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June 27, 2013

Wendy Davis and the Texas Abortion Filibuster – Lasting Images

Note: A brief apology up front. I’m in the process of relocating to NorCal from SoCal after all these years so I’ve been distracted this week and running a little behind. My final destination is Berkeley but I’ll be in the Watsonville and Santa Cruz area until late August. Because I spent a week or so in Corralitos every year, usually paired with a few days in Yosemite, I had a running joke with longtime Bag readers about the time I had to bootleg a signal in front of the Aptos fire department. Does anyone remember that? I guess major transitions bring out some nostalgia. I’m in that frame of mind, too, because BagNews will shortly be transitioning to a new design. We hope the changes will make the site easier to use and give more distinct identity, and impetus to Notes, Originals and Salon. As part of my geographical shift, I will also be upping my commitment to Bag as well as increasing my lecturing schedule and helping our team put on more online and live Salons. Bag is expanding, and we’re excited about offering you more original content as well as substantial pieces of analysis, with several major things in the works.


As for Wendy Davis and the filibuster of Senate Bill 537, the visuals from the drama in the Texas State Legislature the other night represents a wellspring. I’ll be drawing most of the pics from the Austin American-Statesman and I’m building this post in real time so I’ll be adding images as I go along this morning.

The image above might be little heavy-handed as there are others (1, 2)  that show a woman on the rostrum. Still, it’s easy to appreciate where photographer Ricardo B. Brazziell is going, Ms. Davis in the foreground facing not just Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, but the institutional trappings of the old boys club. (That the only other woman in this frame happens to be a stenographer is a nice touch also.)  Dewhurst, if you weren’t follow that closely, is now famous for his quote in the wee hours that: “An unruly mob, using Occupy Wall Street tactics, disrupted the Senate from protecting unborn babies.”

What we take for granted in our society is the distance between citizens and legislatures. Because of how rare it was perhaps, the Statesman spent many frames in its slideshow capturing the interaction between the vociferous gallery and the pro-choice lawmakers on the floor. I personally don’t remember a situation in which the two groups in this kind of setting became so symbiotically  connected, tapping into each other for such energy and support.

Notice Davis’ upward gaze in the middle shot, by the way. We see images of lawmakers everyday looking up to the flag, or to God like that. But how often do you see such a look to the public?

If the law hadn’t provided as much leeway, the outcome the other night would have likely been quite different. Still, how unnerving is this, not just from the standpoint of crowd control but for the larger symbolism? — the line of male cops, juxtaposed with the chain of all female abortion rights advocates, symbolizing the role of the state in the determination of women’s access to abortion services.

After seeing some of these photos…

I did a double take when I saw this one.

I had to do some searching to verify that Davis, with the help of her colleague, Rodney Ellis, was simply putting on a back support belt in the seventh hour of the filibuster. When your just looking at pictures, they aren’t captioned, and the point of the day had to do with women’s bodies, reproductive rights and what could happen without access to proper medical procedures, I couldn’t tell right off what kind of ritual or device the State Senator might have been demonstrating.

Finally, the Statesman gallery (not to mention, the newswire) is full of images of those red tennis shoes, the object the filibuster will likely be remembered by. If a little fuzzier and distant, I like this shot. More discrete as it is, it’s easier for us to relate to the pain of all those hours.

Austin American-Statesman slideshow.

(photo 1, 8 & 10: Ricardo B. Brazziell. photo 2-7, 9: Alberto Martinez)

  • black_dog_barking

    I have a new hero. And new heroes too.

  • quincyscott

    Just a note here: the paper is the Austin American-Statesman. Known affectionately around here as the Austin American-Misstatesman.

    • Michael Shaw

      Thanks for the correction. I’ll go with the former.

  • quincyscott

    I’m a Texan. On the outside, I know we look like a thoroughly hick red state. This is Dixie. Up until the 80s, the state was run by Dixiecrats, but since then it has been reliably Republican. Over the last few years we have foisted on to the national stage quite a line of know-nothing, Bible-thumping, oil-soaked, xenophobic, neo-confederate white guys. It’s been rather embarrassing. But things are starting to get a little more interesting lately. In truth Texas is a big, diverse state. In my hometown, San Antonio, the population has ballooned over the last few decades, and an awful lot of the new folks are from outside the state and outside the south. Greater diversity has really breathed new life into Texas, which I see becoming a smarter, more modern and cosmopolitan place. And liberals, especially in the big cities, are finding a voice. Demonstrating at the capital over stuff like choice, school funding, immigration, was pretty much unheard of just five years ago. It does my heart good to see it.

    Those folks up in the gallery and on the floor are what Texas is now, and more so every day.

  • Scarabus

    Let me rephrase Dewhurst’s comment: “An organized and enthusiastic assembly, observing both the rule and the spirit of democracy, supported a heroic senator in preventing an unruly gang — mostly male — from compromising women’s health and violating their constitutional rights.”

    • Expatmom

      You nailed it!

  • Jason E

    Senator Davis may have just simultaneously launched herself into national politics and smashed the first major cracks in the red dam that is preventing Texas from turning blue. She has just been redistricted and will likely lose her state Senate seat. But I have a feeling that will only free her up to pursue higher office. Once the red damn crumbles, it will create a powerful blue wave for her to ride. Keep in mind our current POTUS was a state Senator in 2004 for when John Kerry invited him to speak at the convention.

  • Avedon

    Wait – a thick plastic coat-hanger? Eh?

    • jawbone

      I think wire coat hangers are getting more difficult to find.

      Perhaps when we come across them we’d better lay in a supply for the future….


  • Jill Rivers

    I am in Texas and want to be active in the defeat of this proposed legislation. Can you give me names to contact, web sites etc. so I can figure out the schedule of hearings etc. I know the leg will not meet tomorrow 7/5 but I can’t find schedule on Texas web site. I’m hoping you will know someone who is involved in planning protest actions. I used to work with NorCal in the early years of this effort. I’m. 70 years old and I just have to be present. I cannot bear to see all we fought for become so restricted and essentially unavailable to the women who need the most support. My heart cries.
    Jill Rivers
    [email protected]

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