial proceedings.”
Those two sentences may not sound that remarkable — of course it is the job of the federal courts to weigh the evidence when there is a question of medical or scientific uncertainty — but in the context of the fight over abortion rights and access, those two sentences from Breyer are practically revolutionary.
Anti-abortion lawmakers have succeeded in advancing restriction after restriction in large part because of a cultural reluctance to speak frankly and openly about abortion, which includes pushing back against the suggestion that restricting access to abortion ever advances patient safety. As Texans felt the impact of HB 2, and as other states followed suit in enacting their own TRAP laws and more and more clinics closed, an amazing thing happened. People started sharing their abortion stories publicly and in ways designed specifically to affect not only the public debate over HB 2 but also the Court’s consideration of the claims against it. Doctors spoke out. Patients spoke out. Family members spoke out. For the first time in the Court’s history, female lawyers shared in detail with the Supreme Court their stories of how safe and legal abortion care made their careers, and their lives, possible.
Those stories were not apologetic over the need for an abortion. They did not shy away from the medical realities of abortion. Instead they affirmed the very core of abortion-rights jurisprudence from Roe v. Wade, which is that reproductive autonomy is a fundamental right and the right to choose is just that: An expression of that autonomy.
What’s next for Wendy Davis?
I doubt she’ll run for office again.
I think her future rests with Hillary Clinton and whoever runs MSNBC.
In the meantime she has started an organization, Deeds not Words.
There’s so much that needs to change—and so much red tape to navigate – it’s hard to know where to start. Believe us, we’ve been there. That’s why we, a group of passionate people led by Wendy Davis, created Deeds Not Words.
Deeds Not Words is your starting point for turning ideas about women’s equality into action. We’ll provide the tools you need to make changes in your community – like sample letters for legislators, toolkits, and a community where you can share stories and get advice.
Join us. Because we’re the #ChangeMakers.
OK. But I assume Deeds not Words is drawn from the rallying cry of The Women’s Social and Political Union, the leading militant organization campaigning for women’s suffrage in Great Britain from 1903-1917
Here, from the British Parliament web site entry on Deeds not Words.
Imprisonment for their actions became an important tool for the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) and led to another important tactic, hunger striking.
The first hunger strike was undertaken by Marion Wallace-Dunlop in 1909 as a protest when she was not given political prisoner status in prison. She had been arrested for damaging a wall in St. Stephen’s Hall in the Houses of Parliament.
When imprisoned, suffragettes would go on hunger strike, leading to the authorities force-feeding women in prison, a dangerous and humiliating treatment which provided the suffragettes with powerful propaganda.
‘Cat and Mouse Act’
The Prisoners’ Temporary Discharge for Ill-Health Act, also known as ‘The Cat and Mouse Act’ was passed in 1913. This permitted the early release of women who had become so ill as a result of their hunger strike that they were at risk of death but required that they return to prison when their health was better to continue their sentence.
The hunger strike/force feeding process then began all over again.
In 1910, a Conciliation Bill was read in Parliament. The bill was written to extend voting rights to women but failed to become law. Following its failure there were violent clashes outside Parliament. There were further Conciliation Bills proposed in subsequent years but they failed to resolve the situation.
Emily Wilding Davison
Emily Wilding Davison was particularly committed to ‘deeds not words’, notably hiding in the House of Commons on a number of occasions, including on Census night in April 1911 when she spent the night in a cupboard in the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft in order to state ‘House of Commons’ as her address on her census return.
She was imprisoned eight times for offences including assault and stone-throwing. Her final, and most dramatic, act was to step out in front of the King’s horse at the Epsom Derby in June 1913. It is unclear whether she intended to commit suicide, but she died soon afterwards of her injuries.
I can only imagine what Sir Ken Herman would have done with that.