There was something incredibly inspiring about one woman’s attempt to stand up to a law that would take a knife to the heart of women’s rights in Texas this morning. There was something uplifting in watching her spirit as she defended the right of every woman to have control over their bodies. There was something encouraging in knowing that she was fighting against a system that would further entrench the values of a patriarchy determined to erode the power of women.
Democratic state senator Wendy Davis stood and spoke for more than ten hours yesterday to deliver a speech aimed at stalling a vote that would effectively close most abortion clinics in Texas. It was partly her speech that meant the vote did not happen within the time it needed to in order to be passed into law. (The vote did take place – and the vote was for the bill to go ahead. Later, it was deemed to have taken place out of time.)
Yet while Davis’ actions were inspiring, uplifting and encouraging, so much of the story around this remarkable show of filibustering is nothing less than depressing.
This is not a post about abortion. This is not a post about the rights and wrongs of terminating a life. This is a post about the irrefutable imbalance of power that was on show in Texas yesterday.
The bill under debate would ban abortions after 20 weeks and require abortions to take place in surgical centres. The BBC have more on the technicalities in their article here. Those in favour of the bill argue that it will improve standards. Yet for many, many women, the bill is a direct hit to their freedom.
It is a bill that will endanger the health of women. It is a bill that strips women of the right to choose. It is a bill that takes away the rights women have over their own bodies. It is a bill which further wields the power of medicine over a woman.
But it is not only the bill itself that has shown to the world that women are still an underclass, still caught in a battle against those trying to lessen their rights even further. No, it is the process by which the bill was (at least temporarily) stalled that has shown us in another way how far women still have to fight.
Wendy Davis was forced to stand for more than ten hours, without food, without a toilet break, and in the end with the help of a back brace, in order to deliver her speech. She was not allowed to sit down. Is this democracy? Is this truly a demonstration of a fair political process?
She was lambasted for going off topic – she raised the issue of sonograms while talking about abortion. She was ridiculed, shouted at, not allowed to lean on a table – and all this because she wanted to argue for the right of women to retain the control they have over their bodies.
So yes, watching Wendy Davis was inspiring. To see one woman’s strength and courage and resolve in the face of a value system so demeaning was truly heartening. I hope she inspired many, many others to use their voice for their beliefs, for their rights, and for their bodies. But, watching Wendy Davis was also depressing. Texas showed the world this morning that it had an ugly resolve to further negate the rights of women. It showed us that at least in some parts of the world, the concept of gender equality is still just a dream. Let’s hope there’s more women like Wendy Davis prepared to change that.