As you know (unless you’ve been living under a rock), earlier this week something amazing went down in Texas. Senator Wendy Davis headed a 13 hour filibuster in the Texas State House to prevent the exceedingly anti-choice SB5 bill from being passed.
Davis wasn’t allowed to sit, lean, or move from this spot for the 13 hours.
Now, I’m not American, let alone Texan, but I am a fan of equality, liberalism, and kick-ass feminists, so this particular story was of interest to me. I also find myself drawn to American political issues, which is partly due to the country being 2 short blocks from the my house; partly due to me having many friends who are American and are effected by many of these issues; and, yes, partly because of my general inability to conceptualize how some of these issues are even still debatable in 2013.
There are no declared anti-choice parties that hold any sort of political power in the federal government within Canada. Neither the Liberals nor Conservatives have any stated party line, as there’s really no point do so anymore. While some Conservative politicians have made their opinions known over the years, they’re independent opinions and not those of the party.
From a legal standpoint, abortion has been completely removed from the debate of legality since the 1980’s. It is neither legal or illegal to have an abortion in Canada because the federal laws for or against it were simply removed from the Criminal Code. It is categorized now, I believe, as a standard medical procedure. Despite this, access is an issue. With a health care system as complex as ours that’s no surprise though. Healthcare is provincially handled, with politics, money, size, population, and a hundred other things all playing roles in how the system is run. This creates issues in just about every aspect of healthcare, not just on individual procedures like abortion.
Regardless, it’s not a political issue of much concern anymore. In the 1970’s Trudeau stated that: “The state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation.” And this mentality has been pretty well followed since.
I learned about abortion in public school health classes. We were given information about what abortion was, the reasons why women may choose to have one, and how to access abortion services. As an adult I look back and feel quite proud of our education system for the openness of what was taught in these health classes. Abortion, sexual assault, abstinence, and safe sex were all discussed. Being bluntly told at the age of 11 facts such as “saran wrap is not an effective alternative to a condom” or “pulling out before ejaculation doesn’t stop pregnancy because pre cum holds a high amount of sperm”, while completely cringe worthy at the time, is undoubtedly information that a lot of teenagers need to know. And, as I’m fairly certain no one in my 7th grade class had a child before the age of 18, I’d say pretty effective.
To tie this in with the original point of my post: Choice is necessary, in all aspects of sexual health. As kids we were given all of the information and options we’d need to make safe choices for our sexual health. But in some areas of the USA the ability and right to even make these choices for oneself are being slowly eliminated. That’s not right.
SB5, if passed, would have severely restricted both womens access and rights to legal abortions within the state of Texas. From the existing 42 clinics that offer safe abortion services, a meager 5 would remain open. And even within those 5 heavy new restrictions would be put in place.
Wendy Davis, a democratic senator, took a literal stand against this bill by filibustering the house for a solid 13 hours, and effectively preventing it from being voted upon before the midnight deadline.
With the sheer wonder that is modern technology the event was available to view worldwide via a YouTube live stream. The filibuster started shortly after 12 noon EST, and while I couldn’t watch from beginning to end as I worked that day, I turned the stream on as soon as I arrived home around 5:30 pm.
And thanks to another wonderful staple of the modern world, Twitter, I was able to live chat for the remainder of the event with friends Alyssa (DC) and Gloria (HI), as well as a million strangers around the world. Though I think said live tweeting resulted in a fave celebrity unfollowing me on Twitter, I feel much too passionately about this issue to have any regrets about my blatant active online liberalism to be bothered much about it anymore. And a slight sadness that they may be an anti-choicer, TBH.
To add a bit of comic relief to this otherwise serious post, I’d like offer a brief outline of Alyssa, Gloria, and I’s reactions during the last 7 or so hours of the filibuster live watch. All reactions will be offered through GIFs of Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine because of reasons. All times are in EST, though filibuster occurred on Central.
By the time I tuned in Davis had been given her first warning. The rules of a Texas filibuster stipulate that the filibusterer is allowed 3 warnings, after which a vote is put to the House as to whether or not to end the filibuster. Warnings can be issued for a plethora of reasons, including going off topic, sitting/leaning, being given any sort of assistance for anything whatsoever (ie being handed food/drink, papers, a chair, etc), and/or breaking any other filibuster rules. The issue of warning is entirely subjective and the process slightly ridiculous, IMO.
I think we probably started getting in to chatter around 6pm, at which point we were all like:
We’re with you, WD.
And then around 7:30pm Tommy Williams objected to her getting help from a fellow senator in attempting to put on a back brace. To which we like:
The issue became a point of order and after an hour or so was to a vote, which was passed, and Davis was issued a second warning. And we were like:
WILLIAMS = DOUCHE BAG.
About an hour after that Obama tweeted his support for Davis, and we were all:
Mad love, Obama.
A little after 11pm Donna Campbell put in a point of order saying that Davis discussing fetal sonogram law is not germane to SB5. We thought it had to be a joke:
Turns out it wasn’t and that Campbell actually couldn’t see how abortion and fetal sonogram law were related. Davis stood her ground, defending the relation, but it continued to be argued for another hour before a third and final warning was issued to Davis by the president. And we were like:
Oh, hell no.
The president of the House had stated earlier that should a third warning be issued, the house would then go to a vote as to whether or not the filibuster was to come to an end. However, at this point he decided to ignore that fact and try to shut it down on his own, an hour short of the SB5 deadline.
Umm? HOLD UP.
Mass confused erupted. Davis’ supporters would not stand for this and continued to argue filibuster rules, request copies of transcripts to prove the president’s earlier statements, request further clarification, and generally just try and confuse the shit out of the House prez. And we sat there all like:
Why? Confused? Huh? What’s happening?
To help distract ourselves from the stress of this we made a lot of jokes about the word “germane”. Because we’re cool like that.
[TLC’s “No Scrubs” Tune] Germane is a thing that won’t get no love from me.
Around 12:45am, 15 minutes shy of the deadline, they attempted to shut the whole thing down and hold a vote on SB5. This time is was the crowd in the gallery who wouldn’t stand for the injustice. They began chanting and cheering and we were all like:
Over the next 15 minutes police started clearing out the gallery and people were removed from the House floor. The president kept trying to hold the vote, but there was too much chaos. They kept trying even after the midnight deadline, to which we were like:
The confusion continued with republicans seeming to believe that the vote passed, and democrats thinking that it didn’t count. And a few minutes later AP issued a release saying that the SB5 had gone through. And we were all:
The vote happened AFTER midnight. 170,000 of us watched it happen. And the House still hadn’t said anything. So we waited. And we waited. And about an hour later, after 2am, the livestream went dead and we all sat there like:
What just happened?
And then everyone went to bed, still confused.
BUT, then in the morning it was officially announced that it DID NOT pass and we tried to accept the win for liberalism (and rationalism) with grace and dignity:
Hold it together. Don’t flaunt it.
Until a few short hours later when the wonderful and long awaited decision of DOMA and Prop 8 being struck down was announced. Then it was all like: Weeee are the champions, my friendssss
And, that was that. 3 points for those of us living in 2013 / 0 points for those still stuck in 1913.
Now to get serious again for a minute…
I know anti-choice folks will find argument everything I’ve said here, and that’s their right. Just as it’s my right to believe what I believe. In a democratic society we have the choice and right to be on whatever side of this issue we believe in. And we’re allowed to express our opinions, if we so chose to do so. I’ve chosen to express mine here.
I don’t believe this to be much different than a woman having the right to choose whether or not to have an abortion. And this is not being “pro-abortion”, as some pro-lifers like to call it. No one is pro-abortion, that’s not a thing. Pro-choice is simply being in favour of a woman’s right to make that decision for herself. And not having this right restricted by legislation voted through by a group that is mostly men. Not all pro-choice believers would make the choice to have an abortion, but that doesn’t mean they would take that right away from others.
It’s also been proven that restricting access to abortions does nothing to reduce the number of abortions that are preformed. It simply lessens the number of safe abortions that are preformed. In the absence of safety, women in desperate situations will seek out whatever options are available, even when those options are illegal and unregulated. This leads to injury, and sometimes death. Restricting access to safe abortion is not a fix.
We can all say that in an ideal world abortions would simply not be necessary. But that is not the world we live in. Our reality is one where rape, rapid poverty, disease, lack of education and information, and no-full proof contraception methods exist.
And in this reality I stand by women and their right to choose.