Democratic state senator Wendy Davis last night did a standing, talking filibuster of a bill that would ban abortions on fetuses 20 weeks in development and older. The bill would also hold abortion clinics to the same standards as similar non-abortion medical facilities.
Wendy Davis and her allies will paint this as a Mrs. Smith Goes to Washington moment, and sure some of that drama is there. It took real willpower to stand and talk and run out the clock. The thousands of Austinites who showed up to support her certainly feel that protecting late-term abortion is a civil rights issue.
I’m going to venture a guess here, though. I think that from the perspective of a few decades from now, Wendy Davis’s filibuster isn’t going to look so pretty.
Think about it this way:
The babies at issue here are not formless blobs of cells. Here’s how one mommy website preps pregnant mothers for the 20-week ultrasound: “If Baby cooperates, you can see fingers, toes, spines and even a little face!… it will seem super cute if you see your little one sucking his thumb in-utero!”
They can suck their thumbs, hear their mother’s voices, and feel pain. But of course, these babies are completely powerless. Wendy Davis, a white southern Democrat, filibustered last night to deny humanity to an entire swath of humans.
Davis clearly wasn’t alone, as the galleries in Austin, Twitter, and the news media showed. But she is in the minority.
She needed to filibuster because an overwhelming majority of both chambers wanted to pass the bill to protect 20-week in-utero babies. And 62 percent of Texans polled support a ban on 20-week abortions. Overwhelmingly, Americans think babies in the second and third trimesters ought to be protected by law.
And it wasn’t just a lone woman standing against the civil-rights views of her colleagues and fellow Texans. It was a loud, yelling mob, preventing the workings of representative democracy. As the AP tells the story:
Despite barely beating a midnight deadline, hundreds of jeering protesters helped stop Texas lawmakers from passing one of the toughest abortion measures in the country.
As the protesters raised the noise to deafening levels in the Texas Senate chamber late Tuesday….
Subverting democracy through yelling mobs. Standing up to the powerless. These aren’t the sort of things that history tends to celebrate.