Wendy Davis talked her way to a vital victory for US women last night

Let's hope the senator fights Texas' abortion bill a second time round

Share
Related Topics

Feminism and pro-choice activists in the US have a new hero. Yesterday afternoon in Texas, state senator Wendy Davis embarked on a marathon filibuster speech to foil the passing of a bill imposing the strictest limitations on abortion in the US by preventing a vote before midnight. If passed, the bill will ban abortion after 20 weeks, as well as imposing restrictions that critics say will force almost all of the state’s abortion clinics to close. Backed by overwhelming support from both within and outside the US, Davis was not allowed to eat, sit or take a toilet break during the proceedings. “The leadership may not want to listen to TX women,” she wrote on Twitter, “but they will have to listen to me.”

Unfortunately, the GOP felt otherwise, and succeeded in halting the speech after nearly 11 hours. Yet perhaps it was their refusal to listen that proved their downfall; at a quarter to midnight, when lawmakers tried to silence her, Senator Leticia Van de Putte asked: “At what point must a female senator raise her voice or her hand to be recognised over the male colleagues in the room?” The fifteen minutes of cheering that followed forced the vote in which the bill was passed past the midnight deadline. Like Davis, Van de Putte had forced the leadership to listen.

Hours of confusion followed, during which screencaps were posted online showing that the date of the final vote had been changed on the Texas Legislature’s website. At 3am, legislators ruled that the vote was void and the bill had fallen.

This marked an incredible victory for feminist and pro-choice campaigners. As Davis said, "Might it just be a desire to limit women's access to safe, healthy, legal, constitutionally-protected abortions in the state of Texas?" It’s difficult to see how the bill could be anything other than either a religiously-motivated attack on women’s rights from the nominally Christian far-right, or a cynical attempt to appeal to right-wing voters. Whether political or ideological, the bill is merely the latest in a string of assaults on women’s reproductive rights from the Grand Old Party.

Time and again they have proved the accusations that they are waging a ‘War on Women’ are not unfounded. Their attempts to restrict reproductive rights range from the “detectable heartbeat” measures banning abortions at six weeks in North Dakota, to laws forcing every woman requesting an abortion to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound in Michigan and Wisconsin (in the chillingly named ‘Woman’s Right to Know her Unborn Child Act’) among others. Nor are their efforts restricted to policy; there seems to be a near-constant barrage of misogyny stemming from high-profile Republicans.

This bill is a matter of both choice and safety. According to the Guttmacher Institute, highly restrictive abortion laws are not associated with lower abortion rates. Desperate women will continue to seek out abortions, and a failure to provide access to safe, regulated procedures increases the risk of women undergoing unsafe abortions. This is no small consideration; complications arising from unsafe procedures accounted for around 13 per cent of all maternal deaths worldwide in 2007 and 2008.

Attempts to legitimise the vote made a mockery of the democratic system; what’s more, they pushed at the boundaries of common decency. Counting another senator helping Davis into a back brace among the three strikes needed to derail the filibuster seemed to me a particularly thuggish and inhumane way to force the issue. Ignoring protests from the gallery, the attempt to cheat the system demonstrated the sheer brute force with which lawmakers hoped to pass the bill, and the apparent widely-held contempt for women’s rights within the party.

It is because this contempt is so deeply ingrained that this victory is so significant. The bill will be fought again, but let us hope that people like Davis can succeed a second time. I suspect that this defeat will haunt the GOP for some time, just like Todd Akin’s comments on “legitimate rape” – a gaffe echoed on Twitter last night by people protesting the illegitimacy of the vote. Warnings that female bodies in the senate have ways to “shut the whole thing down” proved true, as shut it down they did

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

English Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary English Teacher for a academy ...

Humanities Teacher (Pat Cover)

Negotiable: Randstad Education Leeds: Humanities Teacher needed for a maternit...

Secondary Art Teacher

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Art Teacher Kir...

1:1 Tuition

£23000 - £33000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: English Intervention Teac...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: EU news, and other reasons to be cheerful

John Rentoul
The influx of hundreds of thousands of eastern European workers has significantly altered the composition of some parts of Britain  

Immigration is the issue many in Labour fear most

Nigel Morris
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker