In Texas: "We will not stand by while our most personal rights are stripped away."
We were deeply disappointed to hear that, despite thousands of pro-choice Texans rallying at the Capitol in opposition to extreme anti-choice legislation, the Texas House of Representatives passed a bill that would close down all but five abortion clinics across the state and ban abortion care after 20 weeks - even in the most heartbreaking of circumstances.
We've seen the anti-choice in politicians Texas stoop to a new low by resorting to cheating tactics and changing the rules to force this dangerous legislation into law. Texas grabbed the nation's attention during Sen. Wendy Davis' 13-hour filibuster and we'd like to share a first-hand account of that experience, from Heather McLeod of Austin, Texas, who stood in the Capitol that night:
"The gallery was full, as was the auditorium where the proceedings were being streamed. Hallways and elevators and stairwells buzzed with activity.
Suddenly an urgent "Shhhhhhhh!" passed from person to person in the group closest to the television. The roar of the bustling room dropped to a hush. This had been the third point of order and the sound was back on. I could feel our collective hearts drop. Sustained. They had killed the filibuster, grasping at absurd straws in an effort to silence Wendy Davis and all of us. I was aware here of the beginning of a certain level of unity--focused, bold, determined--that would come to define the rest of the night. As far as we knew, the filibuster had been broken, which meant the bill would pass, and our reproductive freedom was about to be ripped out from under us.
Crowding onto the terrazzo of the rotunda, surrounded by stately portraits and the soft white glow of the building's interior, our voices began to rise. Louder and louder we grew, until we were chanting as one: "Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame!" The force of passion in the building could have lifted the roof off, not to mention the sheer volume of sound. It grew into one neverending cry of outrage in between chants, until a group of state representatives appeared on the west side of the second floor balcony. I recognized Dawnna Dukes, Senfronia Thomas, and Borris Miles. They were telling us that it wasn't over. The senators were appealing the ruling. They were pleading with us to wait quietly. They motioned dramatically with their hands: "Wait here. We'll be back." It was around this time that we learned that all entrances to the Capitol had been locked due to the crowd's unrest, and no one was allowed in or out. We sat down on the floor of the rotunda. The temperature in the room had started to rise. Food and water were brought in and passed around. We waited, texted, checked social media.
As 11:00 approached, the mood in the room grew tense. We weren't sure what was happening in the gallery. We began counting down. People inside began getting to their feet again until we were all standing.
At 11:42 we began to hear cheering from upstairs and someone appeared at the railing of the highest balcony yelling hoarsely at us to start making noise. Around this same time came the news of Senator Van de Putte's powerful question. Our supporters in the gallery had disrupted the session by standing and cheering and they were refusing to stop.
If we could hear the couple hundred of them shouting, they would certainly be able to hear one or two thousand people in the center of the building. Like a match had been lit, the rotunda exploded in an uprising of sound that swelled above us to a chill-inducing, ear-splitting pitch. "WEN-DY! WEN-DY! WEN-DY!" "WHOSE HOUSE IS IT? OUR HOUSE! WE WON'T GO BACK!" "OUR BODY! OUR CHOICE!" We screamed and clapped and cheered as if our lives depended on it. Our freedom certainly did. The sound seemed to hang in the air above us and feed back, ringing out the power of hundreds and hundreds of voices screaming for equality.
Midnight came and went. Dozens of troopers entered the gallery and began physically removing people while confusion set in downstairs. It appeared a vote had happened, albeit illegally, and that nothing would be settled by night's end. A sizable crowd was gathered outside the Capitol when we left. We witnessed some dramatic arrests being made.
I got home shortly after 2:00 a.m. and learned then that, amazingly, the bill was dead. Dewhurst had ultimately been forced to concede to the objectivity of the clock. Here in Texas we are used to losing these battles, so the next morning dawned with a kind of hope and pride we haven't felt in a long time. But within 24 hours, Rick Perry called another special session. But something has changed in a huge number of us: we are tired, really tired, of being devalued, threatened, and ignored. We will not stand by while our most personal rights are stripped away.
We have woken up."