Washington is not Texas. Thankfully, lawmakers here are not pursuing misguided regulations to curb reproductive rights for women. But I still think the massive response to Tuesday’s nearly 12-hour filibuster in the Texas Senate by Wendy Davis demonstrates why we cannot take the right to make our own private decisions about our health for granted.
Look at what’s happening nationwide.
Last week, the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1797, a far-reaching measure that would restrict the time frame in which abortions are allowed, from about 24 weeks down to 20 weeks after conception. According to The New York Times, several states have already done this or something similar.(Read former Seattle City Councilmember Judy Nicastro’s harrowing Times op-ed on her late-term abortion at this link.)
The supporters of such measures — mostly Republicans — often say they are protecting women’s health. That’s misleading, considering this Guttmacher Institute Q&A that cites studies showing less than 1% of U.S. women suffer major complications after they undergo a safe, legal abortion. As long as the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling is in place, anti-abortion forces are really doing everything they can to chip away at access. Hence, the measures we saw the GOP attempting to pass in Texas, including a ban on abortions after 20 weeks and a slew of regulatory procedures designed to make it difficult for doctors to work and for clinics to remain open.
Davis’ marathon filibuster stopped this nonsense — for now. Gov. Rick Perry has called a second session and placed these abortion bills back on the agenda.
Washingtonians, Texas women need our support from afar and we must remain vigilant. We are fortunate to live in a state that has long respected a woman’s privacy. (Check out this write-up at HistoryLink.com for more and my Jan. 23 blog post about public support for the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling.) In fact, Planned Parenthood and reproductive rights advocates worked hard this year to pass the Reproductive Parity Act to protect insurance coverage for abortions, albeit unsuccessfully.
Among Washington’s congressional delegates, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene have been strong allies on women’s health issues.
In the June 19 speech below, Murray “dismisses” the U.S. House proposal as a desperate “appeal to a dwindling base” in the Republicans party’s far right faction.
DelBene expressed similar frustrations June 18, when H.R. 1797 was still in committee. Her attempt to amend the measure failed. Watch her remarks below.
Both were viewing livestreamed video of Davis’ filibuster and sending messages of support Tuesday via social media.
— Senator Patty Murray (@PattyMurray) June 26, 2013
— Rep. Suzan DelBene (@RepDelBene) June 26, 2013
On Wednesday, Murray joined 30 other senators in writing this letter of thanks to Texas’ newest political sensation. The praise is well-deserved. More challenges lie ahead, and we will likely see additional efforts to restrict women’s health choices at both the federal and state levels.
If and when that happens, we need only remember the image of Wendy Davis in her pink running shoes, standing up for the minority party on the Senate floor and surrounded by thousands of engaged Texans under the Pink Dome in Austin. This week, they taught us some political battles are worth fighting till the bitter end.