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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Let Her Speak: My Adventure with Wendy

“Let's continue to stand up for those who are vulnerable to being left out or marginalized.”- Hilary Clinton

June 25, 2013 was a pivotal day in the debate concerning women’s reproductive rights in Texas. Fort Worth Texas State Senator, Wendy Davis (D) filibustered over 11 hours seeking the death of SB5 – a bill that would essentially leave only 5 abortion clinics in Texas. The bill would have left thousands of women in Texas and Oklahoma with no access to abortion care. Unfortunately, the elimination of abortion clinics does not equate to a decrease in abortions. The Texas Medical Association, the Texas Hospital Association and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists sent letters to the Texan legislature urging them to vote down the bill because it would not improve care (Source). Even in light is this information, advocates of SB5 were determined. So, Wendy Davis stood.

"This wasn't the kind of symbolic filibuster in name only seen in the U.S. Senate: Under Texas' parliamentary rules, Davis was required to speak continuously and only on the topic of the bill the entire time. She couldn't take breaks to eat, take a sip of water or go to the bathroom. She could not lean against anything for support. If Davis broke any of these rules, the filibuster would die and SB 5 would become law." - Rolling Stone

Here is where my story begins:

It was a bit after 10pm when I finally made it to my dorm room. I opened the live feed for Davis’ filibuster in one tab, twitter in another, and proceeded to start my homework. After a few minutes, I realized that my twitter feed was exploding. The tags #sb5 and #standwithwendy were trending in the United States. Just a few miles from where I worked, Wendy Davis was becoming a national (some could even say international) icon.  I had to be there.  I threw on an orange shirt and joined a friend to go to the capitol. Parking was impossible and as we passed by the capitol we saw protestors lining the sidewalks.

After finding a parking spot a few streets away, we made our way to the capitol. We were one of the few people allowed in the capitol before they had to turn people away. If you have ever visited that capitol, you know that it takes A LOT of people to pack the space inside. We made our way to the top level and took a moment to look around. There were hundreds of women and men and children dressed in orange yelling and holding signs. The atrium looked like a sea of orange filled with stars (brightly lit phones). The impact social media had on this moment was tremendous. The women next to me were updating their Twitter, people across from me were recording a video on Vine. A man from Planned Parenthood was on the floor with his laptop listening to what was happening inside.

The clock struck midnight and a deafening noise arose from all three levels of the capitol. Chants of “LET HER SPEAK,” and “OUR CHOICE,” were accompanied with people jumping and crying. People filled every crevice of the capitol and everyone looked around for answers. Did the vote happen? Is CNN covering this? What's going on? We had absolutely no clue if the vote happened. If you looked at the center of the atrium, there was a simple paper with “QUIET” printed and placed on the podium. After a few minutes, the roars calmed and numerous people from Planned Parenthood started to explain the situation. They told us that a vote occurred. We checked our phones and realized that the Associated Press reported that the bill had passed. But our clocks read 12:03. Again, a massive roar filled the capitol. I don’t think I have ever been more ashamed to be a Texan than in that moment.  The timestamp was falsified in order to make the vote before midnight. 

At this point, the crowd started to thin out and my friend and I made our way to the atrium and stood a few feet from Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood. After 30 minutes of utter confusion, she read a text from Sen. Davis- the bill had failed.  Speeches and congratulations were plenty and I left the capitol with a new appreciation of Texan politics.

I was also reminded of the power people hold. SB5 might pass in another special session, and women across Texas may be at a huge disadvantage. But people are listening. And people will vote. We haven’t loss the war on women in Texas. We will always stand to fight. After all, the eyes of Texas are upon us. 


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