Senator Wendy Davis knew exactly what she was getting into. Her stand was to be a 13 hour test of endurance, constantly speaking without any food or water. Since she couldn’t even sit, a back brace reinforced her spine. Her feet that would carry the load were shorn with pink running shoes, the uniform of a marathoner. She girded herself for the physical strain of a filibuster, the only way to stop SB5, a series of restrictions on abortion that would close 37 of the 42 clinics in the state if passed. The rights of all women of Texas were on the line, and Senator Davis would not yield.
On a warm day 177 years earlier Jim Bowie heard the army of General Santa Anna was approaching San Antonio. Though he was ailing, he readied for the fight. He and 188 other men made their last stand for freedom in the mission known as the Alamo. After a 13 day siege, Santa Anna’s troops stormed in and slaughtered them all. But the process wasted 3 weeks, giving Sam Houston time to organize – and the news of the slaughter confirmed it was now a death match. They would either win their freedom or die trying. The Texans rallied and eventually won their independence.
Senator Wendy Davis’ fight is not over, and with a new special session it is likely to end in defeat. But like the Alamo, sometimes a battle lost is a war won.
Who is Wendy Davis? She has long been a star among Texas Democrats. Like many women of the Lone Star state, she is a tough fighter for what she believes in and a champion for equal rights. A single mother who then went on to Harvard, she knows how to get what she wants, too.
She arrived on the national scene somewhat spontaneously, although the effort was carefully planned in advance. The rights of women were not going to go down without a fight. The biggest issue in SB5 is the requirement that to perform abortions a center has to be licensed as an “ambulatory surgical center”, a tough standard that costs at least $1M and compliance with 117 pages of regulations. It also makes abortion strictly illegal after 20 weeks, no exceptions for rape or incest.
The 30 day special session was convened by Gov. Perry to consider this bill among some others. The intent was clear. The details of the bill exist not for any practical or medical purpose, but to make the rights guaranteed by Roe v Wade much harder to exercise in Texas
With one day left in the session, the filibuster was on to simply run out the clock. Wendy Davis never faltered, never showed the strain that she was under. The marathon ended a bit early when three “strikes” against senate rules were noted – one of which was when a colleague helped adjust the back brace that was holding her frame through the grueling ordeal. And that is when the battle truly started.
Other senate Democrats stalled as long as they could, but the bill was being rolled through. With 13 minutes left, Senator Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio asked for a point of order, “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues in the room?” The crowd crammed into the Senate gallery erupted in support. The deafening roar stopped Senate business in a moment of shock. Quickly, the gallery realized that if they kept cheering for 13 more minutes they could run out the clock that Wendy Davis could not. Reporters far from the chamber recalled that the whole capitol shook as though it was an earthquake.
The bill passed, but 2 minutes too late. Another special session had to be called, and Gov. Perry scheduled it for Monday, July 1st. Despite the brave stand, despite the epic struggle, the battle will almost certainly be lost. Senator Davis’ heroism will become a part of Texas history.
But Texans know what happens when a brutal force bears down on those fighting for their freedom. Like the Alamo, this fight is a waste of time and a lays bare what the stronger force is willing to do. It is being met with heroism and sacrifice – even if though the battle is almost certainly lost.
A long time ago Texans won their freedom when Jim Bowie put aside his fragile condition and joined the fight. It would be his last. But though he did not prevail, the cause did – and his portrait stared down from the walls as Senator Wendy Davis made her stand.
Wendy Davis is a modern day Jim Bowie. She is a Texan.