Texas Feminists Make History!

9142431024_8197811306It was a historic day—and night, and day again—for abortion rights in Texas yesterday.

In a special legislative session, Texas Gov. Rick Perry tried to shove through an oppressive anti-abortion law, SB 5, that could have shut down all but five abortion clinics in the huge state. But state Sen. Wendy Davis wasn’t having it, and neither were the thousands and thousands of women and others who supported her.

Davis, wearing pink tennis shoes (we like to think of them as “radical raspberry”) and a back brace, stood up for nearly 11 hours in a one-woman filibuster against the bill. Everything she said had to be germane to the debate—she couldn’t just read from a phonebook. As the midnight deadline for passing the bill approaches, hundreds of protesters in the gallery cheered wildly, interrupting the proceedings as Republican anti-abortion lawmakers finally took a vote. AP—one of the few mainstream news outlets to even cover the amazing event—reported, incorrectly, that the bill had passed. But three hours later, Lieutenant Gov. David Dewhurst admitted that the vote had not followed proper procedures and was thus voided. He blamed the situation on an “unruly mob using Occupy Wall Street tactics.” We call that women speaking up for their rights!

It was a huge we’re-not-going-to-take-it-any-more victory for reproductive health care; finally, women’s voices were heard! Not only were hundreds of Texas women demonstrating their opposition to the legislation—lined up from the rotunda on the bottom floor of the Capitol to the third floor where the Senate was—but a hundred thousand people were watching the filibuster live, thanks to a feed from the The Texas Tribune. Twitter and other social media gave a huge boost to those opposing Perry and the legislature’s actions, and even President Obama tweeted out the link to the TV feed, thus boosting the audience numbers.

Significant majorities in the U.S.—including Texas—want access to safe abortion. Perry and the Texas legislature—in which 4 of 5 members are men—are completely out of step. And with women speaking out loudly against the latest War on Women piece of legislation, it should be harder and harder to get such legislation passed. Today’s victory is surely a sign of things to come. Woe to Gov. Perry if he tries to resurrect this anti-woman bill; feminists are ready and in a fighting spirit!

We applaud Sen. Davis, the “unruly” women in Austin and feminists around the country who are mad as hell and don’t want to take this repressive attempt to control our bodies and our health any more. Together, we can continue to make a powerful noise, not just in Texas but around the nation!

Katherine Spillar is executive editor of Ms. and executive vice president of the Feminist Majority Foundation.

Photo of protester at Texas State Capitol during SB 5 filibuster by Flickr user Ann Harkness under license from Creative Commons 2.0


  1. Thank you, Senator Wendy Davis and all her supporters in Texas! Now we have a “blueprint” for doing the same in other states — Wisconsin, Virginia, Arkansas, and North Dakota, to name just four — that are trying to impose the same kind of anti-choice legislation on the women there. I loved the pink tennis shoes too. 🙂

  2. Lt. Governor Dewhurst proclaimed the SB5 passed, but unfortunately for him and the Governor the clock struck midnight before the vote was completed. They actually pushed the clock back, but were busted by a public with iPhones and camera’s that busted that move. Then at 3:15 am he proclaimed the Bill was defeated. Perry has already called another special session to re-address this draconian Bill, meaning once again the democratic rules during session will not apply. This is how they do it now to push their personal agenda. Clearly Perry wants this to be his legacy as he makes Texas a laughing stock by running for President again. Thus playing to the extreme right backers.

  3. This was a very different experience from when I was in the Legislature for Texas NOW in 2000. We were good back then, too. The conservative challenge just wasn’t as audacious.
    I think every woman who was there Tuesday night and probably the men too, walked a little taller, felt a little freer this week after getting our power together so calmly and beautifully.
    I’m sure it helped on Tuesday that I wore my Wonder Woman piece and this beautiful dress that Brenda Chuleewah’s mother imagined and sewed. The orange dress was my pink tennis shoes! But whether you wore shorts and a T-shirt or a suit and tie, I’m sure our collective love and power felt as freeing for your soul. Let’s remember that and remember the study Judith Rosenberg likes to cite. That study reminds us that protest is good for the heart and mental health. Let’s kick off some more oppression together this week. In peace and love, Donna

  4. Jill Santos says:

    It’s not over! Second special session starts Monday, July 1. Please join us in body and spirit for a rally to support women’s rights at the Texas Capitol on July 1 at noon. For more info:

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