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

Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The bustling Accident & Emergency ward at Milton Keynes Hospital  

The NHS needs the courage to adapt and survive

Nigel Edwards
 

Letter from the Sub-Editor: Canada is seen as a peaceful nation, but violent crime isn’t as rare as you might think

Jeffrey Simpson
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
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?