She Wore Pink Shoes

On June 26th, the nation learned the name of Texas politician Wendy Davis after her eleven-hour filibuster in the Texas Senate the night before. Davis aided fellow Senate Democrats in delaying and subsequently blocking the passage of Senate Bill 5, legislation that would create new abortion regulations in Texas.

Wendy_Davis_2010

Also on June 26th, Governor Rick Perry added Senate Bill 5 as a part of three bills to be debated in a second special session. In fact, Perry ordered lawmakers to meet again on July 1st to begin the process that everyone thought ended when Senator Davis finally got to sit down. So much for summer vacation, Texas Congress.

When one considers the efforts of Senator Davis–her now-famous pink shoes, the back brace and bladder control–one would hate to think it did little more than buy the women of Texas another week with widespread access to reproductive health facilities. But, as it’s on the table again, there’s a chance that the bill will pass. It may be that all efforts were for naught.

Senate Bill 5 would have closed nearly all the state’s abortion clinics and imposed other restrictions–increasing the scrutiny, invasion of privacy, and financial/logistical hurdles women must face to receive a legal and safe abortion.

The bill would have banned abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy and forced many clinics that perform the procedure to upgrade their facilities and be classified as ambulatory surgical centers. Also, doctors would be required to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles — a tall order in rural communities. In fact, this criteria would close all but five clinics.

From the New York Times:

The five clinics that would remain open if the bill passed are the only ones in Texas that meet the surgical-center requirements, and all are in large cities; Austin, San Antonio and Dallas each have one, and Houston has two. Advocates for abortion rights said that the burden on those five clinics to provide women’s health services would be extreme, and that women in rural areas and small towns far from those cities would be underserved.

Without considering the geography, that’s one clinic serving every 53,764 square miles. Twenty-three states, including Arkansas and Alabama, are smaller than the area corresponding to each clinic. Given the layout of the state, a woman in El Paso would need to drive 8 hours to see an eligible doctor in San Antonio, no matter what the woman’s circumstances, be it personal choice, health, rape, or incest.

The counter-argument is that, once all the clinics undergo these prohibitively expensive “upgrades,” women’s health will improve overall.

Yet in an interview with CBS News correspondent Manuel Bojorquez, Davis argued that forcing clinics to upgrade their facilities is not necessarily better for women’s health.

“Throughout the debate, not once could the members who were advancing the bill demonstrate that that would create a safer climate for women, or that there was an existing safety problem within the existing clinical climate today.” she said.

The Huffington Post further corroborates:

Ellen Cooper, the top compliance officer for the Texas Department of State Health Services, was asked if there was any record of complications or deaths in abortion clinics that would suggest the regulations were needed. She replied no.

The Texas Medical Association, the Texas Hospital Associations and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology all oppose the bill.

Those who got the chance to testify offered frequently emotional or angry testimony. Some women shared how they felt their abortions were horrible mistakes, while others said their abortions gave them a second chance. Others cited the Bible in calling for a total ban on the procedure, and some told the lawmakers to stop interfering with their right to decide when or if they have children.

“In this country, we’ve forgotten about a big law: `Thou shall not kill,'” said Dorothy Richardson, representing the Houston Coalition for Life, in supporting the bill.

Gay Caldwell, who opposes the bill, said that protecting a woman’s health meant making sure abortions are legal and safe.

“This bill is about women’s lives, and I don’t think you want to play politics with women’s lives,” she said.

Women’s issues have been a controversial topic in the last calendar year. From the sheer idiocy of “legitimate versus illegitimate rape” to the continued insult of making $.77 to every male-counterpart’s dollar, women have also endured politicizing at the hands of a mostly-male media and government.

What we admired about Wendy Davis was that she was, first and foremost, a woman. She did not approach the microphone as a Democrat, as a Texan, or as someone trying to use this for political gain. She simply spoke of what this bill would do female bodies in her state, female bodies like her own.

Perhaps this is why the pink shoes have become an icon of her long stand. The bright pink trainers, comfortable, built to endure, and unafraid of being loudly feminine in a room of brown leather oxfords.

So what’s happened so far in Round 2? Well, Senate Bill 5 became House Bill 2, and just made it out of committee in the Texas House of Representatives. The full House will meet for a vote next week, and if successful, then it’ll be off to the Texas Senate, where the opportunity for filibuster awaits.

Who’s going to stand up for women’s rights this time? And what color shoes will he or she be wearing?

Wendy Davis

images courtesy of Progress Ohio, Creative Commons Images, and the AP.