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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Abortion bill could benefit Perry’s sister? Huh?

One of my Facebook friends commented on my last blog post with a link to some “follow the money” research done by the Houston Chronicle about the abortion bill.

It seems that Rick Perry’s sister sits on the board of the Texas Ambulatory Surgical Center Society, and she is a lobbyist for a company in Addison that owns about 60 ambulatory surgical centers around the state.

The bill would effectively close down 37 abortion clinics around the state that could not afford to upgrade to become ambulatory surgical centers.

It says nothing about current ambulatory surgical centers profiting from performing abortions. It certainly does not prevent them from making that change.

So the bill is two-faced. There’s what it says it’s about, playing to the right-wing anti-choice crowd, and what it could really do, put performing abortions into new hands who will charge more money and be regulated less.

It’s estimated that 1 in 3 women will need an abortion in her lifetime. Demand won’t go away if the bill passes. Women will just go to other states or pay more at whichever ambulatory surgical centers offer it, and if they can’t afford those options, have illegal abortions or unwanted children. They won’t be safer.

The article also stated:

 It should be noted that the legislation now under consideration by the Texas Legislature is patterned after proposals that have been adopted in other states, so it did not originate with Gov. Perry’s office [cough *ALEC* cough]. Rich Parsons, a Perry spokesman said he could not say whether Perry has discussed the legislation with his sister, but said, “he strongly supports protecting women’s health by raising the standard of care they receive at abortion clinics.”

Which we now know is higher than what they’d receive at ambulatory surgical centers.

Another reason the bill stinks. Republicans: don’t vote for it!

Last night at the capitol

So last night, June 25-26, 2013, I was at the Texas capitol to support efforts by the remarkable Texas state senator Wendy Davis and other Democrats in the Senate to filibuster a bill that would have set back women’s reproductive rights in this state 40 years. It would have closed down 37 of 42 abortion clinics in this state.

To go from 42 to 5 abortion clinics operating in a state with a population of over 25 million is unconscionable. It sure feels like a war on women. Rural women, poor women, overburdened women will be underserved. Unwanted children will be born. Including children of rape and incest.

After a few hours of debate (and after I went home exhausted, hoarse, deafened, and with sore feet from standing for hours), legislators finally (rightfully) agreed that the clock on the special session had indeed run out before the vote was complete.

We prevailed last night. The issue was galvanizing, and victory tasted sweet.

My favorite protest sign simply said, “That’s Mine”.

Governor Perry today called for another special session that will again include abortion legislation. So it ain’t over, not by a long shot, but I have to say that last night was electric. The Texas Democratic party and supporters of reproductive freedom are revitalized, and we showed that progressive forces can win in this oh-so-red state.

Anyway, a local Presbyterian minister who’s an activist for progressive causes did such a great job writing about it that I’m sharing what he wrote. To read the original, go to http://jimrigby.org.

About Last Night (Arab Spring Texas Style)

There could have been a riot last night in the Texas Capitol. I don’t know how to put what happened into words. I have been involved in Texas politics for maybe thirty years and I have never seen anything like it. I suspect few of us had.

After the Republicans appeared to have won the day and passed a bill that added a horrible burden on poor rural women seeking reproductive healthcare, as soon as it became clear that the Republicans were going to make up the rules as they went along, including a final dirty trick of letting the bill pass after time had expired, it was clear that the women of Texas had had enough.

Words fail. It was like a Kafka novel where humanity and the structure of a building merge. Suddenly, from the capitol extension, one could feel a vibration coming from the Rotunda where people had begun shouting and stomping and producing a noise that was so loud it was hard to make out the words being chanted.

At the time, I could not make out what people were saying, but the men were chanting a refrain and the women were answering. It turns out the chant began with the men asking, “Whose house is it?” and the women responding in deafening thunder, “Our house!” Through the early years of this movement in Texas I always expected to be one of a handful of men at such a gatherings. My eyes filled with tears as I realized those days are over. The women of Texas have found their beautiful angry voice and the men of Texas have their back. We have all begun to realize that reproductive choice isn’t just a woman’s issue. It is a human rights issue as basic as any other.

The people seemed to realize they had to stop asking for their own power. They needed to stop asking permission to be fully human. When this bill passed, it could have been just one more indignity for Texas women. After all, the Republicans of Texas have launched a tireless assault on women for decades. As one more anti-choice bill passed in the Texas House and then Senate, suddenly a realization seemed to dawn on the masses all at once. They realized that these Republicans will never stop trying to control Texas women. They will never really listen to what Texas women have to say. And they will cheat at every turn because they believe they are right by definition.

After the bill appeared to pass another reading, people ran toward the rotunda for what might mean certain arrest. One Republican talked about removing the people if they would not be quiet, and then something happened. I saw a look of determined peace in the peoples’ eyes as they ran toward what might be their own arrest. It was the peace one only sees in those who have given themselves to do their duty at any price.

As the politicians struggled to justify their anti-democratic actions, democracy broke out all around them. It must have been hard to think with apocalyptic thunder ringing from the heart of the building. In the end, the Republicans agreed to throw out the bill. I have no idea what happened behind closed doors, but this much seems clear. Last night would not have happened had the people lacked a revolutionary courage and a willingness to be civilly disobedient. Nor could last night have happened had there not been people who stayed to work within the system to translate the peoples’ energy into law. And we must not forget the x factor. Last night could not have happened had not at least one Republican done the right thing. Republicans are not our enemies, they are our friends, but they cannot be our overlords. This world belongs to us all and if necessary the people will rise up to make it so.

The evening ended with Cecile Richards leading us in a song that, as a native Texan, always seemed trite, ”The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You.” I have never heard the song as a revolutionary anthem until last night. Our nation is a representative democracy. And, as Jefferson warned, if the powers that be do not represent the people, then the people must rise up and remind them where all real legitimate power resides, not in the government but in the people. Last night Republicans were served notice that they must represent every Texan or find new employment.

The Eyes of Texas are upon you, 
All the live long day. 
The Eyes of Texas are upon you, 
You can not get away. 
Do not think you can escape them 
At night or early in the morn- 
The Eyes of Texas are upon you 
‘Till Gabriel blows his horn.