State Sen. Wendy Davis’ filibuster of abortion legislation last summer may have garnered national headlines, but it didn't impress most Texans — and probably did more to galvanize conservatives.
The end result was meaningful pro-life legislation that passed by a nearly 2-to-1 margin and has since withstood multiple court challenges. The filibuster cost Texas taxpayers an unnecessary special session, and pro-life conservatives have been rolling in their respective races ever since. Meanwhile, Davis' stance contributed to her defeat in several key South Texas counties in the Democratic gubernatorial primary earlier this year.
Perhaps most telling is the number of times Davis has felt comfortable mentioning the issue in the gubernatorial race. In fact, until this week, her silence has been deafening. Even in emails promoting the one-year anniversary, the Davis campaign talks about standing up against “restrictions” but doesn't say what kind. The word “abortion” isn’t found anywhere in reference to the legislation. Not once.
This is hardly surprising. Texas is a state that values the sanctity of life. The majority of Texans say government should play a role in protecting our tiniest and most vulnerable Texans, especially babies who have been in the womb for over five months. These babies show a developed heart, organs, limbs, neurons, eyebrows and even fingernails. They react to stimuli and feel pain.
Most people recognize these as signs of life. According to polls conducted during the debate last year, nearly 2 in 3 Americans favor restricting abortion after 20 weeks. A Washington Post-ABC News survey showed that 56 percent of Americans support limits on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, while 27 percent support the current 24-week mark. A Huffington Post poll showed that 59 percent support a 20-week ban. Note: These are not conservative publications.
The Davis filibuster attempted to block mainstream bipartisan legislation. Other states have passed similar laws with little controversy. Twelve other states restrict abortions at 22 weeks or earlier, and over half require abortion facilities to meet medical standards similar to ambulatory surgical centers. Ten other states require abortion providers to be located within 30 miles or minutes of a hospital.
In 2003, the American College of Surgeons and the American Medical Association unanimously concluded that “physicians performing office-based surgery must have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital … or maintain an emergency transfer agreement with a nearby hospital.” Davis filibustered a bill that followed these medical recommendations, which protect women's health.
There’s no doubt that Davis' filibuster resonated with liberals outside of Texas. She has raised considerable sums of money from certain circles in Hollywood and Washington, D.C. But back home, the Davis campaign repeatedly tries to mask the intent of the legislation she filibustered, claiming in emails and social media that she stood up to "stop Austin insiders from closing women's health clinics."
Nothing could be further from the truth. The legislation did not put any restrictions on women's health clinics — only on abortion providers. In fact, the 83rd Legislature increased spending on women's health to nearly a quarter of a billion dollars. Texans deserve a governor who tells the truth about what he or she stands for and can tell the difference between women's health and abortions. By confusing the two, Davis does a disservice to Texas women.
This week, you’ll hear a lot about pink tennis shoes and how the filibuster propelled Davis to run for governor. What you won't hear about are the lives saved — both of women and children — as a result of the legislation that Davis tried to block. You won't hear how the most dangerous place for some women is with an abortion provider like Kermit Gosnell, or how no child in the womb is safe when his or her parent is inside an abortion facility.
I was proud to end last year's filibuster. When it failed, Texas families won. The Senate was able to go about its business of representing the people and passing legislation in line with Texas values.
Every innocent life is precious, and no filibuster is ever going to change that.