Davis said she would “represent the working class and improve public education, economic development and health care to Texas.” While she also “promised a more populist and bipartisan state government in Texas,” there was no mention of abortion rights (Tomlinson, AP, 2013).
Davis was relatively unknown until last June, when she captured the attention of the nation as she filibustered the ultra-conservative Texas state senate on women’s reproductive rights. Although she lost that fight, thousands demonstrated in her support; indeed, she earned the respect and support of Democrats and women from across the country.
I was one of them. As a woman of a certain age, in the last months, I have been increasingly distressed as the Republican Party turned back years of progress on women’s rights. Even though I claim the status of a “woman of a certain age,” the women who worked so hard for these changes were older than I am. While I grew up hearing horror stories, they were not my stories.
It has been a long time now. Moreover, with time, the stories and the reasons why anyone ever worked so hard for these rights seems somehow lost to history.
They are not lost to Wendy Davis. Raised by a single mom, as a teenager she too became a single mom, living in a trailer park in Texas. She didn’t let that hold her back, and she went on to study at Harvard Law School.
Texas Governor Rick Perry has made no effort to hide his disdain for Davis or her background (Clifton, 2013). Although he is not running for re-election, he’s done everything he can to demean and downplay Davis and her credentials. And the person she’ll most likely be running against is more radical than Governor Perry, if that’s even possible (Clifton, 2013).
There is no doubt that when she successfully filibustered on women’s reproductive rights, she inspired the women in this country like few have in a very long time.
I was among them. I came of age in the seventies. While the fights for women’s rights were still being raged, the bra burning women’s libbers were older than me, and I was too young to understand completely.
In those days, so many women were dying from illegal backroom abortions; the concern seemed to preempt all other. Our high school physical education (PE) teacher kept trying to tell us about the things she felt that we, as young women, needed to know. We had lecture after lecture about the dangers of backroom abortions and clothes hangers.
In a time when to be unmarried and with child meant living as an outcast and in poverty, illegal and makeshift abortions were a tremendous risk to the lives of unmarried women who found themselves pregnant.
The Supreme Court passed Roe vs. Wade in 1973, the year I finished high school. Most of the fight for those changes took place before I was old or mature enough to understand why there was ever a need.
In the 1950s, there were an estimated one million illegal abortions a year in the US, resulting in over a thousand deaths per year (Feminist.org). With changing times, it is easy to not understand why people worked so hard for what they did; it is also easy to take for granted what you don’t understand, most especially if you’ve never been there.
It is not even to say that I believe abortion is morally right or wrong, just that I believe that should the time come and the situation arise when a woman feels that she needs to make that decision, the decision must be hers. Women have faced these things throughout the ages. Laws will never change whether or not women will choose to end a pregnancy. The only thing that taking away these rights will do is reignite a dormant illegal abortion industry; women will die and others will help keep the US prison industry busy. Is this really what we want for our people?
Notwithstanding good common sense, and what most women of a certain age already know, studies clearly show that access to effective contraception slashes the abortion rates significantly, very likely more than any law ever will, and “would prevent as many as 41% to 71% of abortions performed annually in the United States” (Waxman, 2012).
Estimates are that more than two million abortions were performed per year in the 1890s. The current figures are one and a half million per year. When you consider population growth and the number per capita, with advances in contraception, the numbers have gone down significantly (Feminist.com). So why at the same time is there such a backlash against birth control coverage for the poor?
Few discussions have been so completely devoid of good common sense and reason. When it comes to decisions regarding women’s reproductive health, women are being increasingly left out of the decisions. When Wendy Davis filibustered the issue, it was a great big “wait a minute” to a whole lot of people. Unquestionably, she ignited the wrath of the old white male GOP establishment. However, the women of this country were breathing a simultaneous sigh of relief. There is no doubt; it is time for a new group of leaders. Wendy Davis has been through it all, and it is clear in her work that she remembers roots.
Whether or not she chose to talk about it when she made her announcement to run for governor, when Wendy Davis filibustered for the reproductive rights of the women in her state, she inspired women from across the country. Democrats and Republicans alike came out in droves in her support.
However, reproductive rights are not her only issue, nor her first fight:
But the June filibuster was not Davis’ first — she took a stand against a $5.4 billion budget cut to public schools in 2011. She has also advocated for strong water and transportation infrastructure, established a veterans’ court to prioritize their treatment and counseling, and worked with Republicans to pass bipartisan equal pay for women legislation, which Perry later vetoed. (Huffington, 2013)
In her own words:
Until the families who are burning the candle at both ends can finally make ends meet, we will keep going. Until the amazing health care advances being pioneered in this state reach everyone who needs them, we will keep going. (Tomlinson, 2013)
Yes, I most definitely support Wendy Davis. And to quote fellow Forward Progressives writer Allen Clifton: “I would encourage everyone reading this to please head over to Wendy Davis for Governor of Texas, a page we created to build support, and hopefully encourage her to lead this state. We want to show Ms. Davis how many support her and want for her to be the next governor of Texas.”
Image via Texas Monthly’s Facebook page.