Women’s health choices remain theirs, for now

— The Santa Fe New Mexican

The notion of the little guy battling powerful institutions is one of the strongest myths Americans share — and anyone staying up late Tuesday night saw those forces in action on the floor of the Texas Legislature.
With a firm majority determined to pass a law that, in effect, would eliminate the ability of most women to seek an abortion in Texas, state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, announced her intention to filibuster.
And so she did, standing — no breaks for the bathroom, no leaning, no straying off topic — talking for 11 hours straight so that the Republican majority could not vote to pass the bill.
Her monumental effort, though, was nearly foiled close to midnight, when Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst ruled the teen mom turned senator had strayed off topic. In Texas, the filibuster talk has to be continual and about the bill on the floor, nothing else. His ruling ended Davis’ stall tactics with enough time to allow a vote, which was sure to be favorable, given the politics of the Texas Legislature.
That’s when things really became interesting. Some 400 protesters had filled the Texas Capitol, and starting at 11:45 p.m. the crowd began what it termed “a people’s filibuster,” making so much noise that a vote was impossible. Because Davis stood firm and because so many people stood with her in solidarity, abortion remains legal in Texas — at least for now.
Despite a push by the Republican majority to say the bill had passed, it was clear when the dust settled Wednesday that the measure had not made its midnight deadline.
Of course, this stalwart effort means nothing if folks in Texas — and other states where strict laws to restrict reproductive rights are being passed — don’t start electing different kinds of legislators. Even people who count themselves as opposing abortion in most instances tend to support exemptions in cases of rape or incest or threat to the mother’s life.
Laws being passed across the country would shut down such exemptions — whether by outlawing the procedures or by making clinic rules so stringent that the offices are forced to close. The bill in Texas, for example, would have allowed only five of the 42 clinics now open to remain in operation.
Gov. Rick Perry already has called the Legislature back in session to consider the bill; lawmakers will meet Monday.
For the moment, though, the health of Texas women — and their choices — remain up to them. But only because of the stamina, courage and toughness of Wendy Davis — and the hundreds of protesters who stayed up late and let their wishes be known.

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