I Believe in Wendy

Texas governor Rick Perry may have called another special session to pass the anti-abortion legislation Senator Wendy Davis successfully blocked last week, Stand with Texas womenbut that’s no reason to stop celebrating the senator’s filibuster.  She didn’t just show us that one woman could make a difference from within, even when the insider rules are ridiculous. (No leaning? No brace-touching?) She showed us how one woman making a difference from within is always already much more than “just one woman” without conceding an ounce of her own authority.

It was a living, breathing performance of a decidedly feminist construction of power.

Senator Davis did all the speaking because that was what the law required.  But while she was up there, she read the words of women who had sent her their abortion stories to fulfill her procedural obligation to stay on topic. She filibustered for 11 hours, but when the lieutenant governor went ahead and called the vote anyway, women in the gallery started chanting, making it impossible for him to get the votes on record. In both cases, Davis became, almost literally, in a whole French theorist sense, a woman who was not one. She was many.

I can’t think of a better way to use a rule that was quite obviously designed to keep any but the strongest-bladdered, hardiest-lunged individuals from speaking.

I don’t think it was an accident that Governor Perry decided to talk about Senator Davis’ personal history at the National Right to Life convention the next day. Or rather, I do, at least in the sense that I don’t think it required much calculation on his part. There’s no need when the sexism is ingrained. Senator Wendy Davis, leader of the “angry mob” the lieutenant governor groused may be a nuisance, but she’s a nuisance who has to be reckoned with. Wendy Davis the poor single mother, daughter of single woman herself, is categorically deficient by virtue of having a vagina. Of course his remarks went over like gangbusters at the Right to Life conference. Women have served as object lessons for that lot since Eve gummed up the works in Eden.

The good news for the rest of us is that Wendy Davis is still speaking, and she understands what assumptions are dressed up in Perry’s seemingly complimentary narrative. Turns out Davis is long past being shamed by her femininity or hoodwinked into giving credence to antiquated notions of nice little ladyhood. In fact, Davis’ response to Perry’s comments uses his own macho swaggering ideal of personal freedom against him by casting it as a virtue that transcends gender.

“It demonstrated that they just don’t understand how very personal these issues are,” she explains. “My story, my personal story, is my story. I have the ability to make choices and I had opportunities that I was able to take advantage of in my life. Other women of course should be able to define their own destinies and this idea that the heavy hand of government should somehow come in and tell her how to do that is deeply resented in [a] state like Texas. It’s deeply resented everywhere, but if you know anything about Texas, we hold very strongly to our traditions and our values where personal liberties are concerned.”

I don’t doubt that Perry has a brilliant staffer who will come up with an effective rebuttal. I don’t even doubt that that staffer is a woman. But during this week where we celebrate our nation’s independence, I’m grooving on Senator Davis’ message. “Anti-choice isn’t just anti-American, America, it’s anti-Texan!”


Pro-Choice News Roundup

Focus on the Family: 7 of their strangest and more appalling moments. Alternet

Michigan State Passes Abortion Bill. The Detroit News.

Rick Perry’s Legislation Forces Abortion Restrictions on Austin. Burnt Orange Report.

NPR chides itself on “Abortion Doctor” reference. Radio Survivor.

Setting the record straight on HPV

By now, Michele Bachmann’s remarks about the HPV vaccination may be old news. But they still infuriate me, so I’m going to set the record straight on HPV and the corresponding vaccine.

Let me rewind to last week’s Republican debate. The hilariously off-center (and I refer to her sanity here, not political leanings) Michele Bachmann attacked Rick Perry for his 2007 executive order mandating young girls in Texas to be vaccinated against HPV, a common STI and leading cause of cervical cancer in women.

I realize that vaccinating children is controversial. But, for me, this specific one is a no brainer: vaccinate against cervical cancer.

[Read more...]

Judge Blocks Texas Forced Sonogram Bill, Texas Women See Glimmer of Hope

NOTE: This is an update to fabulous Feminists For Choice blogger Maureen’s post. You can read it here.

I’m sure you read the horrific news coming out of Texas over the last few months. Our governor (and GOP presidential candidate) Rick Perry signed a bill requiring women seeking abortions to view a sonogram of their fetus. And that’s not even the bad part – these women would be forced to watch the sonogram with their physician describing the images to them and listen to an audio of the fetus’ heartbeat.

Yeah. Pretty terrible stuff, right? Luckily for Texas women (and children) though, the Texas Independent has reported that U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks has blocked the bill and struck down 2 of its more egregious provisions. In response to a petition from the Center for Reproductive Rights petition, Judge Sparks found that provisions of the bill violated the free speech rights of both patient and physician.  [Read more...]

Guess What–Women Have Brains

A whole bunch of politicians in this country–not to mention their supporters–seem utterly convinced that a vagina and a brain can not exist in the same body. What other explanation can there be for the latest round of utterly insulting and paternalistic anti-choice bills flooding state legislatures?

Let’s look at the Texas sonogram bill, just for kicks. The bill, which is expected to be signed by Governor Rick Perry, requires that a doctor perform a sonogram at least 24 hours before a woman can have an abortion. The woman must have the option to see the results and hear the fetal heartbeat; even if she chooses not to do this, the doctor still must describe to her what the sonogram shows, including any limbs and internal organs.

Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana wasn’t just content to cut off funding for the Planned Parenthood clinics in his state. Nope, he also made it illegal for any abortions to be performed after 20 weeks. And–the icing on this cake of wrong–doctors are now required to tell women that life begins at conception and that a fetus can feel pain at around 20 weeks.

Excuse me while I check out the immigration requirements for Canada, and remind myself to never, ever, ever move to Indiana. Or Texas. Or any of the number of states considering aping these and other restrictive laws, including my home state of Alabama.

I really want to know exactly what anti-choicers think goes on inside an abortion clinic. Do they imagine some sort of Snidely Whiplash character, twirling his mustache and menacingly waving around a speculum? Do they think clinic employees haunt malls and grocery stores and libraries, sidling up to pregnant women and enticing them in the manner of drug dealers, muttering out of the corner of their mouth that the first pregnancy test is free? (Oh wait, no, it’s the crisis pregnancy clinics that use free pregnancy tests to lure women in their doors. My mistake.) [Read more...]