A few years ago, during consideration of a bill being pushed by a Republican elder in the Texas Senate, first-term Sen. Wendy Davis asked him a question about it. Rather than respond to this Democrat, this woman, the old bull replied dismissively, “I have trouble hearing women’s voices.”
No more. Even a stone-deaf old bull would’ve been jerked to attention by the clarity of Davis’ voice on June 25. Starting at 11:18 a.m., she literally stood tall for more than 11 grueling hours, filibustering a mean and demeaning attempt by extremist Republican leaders to put the state government in charge of the most personal right women have: controlling decisions about their own bodies.
Davis’ principled stand — in Texas, no less — rallied over 2,000 mothers, grandmothers, girls and others to come to the capitol from all over the state, packing the gallery in quiet witness. Quiet until 10:04 p.m., that is, when GOP leaders tried to silence her by unilaterally ruling her filibuster over.
Suddenly, the ruling Solons were startled by a high-decibel reprimand from their subjects — the gallery erupted in citizen outrage, causing chaos on the floor. Then, when the “leaders” tried to force a vote, the “followers” took charge, with jeers so loud that senators couldn’t hear themselves. With the session set to expire at midnight, panicky leaders tried to push the clock back, which led to deafening chants of “shame, shame, shame,” ultimately blocking the GOP’s brutish ploy.
Texas Republicans have already re-rigged the rules so they can get their way on another day, but they can’t escape the huge significance of this defeat. As Davis rightfully noted, while she was the one standing on the floor, “it was the ‘people’s filibuster’ that stopped (the bill)” and awakened a new movement in Texas that won’t be stopped.
Texas has long experience with animalistic approach to public policy. In 2007, a local school superintendent rejected any need for sex education classes in his district. Noting that many students there live on farms, he said, “They get a pretty good sex education from their animals.”
Guess which state is No. 1 in teen pregnancies? Yes, Texas.
And who should be the ones to make medical decisions about pregnancies? Not women and their doctors. They might choose “wrong” over the doctrine of certain religious groups. Rather, the macho Republican autocrats and theocrats who now reign over state government say they are the ones to decide such deeply personal matters. How embarrassing for these political bullies, then, to have had their repressive, extremist and dangerous anti-choice legislation derailed by … well, by women.
“An unruly mob,” cried the lieutenant governor as he fled the capitol. One GOP lawmaker tremulously tweeted that Davis, the opposition leader, was a “terrorist.” And Gov. Rick “Oops” Perry ran away to Dallas, where he whimpered that the people’s assertion of citizens’ authority was a “hijacking of the democratic process.” Odd concept: The people “hijacking” democracy.
All this from “leaders” who blatantly hijacked the rules to shut down Davis’ gutsy filibuster. In 2011, these same wimps even tried to hijack Davis’ Senate district by illegally shoving more than half of her minority precincts into neighboring districts — a racist ploy that federal judges overturned. And now Perry is trying to hijack reality, huffing and puffing that he’ll slap down the women’s opposition to his assault on their rights, because that’s “what the people of this state hired us to do.”
Get a grip, Rick. In a June poll, 63 percent of registered Texas voters said we already have plenty of anti-abortion laws on the books, and nearly three-fourths of the people (including 6 out of 10 Republicans) say such personal medical decisions should be made by women and their doctors, not by political quacks masquerading as Talibanic moral arbitrators. And 81 percent say the legislature should focus on basic economic issues wracking the majority of Texans.
Davis pointed out that far from helping the economic plight of women in the Lone Star State, he vetoed the equal-pay-for-equal-work bill recently passed by the legislature. How rude of her!
To find out more about Jim Hightower, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.
Photo: George Olcott via Flickr.com