2013: The year that a lot of Texas women like me woke up…

to the fact that a bunch of conservative white men (and a few conservative white women) in suits believe that Texas women are incapable of making good reproductive choices for themselves and that therefore they (the aforesaid officials) need to take away some of those options. Continue reading

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Pro-choice gathering at Texas Capitol on June 1, 2013

UPDATE: If you have to work on Monday (or are allergic to the sun/heat) and can’t participate in the rally, now you can come after dark for the march from south Congress to the Texas Capitol on Monday night at 8 pm. It’s also a Facebook event at https://www.facebook.com/events/166843946830616/ I’m going to see how my energy is.

Also, Jessica Luther has offered to post updates on the actual legislative process as it proceeds. Go here: http://jessicawluther.com/2013/06/30/update-on-tomorrows-rally-new-events-scheduled-hb2-swtw/.

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I’ll be at the Capitol Monday out of respect for women’s rights to control their own bodies and make their own reproductive choices. I respect those who oppose abortion, as long as they don’t try to legislatively take away a woman’s right to make that very personal decision for herself, which is what the Texas legislature is trying to do under the guise of protecting women’s health.

I also know that I will be standing there for millions of other women and girls around the world, who just want to have the babies they know they can take care of.

I thought it would be a good idea to compile some helpful links if you are planning to go.

RSVP for Facebook events if you plan to attend

There are two events listed on Facebook for the opening of the second special session in Texas after the filibuster and protest that killed SB5 in the first special session:

  • Kill the Bill Volume 2 (with an awesome graphic of Wendy Davis’ head on Beatrice Kiddo’s/Uma Thurman’s body) starting at 10 am (organized by 6 individuals) and continuing until the vote is held. Screen Shot 2013-06-30 at 1.41.07 PM
  • Stand Up Monday – Rally at the Texas Capitol starting at 12 noon (organized by Stand With Texas Women) ending at 2 pm.

For both events, attendees can go sit in the Senate or House gallery to watch the proceedings when they start at 2 pm. Be quiet and respectful, or be escorted out or possibly arrested. The noise last Monday that prevented the vote from taking place before midnight came from those in the rotunda, under the dome, while those in the Senate gallery were slowly being escorted out (or arrested) for being loud. That may or may not happen again.

The vote on SB9/HB2 could happen very quickly (with as many dirty tricks as possible), given what just happened with SB5. I’m sure the legislators would like to be done before July 4, but the special session could last 30 days. Given that the House and Senate introduced different bills, though, it is unlikely they will agree and vote tomorrow. No one knows if there will be another filibuster.

It’s a good idea to know ahead of time whether you’re prepared to participate in acts of civil disobedience and face possible arrest. If you don’t want to be arrested, don’t let that scare you from coming. Your presence is important. You don’t have to participate in anything that would get you arrested, and please recognize that some people may choose to be arrested, but most will not.

Keep calm (and vocal in the appropriate place) and carry on! 

There’s an anti-abortion rally at 10:15 am as well. So far the numbers show the two pro-choice events have over 7,000 and over 5,000 RSVPing (respectively, and there’s no telling how many RSVPed to both), and <700 for the anti-abortion folks.

The pro-choice supporters will be wearing orange (nice choice for Austin, since it’s the color for The University of Texas just blocks away and many have orange shifts). The anti-abortion people are wearing blue.

Text of SB9

The text of SB9 (the number changed with the second special session — SB5 was from the first special session) can be read here. It’s only about the abortion pill. The bill was introduced by Dan Patrick  (Tea Party Republican).

HB2 isn’t available yet but supposedly will be exactly what was introduced in the first special session, both times by Jody Laubenberg (that very same elected official who said that rape kits “clean you out”). http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/tlodocs/832/billtext/pdf/SB00009I.pdf#navpanes=0.

Rebuttal to SB5

A nice rebuttal to SB5 can be found here (and the comments are worth reading): http://crypticphilosopher.com/2013/06/if-youre-planning-on-joining-the-next-round-of-sb5-protests-take-heed/. Excerpt below:

IN CONCLUSION, the bigger issue of the War on Women of which this bill is but one battle is that a primarily rich, white, old, male legislature is determining what SHOULD be a decision between a doctor, a woman, and whatever deity in which a woman believes (if any). They are not in there discussing the man’s obligation and role in a woman’s pregnancy in the first place, men’s rights to Viagra, standards for safe surgical procedures for vasectomies or prostate cancer, rape prevention measures, or appropriate and realistic sex education to prevent pregnancy in the first place.

Austin editorial puts it in context

An editorial from the Austin American-Statesman staff that puts SB5 in the larger context of women’s rights in recent times in Texas: http://www.mystatesman.com/news/news/opinion/davis-filibuster-shifts-abortion-debate-to-womens-/nYYmg/. Excerpt below:

It’s true that prolonged shouts of people packing the Senate gallery prevented a vote in the final minutes of the special session, and thus killed the bill. But the uproar coming from the chamber that night was not the noise of an unruly mob — it was the sound of civil disobedience. It was the tipping point in a steady stream of insults targeting women.

FAQ for SB9 protest

The FAQ for SB9 protest, created by the Kill the Bill creators,  is at https://docs.google.com/document/d/1FD9NpZjiNQzlQgR2k6mXd027rFGacGJ958y6tfHIquk/edit. Note that there are links to various online petitions, places to donate, and lots of good information. Excerpt:

To keep a protest peaceful, there should be an understanding among all protesters that violence and belligerence are not to be tolerated. Keep the confrontation and swearing at a minimum by making sure that everyone at your protest understands that it is a civil, peaceful demonstration. Do not show up drunk, or intoxicated in any way. Be mindful of fellow protesters that have children, have disabilities, or otherwise may need certain accommodations. (Yes, it’s a family friendly event!)

If someone is aggravating a situation, remember that mob mentality can turn from peaceful to riotous quickly. Stay calm, help others remain calm. Continue your peaceful protest. Shift focus from agitators, make jokes, remember why you are there and that being there for the long haul is oftentimes more important than making the news by getting arrested.

Note: sometimes standing your ground peacefully can get you arrested. If this is the case, people are likely more willing to post bail in support of your actions.

More good info including where to get orange shirts

NOWorangeThis site from NOW Austin has lots of good information for people in Austin, the rest of Texas, and those in other states/nations. Facebook and Twitter profiles are also available (see left). Includes links to information about House and Senate rules and rallies on Tuesday in other Texas cities like San Antonio, Beaumont, Fort Worth, Houston, as well as in Austin.  http://www.nowaustin.org/newsite/update-what-you-can-do-to-support-the-texas-feministarmy/.

Everything you wanted to know

Another good source of information is this page from Too Twisted for Color TV, including links to watching online if you can’t be there and how you can help. It’s updated frequently: http://tootwistedtv.blogspot.com/2013/06/everything-you-wanted-to-know-about-tx.html

Your rights at protest and demonstrations

The ACLU has a web page about knowing your rights at protests and demonstrations here: http://www.aclu.org/free-speech/know-your-rights-demonstrations-and-protests.

What should I do if my rights are being violated by a police officer?

It rarely does any good to argue with a street patrol officer. Ask to talk to a supervisor and explain your position to him or her. Point out that you are not disrupting anyone else’s activity and that the First Amendment protects your actions. If you do not obey an officer, you might be arrested and taken from the scene. You should not be convicted if a court concludes that your First Amendment rights have been violated.

Share your opinion NOW with your Texas state representative and senator

If you live in Texas, you can still email or call your Texas state senator and Texas state representative and voice your opinion clearly and respectfully. If you haven’t done that, please, please do it now! It would be so great if some of these officials, who thought they were representing their districts, found out that they actually were not doing that and changed how they intend to vote.

If you don’t know who represents you or how to get hold of them, go here: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/Home.aspx.

Get deputized to register voters

Since it is possible that this bill will be passed quickly despite our presence, one way to stay active is to make sure supporters are registered to vote. People will be deputizing voter registrars from 2:30-4:30 at 314 W. 11th, a Travis County office. It’s a Facebook event that asks you to join and fill out a form in advance so they can register hundreds if that many want. (Your information is kept private.) See more at https://www.facebook.com/events/272719459532877/.

I will update this with more good links if I discover them and have time.

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Finally, protect yourself from the sun (sunscreen, hats, umbrellas), wear good shoes (you may be on your feet for hours), and stay hydrated.

If you have a personal wifi device, bring it! Make sure your phones and cameras are charged and ready to go! Tweet to #standwithtxwomen, #swtw, #feministarmy, #standwithwendy, #sb9, #hb2, and #txlege. If you want to follow me, I am @wellbodymind. Hope to see you there!

Finally, feel free to share this wherever you think it will help.

Another story about last night at the Texas capitol

This account is by a woman in New York trying to keep up with the events of last night in Austin. It includes a lot of good information about social media’s role (and television’s non-role).

And the documentation that the Republicans tried to fudge on the time to make the bill pass.

Here’s the original: Messing with Texas. Thank you, Rachel Sklar!

Messing With Texas

The Texas GOP very nearly stole a vote with 180,000 people watching. The Internet stopped it. Here’s what you didn’t see on TV.

It’s 4:39 a.m. and Christopher Dido’s UStream channel has only just gone dark. I don’t know him, but the Austin-based citizen journalist has been my after-hours window into the Texas state legislature since shortly after 1 a.m., or midnight, Central Time, when the official Texas legislature livestream concluded on YouTube. Before that, I and 180,000 others had been glued for hours to the drama unfolding in the bare-knuckled fight over SB5 — Senate Bill 5 — which would all but abolish abortion rights in the state.

What should have been a dry parliamentary proceeding — like watching paint dry on C-SPAN — was a riveting spectacle featuring a thirteen-hour filibuster, a grassroots uprising, a stolen vote, a Twitter revolt, umpteen points of parliamentary inquiry, a stunning 3 a.m. reversal and a new national feminist hero.

Texas state senator Wendy Davis announced the filibuster on Twitter, vowing to stand, literally, against “the most anti-woman, anti-family legislation that Texas has ever seen.” SB5 was what’s known as an omnibus bill — one which bundles a number of measures together — and combined, they stood to knock out all but five of the state’s 42 abortion clinics, wiping out access in poorer rural areas.

She showed up to the vote wearing pink tennis shoes, knowing that the parliamentary rules governing the session would require her to stand and speak on the topic straight through, without a break to sit down, use a bathroom, eat or drink, or even lean on the podium for support.

And so she did. She read testimony from abortion providers and personal accounts of Texan women and explained how the proposed law was harmful to her constituents and their communities, and then, to keep the momentum going, welcomed testimony from across the country. She stayed studiously on topic, lest she be challenged by the Republican opposition for raising topics that were not “germane.” She had to be careful because it was a three-strikes-and-you’re-out rule.

Her first strike was for mentioning Planned Parenthood’s budget (ruled not germane, despite SB5 pointedly invoking expensive new demands on clinics). Her second strike was for a fellow Senator assisting her with her back brace. (Filibustering members must stand unassisted.) Her third strike, at about 10 p.m. CT, was mentioning sonograms — totally germane, since under Texas law sonograms are a prerequisite to obtaining an abortion — unless you’re Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, who declared sonograms not germane to the matter at hand and moved to end the filibuster.

This is when all hell broke loose, parliamentary style.

A dull roar rose in the room. The galleries above the Senate chamber were packed with activists, supporters and concerned citizens — polls showed that Texans overwhelmingly opposed SB5 — and a chant arose of, “LET HER SPEAK! LET HER SPEAK!” Dewhurst tried to restore order. State troopers started clearing the gallery. Sen. Kirk Watson moved to appeal Dewhurt’s ruling. Sen. Judith Zaffirini objected to Dewhurt’s summary decision, saying that filibuster ended only with a vote by the Senate. Sen. Leticia Van de Putte asked for a debrief on what she’d missed since she’d come straight from her father’s funeral. The clock ran down.

Meanwhile, protesters gathered in the statehouse rotunda, angry at the sketchy way the filibuster had been shot down. They refused to leave.

All of this was unfolding on two screens: the Texas legislature livestream on YouTube, which had been growing steadily all day and by now had hit 180,000-plus; and Twitter, where #standwithwendy was the #1 trend in the U.S. As the clock hit 11 p.m. in Texas I checked the third screen — TV — once more, thinking that by now the cable news execs would have gotten wind of the story and broken into regularly-scheduled programming. No such luck: CNN was re-running Piers Morgan, MSNBC was re-running Rachel Maddow, and Fox was re-running Hannity.

There was one hour to go. Sen. Davis was still standing by her desk, in filibuster limbo.A Republican senator moved to table Sen. Watson’s motion to appeal, and they squabbled about whose motion was on the floor. Other Senators from both sides made other motions. Dewhurst swapped out with another Republican, Sen. Robert Duncan, while they debated his ruling. There were many points of order, followed by long silences on the livestream while the chairs scratched their heads and tried to remember which motion happened when. It was a little like Lord of the Flies, except no one could find the conch. The clock ran down.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, the one who had come from her father’s funeral, kept trying to be recognized. It was 11:45 p.m. Finally she got the chair’s attention: “At what point does a female senator need to raise her hand and her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues in the room?

The crowd went bonkers. The chair, Duncan, tried to restore order but there was no chance — it was a citizen filibuster. There was no way the GOP could wrap this up with a vote in 15 minutes, not with Watson’s motion still on the floor. Or could they?

Damned if I knew. The sound kept cutting in and out from the livestream and you couldn’t really tell what was going on, anyway. It seemed like some sort of roll call vote was being taken but for what was a mystery. Veteran newsman Mike Ward of the Austin American-Statesman, whose livetweets formed the backbone of any procedural clue I may have had, tweeted at 11:52 p.m. “No order in Senate. Chair can’t hear over jeering from gallery. Senators can’t vote. Never seen anything like this.” Chants of “WEN-DY! WEN-DY!” filled the hall, and my apartment where I was hunkered down to watch, sweltering. I had long ago turned off the A/C so I could hear.

The clock struck midnight. Victory! They had run out the clock! The chants continued. Twitter exploded. But that was weird, it seemed like that vague roll call was still going on. What, exactly, was going on in that huddle by the Chair?

This is what was going on: They were taking the vote. It was after midnight, and suddenly that strict adherence to rules didn’t seem so strict anymore. Whispers were trickling out, confirmed by the AP: SB5 had passed, 17-12.

Twitter was going bananas. I checked the networks again. CNN was re-running Anderson Cooper. MSNBC was re-running Lawrence O’Donnell. Fox was re-running Greta van Susteren. Journalist Lizzie O’Leary tweeted, “Interesting choice you made tonight, cable news executives.”

The Texas Senate legislative livestream had been dutifully trained on chambers as they slowly emptied out, while the action reverted to Twitter.

Journalist and Twitter-hound Anthony DeRosa posted a screenshot of the official Texas legislative record, which recorded the vote as taking place on June 26th, i.e. after midnight. Others were doing the same. This was nuts. Could they possibly be brazen enough to sail through that midnight deadline and think that would fly? Apparently not, because DeRosa posted another screenshot: the official record now recorded the vote as having occurred on June 25th.

If there is such a thing as a hive mind, then there must then be such a thing as a hive brain. And reader, it was at this point that the hive brain FUCKING EXPLODED.

Before an actual audience of hundreds and a virtual audience of thousands, the Texas GOP had falsified a record. Never mind that the filibuster had actually been honestly won, never mind that the clock had run out on its own course — this was fraud.

The senators squabbled over rules and timestamps in person while on the Internet screenshots whipped back and forth, multiplying. The protestors yelled shame.The senators retreated to chambers. Supporters tweeted mournfully. The cable networks ran reruns.

Somewhere in there, the livestream had ended. Vines had taken over, showing throngs of protesters in orange, shouting in unison. Someone tweeted a link to a new livestream — Christopher Didocitizen journalist, who was set up in the rotunda amongst the protestors, waiting for the senators to emerge. The tweets leveled off. It was almost 2 a.m. CT. Most of the people who had been gripped by the livestream had gone to bed thinking that SB5 had passed.

I confess I dozed off. But soon, something woke me, loud enough to pull me back out of 3 a.m. sleep. It was applause. Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood and daughter of beloved former Texas Governor Ann Richards, had emerged with some news.

She asked them to hold their applause, and paused: “The Senate members have agreed that SB5 is dead.

The room erupted. After all, it had been fifteen hours coming — plus one heart-dropping disappointment in between. “Tonight, we won,” said Richards. “And, most importantly, the women of Texas won.”

This woman of New York sort of felt like she’d won, too. Though by now I was in my sixth hour with my nose up to the glass and frankly, sort of felt Texan (particularly when Richards led the rotunda in “The Eyes of Texas”).

As Senator Wendy Davis finally walked out, elated, I felt elated for her, for everyone there, and for the women who would never know how close they came to losing the operative part of their fundamental right to choose.

That was it. Tomorrow was now today and the headline had changed. “Perhaps the Texas GOP’s biggest blunder tonight was forgetting that social media exists,” tweeted San Antonio mayor Julián Castro. It was no longer a victory for those who, as writer Roxane Gay said, “cheated, flagrantly, in plain sight, because they thought they could.

Instead it was a victory for the collective who were willing to do something, stand for something, stand with something, #standwithwendy.

Rachel Sklar is a writer and the co-founder of TheLi.st. She still can’t believe that last night happened. If you want more information, the excellent Texas Tribune kept this detailed liveblog; Mike Ward from the Austin American-Statesman was an incredibly useful and detailed live-tweeter; and Tanya Tarr held it down on Twitter on behalf of those up in the Senate gallery. Don’t mess with Texas.