By JAMILA RIZVI
God damn, I love a woman who comes prepared for a political show down, wearing sensible footwear.
Democratic Senator Wendy Davis of Fort Worth in Texas is currently standing in her State’s parliament, wearing pink tennis shoes and speaking about abortion.
She has been doing so for nine hours.
We are not bringing you this news after the fact – this story is currently playing out live and women across the world are watching.
Why has Senator Davis been speaking for so long?
Because she is deeply committed to protecting the rights of women in the second most populous state in the USA to terminate a pregnancy if they wish to. She is standing up for a woman’s right to choose; a right that in Texas today, is under serious threat.
Senator Davis is engaged in a filibuster, which is a deliberate and obstructive political tactic to prevent a vote being taken in the parliament.
The tactic is usually employed by a politician who believes their side will not win if the legislation is put to a vote or, they are desperate for the other side to agree to a particular amendment.
The rules are simple – the Senator may speak for as long as they wish on a topic to prevent the vote from happening. But here’s the catch: They cannot sit down, they cannot stop speaking, they cannot stop and eat, they cannot pause – even for a minute. They cannot have a glass of water.
This means that the Senator cannot take a break to go to the bathroom, she cannot lean on anything for support. She simply has to stand and speak, and speak, and speak.
The legislation currently being debated in the Texas parliament will impose extreme restrictions on a woman’s right to choose.
If successful, the law will make it almost impossible to access abortion inducing drugs in Texas, put an outright ban abortions beyond 20 weeks gestation and will likely see the closure of dozens of abortion clinics across the state.
Senator Davis is about to enter the tenth hour of her parliamentary fight to prevent this law going to a vote – she will have to speak for around four more hours in order to be successful. Recent reports say that other Senators are organising for a back brace to be brought into the parliament for Senator Davis.
The Senator has filled her speaking time by reading out letters from countless women, medical practitioners and pro-choice campaigners who have written to her, sharing their stories. She has refused the option of taking questions from another Senator, which would allow her to pause for a glass of water or a brief moment in her chair.
This formidable woman is making this fight her own.
(Update: There are reports that Senator Davis received a warning for allowing her collegues to help her put on a back brace, but she has since been permitted to continue.)
You can follow Senator Davis’ speech live, below. Mamamia will keep you updated on any other developments, through the day.
“I’m rising on the floor today to humbly give voice to thousands of Texans who have been ignored,” Senator Davis said in the early hours of Tuesday morning, Texas time. “Partisanship and ambition is not unusual in this state Capitol, but here in Texas, right now it has risen to a level of profound irresponsibility and the raw abuse of power.”
Senator Davis is defending a woman’s right to choose with everything she has got, and here at Mamamia, we are going to stand right there with her. She is a formidable woman who is doing an amazing thing for the rights of women in Texas, and is fast becoming a hero for pro-choice advocates around the world.
If you want to show your support for Senator Davis’ fight you can tweet using the hashtag #standwithwendy and the Senator’s handle @wendydavistexas. Or you can retweet the following:
— Mia Freedman (@MiaFreedman) June 26, 2013
— Mamamia (@Mamamia) June 26, 2013
You can read more of the tweets from politicians, media personalities and supporters of Senator Davis below.
UPDATE: In the 11th hour of her filibuster, Senator Wendy Davis began speaking about abortion sonogram laws, which were passed in 2011. A Republican Senator, Donna Campbell, then rose to her feet with a point of order – she objected to the subject matter Senator Davis was speaking about, claiming that is was not directly relevant.
The President of the Senate agreed and gave Senator Davis another warning. She continued speaking but received a third warning for the same reason. As a result the historic filibuster might be over. According to the rules, lawmakers can vote to end a filibuster after three sustained points of order. Senator Davis received two for going off topic and one for putting on a back brace.Democrats are currently appealing the ruling; they want Senator Davis to be allowed to continue her filibuster, thus preventing the Republicans from voting through this controversial legislation.
UPDATE: Hundreds of people gathered inside the foyer of the Texas parliament, and are chanting ‘let her speak’. They have apparently been ejected from the building by state troopers and are now outside chanting ‘let us in’. Take a look:
UPDATE: Leading up to midnight Texas time, crowds in the gallery and outside the building were chanting so loudly it became difficult for Senators inside the building to keep track of what was going on.
At midnight, the crowd erupted in cheers, as the Democrats only needed to prevent the Republicans from voting until midnight to stop the Bill passing.
The Republicans argued that they had in fact voted to pass the bill in the final minutes before midnight, it simply wasn’t heard through all the chaos. Democrats contested this, and insisted that lawmakers check the timestamp on the vote.
If the first vote to pass the bill was cast before midnight, the bill would go through. If it was after midnight, the bill wouldn’t pass.
The timestamp revealed… 12:02 am.
The Republicans missed the vote by two minutes. Senator Wendy Davis has succeeded. And while she may have done the hard part, it was the cheering of the crowds that helped her get over the finish line.
UPDATE: Lawmakers went on debating whether the vote could be considered valid despite being two minutes late. But finally, at 3am Texas time, the bill was officially been voted down. Senator Davis just tweeted:
Thanks to the powerful voices of thousands of Texans, #SB5 is dead. An incredible victory for Texas women and those who love them.
— Wendy Davis (@WendyDavisTexas) June 26, 2013
Bravo Senator Davis. Bravo.