Feminism: Texas Monday Retrospective

[Content Note: Stories of Reproductive Coercion]

So, yesterday was a day.

No. Stop. Back up. I want to point out something first. Again. None of this activism? Is free. NONE OF IT. Everyone who testified before the senate committee yesterday had to take off of work or drive to Austin or rearrange their schedule or just spend the spoons it takes to wait around and stand in lines and hang out at the capitol for fifteen hours to testify. Every person who live-blogged or live-tweeted the witness testimony had to take time and energy and spoons to do this. And the witness testimony took a LOT of spoons. A lot of tears, a lot of rage, a lot of feels.

Here is a picture of feels because it seems relevant. 

I don't know how half of these people are still standing, still breathing. I guiltily in my heart-of-hearts consider myself to be a bad activist because I didn't have the bravery to take the week off work and drive several hours down to Austin like I had wanted because I was worried about my precarious job position and my even more precarious health. But I did manage to live-tweet the first several hours of testimony until about 2pm and then followed again from 7pm until 11pm, and I am wrecked.

I say this not because I want you to feel sorry for me (please don't! there are so many more people who deserve the sorries!) but because I am ANGRY that this is being asked of us. I am ANGRY that my Texas legislature has said, "Hey, Texans? I know you elected us to represent you, but we don't feel like it. But if you completely rearrange your lives for our convenience and drive down here to remind us of our civic duty...well, we won't listen. But at least it'll be really clear we aren't listening and you'll have to be satisfied with that." That? Gives me feels.

So: Yesterday.

Yesterday the Senate Health and Human Services accepted witness testimony. The archival footage of the session is 15 hours and 45 minutes. For comparison, that's only 5 minutes shorter than the archival footage of the filibuster night, which was 15 hours and 50 minutes.

Tired. Not free. Not free for ANY of us.

There was a lot of witness testimony. Some was good, some was bad. It was pretty clear that they deliberately staged things so that there would be Orange-Blue-Orange-Blue alternation to look 50/50, even though (by all accounts I read and pictures I saw) the orange pro-choicers greatly outnumbered the blue anti-choicers and even though several of the blue anti-choicers were pretty clearly not actually from Texas. (One witness even made a reference to us all "being proud of your state -- I mean, OUR state".) There were also several celebrity anti-choice out-of-towners holding rallies around town, including Mike Huckabee and the Duggars. (I don't think that they testified before the Senate, though. I can't find confirmation of that; if they did, I wasn't watching the feed when it happened.)

The orange testimony was amazing, and in some cases heart-breaking. Every person had two minutes to speak. Some brought facts. Some brought science. Some educated the senators on white privilege. Some spoke about bodily autonomy. Some talked about abortions that they didn't regret. Some spoke of abortions their mothers had had, abortions that led to their own birth later when the mother was more financially stable. Some spoke about their rapes, about their ectopic pregnancies, about their mental health problems that made pregnancy impossible. The testimony was raw and amazing and so painful and powerful. Feels. Spoons. More feels.

The blue testimony was, in many cases, utterly rage-making. Women who regretted their abortions spoke about the importance of making sure that no other woman could ever safely abort, while obliviously bragging about their "choice" to bear later pregnancies to term. Men, so many men, spoke about how "easy" it is to get an abortion and how this bill isn't such a big deal and why all the fuss and that's why they drove four hours to stand in line and testify. There was appropriation all over the place: of the Holocaust, of slavery, of infertile people. Senator Bob Deuell literally said he was speaking on behalf of children never conceived.

One infertile woman made me throw down my headphones and walk off the rage. Before the senate committee, she appeared to testify to taking part in what sounded like two coercive adoptions -- one where the mother's mother asked her to adopt before the actual mother managed to procure an abortion, and one where (if I understand correctly) a 12-year old rape and incest victim in a country that prohibits abortion was forced to carry her pregnancy to term. I cannot describe how angry that makes me. I would rather, far rather, never have children than force a woman to bear a child for me. I cannot even imagine participating in such a heinous thing, let alone bragging about it before the world.

Susan Stack: My name is Susan Stack, I am for Senate Bill 1. I represent the unborn. I am from Denton.

My husband and I were married for ten years and were unable to conceive. We were approached by a person at my husband’s work and asked if we were interested in adopting her unmarried daughter’s unborn child. We were told that the daughter had a drug problem. Knowing this, we willingly agreed to adopt this child, with the agreement of her daughter. We began to prepare for the birth of our child with [illegible] joy.

Two weeks before our baby’s birth, we were tearfully told by my husband’s co-worker that her daughter had, for some unknown reason, had a late-term abortion. I cannot describe our horror. We had lost our child, and even worse we knew that our child had been murdered. This child’s feet were never allowed to feel, fill a pair of shoes.

Because abortion is so encouraged and subsidized in this country, the waiting list for adoption takes years to get through. We finally went out of the United States to adopt. One of our children was conceived by incestuous rape. Her mother was 12. By the grace of God, she survived her birth father’s efforts to end her pre-born’s life. We are eternally thankful for the courage and love of her birth mother. If she is listening, I want her to know that we cannot thank her enough for our beloved daughter. She and our son – [our/are ?] premature, born child – are the greatest gifts God has given us.

I would ask that if we’re not willing to protect all people, including those living in their mother’s womb, we should at least provide the best care and protection for the women seeking this appalling procedure, with facilities that are regulated and doctors that have admitting privileges to hospitals.

Senator Jane Nelson: Thank you. [calls name of next witness]

Another man testified in tears that the availability of abortion caused him to cheat on his wife, drink alcohol, and do drugs. He then testified that he forced his girlfriend to have an abortion she didn't want and the chair leading the committee (Jane Nelson) specially thanked him for his testimony.

Senator Jane Nelson: [naming the next names to testify] David Rosa.

David Rosa: My name is David Rosa, I’m Daniel’s father. I’m from senate district 26, I’m for SB1. I represent myself and the Silent No More awareness campaign. I’m also an orthodox Catholic. Senators, what is the moral difference between what Dr. Gosnell did to a baby born alive at 23 weeks and aborting her moments before her birth?

I participated in my first abortion in 1989, when my girlfriend who I was having an adulterous affair with because pregnant with another man. I knew I could not allow myself to be the father of an illegitimate child, however since I wanted to continue my physical relationship with this young woman, I told her that I would be the man that the father’s baby [sic] could not be, and I helped her with the decision to abort an unwanted child.

I remember everything about that day. I watched as she slowly walled from the death room of the abortuary. Before we got in the car, she started to vomit and she told me she had acute abdominal pain. She was bleeding, but they told her that was to be expected.

I feel into acute depression, alcoholism, and increased my drug use. I had multiple adulterous affairs with depravity of all sorts. I had a drive for money and power; I felt that the more wealthy and powerful I became, the more distance I could put between me and my past. The reality was… [sobbing] one year later when she became pregnant, this time it was my child. I viciously dragged her to the abortuary that she went running out of. I thought she was lying about being pregnant, but the reality was I did not want to share or sacrifice anything: my time, my money, with anyone, not even a baby.

I remember that day the abortuary was packed with women. She was crying. I did not react. When the baby was dead, I dropped her at her townhouse, returned to my house, and asked my wife what was for dinner. I tried to pretend that everything was normal, but it wasn’t long after that before I hit rock bottom. I had to check myself into a rehab center. When I was released, I knew that I needed more help. I immediately went to confession with a Catholic priest. It took three consecutive days to complete my confession, but I -- [timer beeps]

Senator Jane Nelson: Sir, I’m going to have to cut you off, but thank you for sharing your story. If I recall, there was a young man who testified earlier here whose name was Rosa?

David Rosa: That’s my son Daniel.

Senator Jane Nelson: You are to be complimented on that. On an awesome son. And thank you for being here today.

Because you know what is AWESOME? A full day of anti-choice women testifying that abortion should be illegal because they were forced to abort (which, whether you agree with their politics or not, is still a heart-breaking reality), sprinkled with anti-choice men testifying to being some of those people who FORCED women to abort, and the senate chair specially thanking him for his oh-so-brave testimony. Just in case you were thinking that maybe the Republicans didn't outright hate women or anything. HA HA NO.

And of course I'm sure that Senator Nelson probably thinks that when a male testifier says he "viciously dragged" his girlfriend to the clinic, he was probably using hyperbole. Ha ha, like you do! (Ha ha, I totally do NOT use the language of domestic violence as fun hyperbole! But whatever!) Except that, you know, this is part of the problem. Listening to women talk about violence against them and then deciding that, oh, THAT man can't be violent because he SEEMS SO NICE even when he outright says he is violent is very much part of the problem.


Very late in the evening, Senator Nelson would later have state troopers haul out a late-night testifier who dared to point out that "I'm a woman and a doctor" Donna Campbell is an ophthalmologist. The testifier was @VictorianPrude, and words cannot describe how brave she is for saying, with verve and anger, what many of us have been feeling since all this started, and what almost all of us had to silence ourselves from saying in the 16 hours slog yesterday precisely because the hue and cry of "impoliteness" is what the legislation uses to shut down women who won't concede the framing that those who want to legislate away our bodily autonomy deserve to be spoken to in only the most hushed, respectful voices.

Senator Jane Nelson: Sarah [Lastname].

Sarah: Thank you, Chair Committee, my name is Sarah [Lastname]. I’m a constituent of Senator Whitmire. I’m here to testify against SB1, because I’m tired of Republican primary politics, misogyny, and greed dominating the state I was born, raised, and schooled in.

And you know, I had some really eloquent remarks written out, but you guys have just worn me down all day. With all this terrible science, and glad-handing, and to be frank I get to move to New York next month, so I don’t have to live in fear of you Texas legislators anymore and what you’re going to do to my education system, or my healthcare system, ‘cause I’m going to a state that doesn’t kill its own inmates. That’s how pro-life it is, up there.

I will thank you, though, first. It was destiny that you would discriminate against us and try to force your way inside the bodies of Texas women. Thank you! For finally working against women so publically, and not in the shadows like you’re used to. Thank you for every single bad press conference with your bad information. Thank you for every hateful statement degrading women and girls to sex objects, and brood mares, and bald eagles, and leather wallets, like your eloquent pro-life supporters have done today.

Thank you for being you, Texas legislature. You have radicalized hundreds of thousands of us. And no matter what you do for the next 22 days, women and their allies are coming for you. Let’s start down the line. Senator Campbell, you’re an ophthalmologist. So I won’t be making you the expert on reproductive health. We can give you all the children with chlamydia and herpes in their eyes, since we don’t have Sex Ed in this state. And Senator Hegar, you are about as helpful --

Senator Jane Nelson: [strikes gavel] I will not allow --

Sarah: Excuse me. This is my government, ma’am. I will judge you. [speaking over Senator Nelson trying to interrupt] I will judge you, ma’am. Is this counting against my time --

Senator Jane Nelson: Yes, it is.

Sarah: -- the senator talking against me?

Senator Jane Nelson: Yes, it is. Yes, it is.

Sarah: OK, well I will just go ahead --

Senator Jane Nelson: I will not allow you to disrespect --

Sarah: -- and talk over her. This is how big of a fraud I knew you were, for being so proud of these proceedings all night. It’s a low bar that you hold yourself to that you [One State Trooper appears in background.] simply ALLOWED us to SPEAK.

And I will speak against an ophthalmologist [Two State Troopers grab her chair.] who says – [Two State Troopers grab her arms. Sarah leans forward to keep speaking.] Everyone on the internet can see what you’re doing right now. This is a farce. The Texas legislature is a bunch of liars [Third State Trooper comes forward to grab her.] who hate women. These men are paid off --

Senator Jane Nelson: Our next witness is Gary Oldham.

Sarah: [illegible] so they can tell us what to do with the inside of our bodies.

I also recommend the testimony of @THEJordonBrown, who preceded @VictorianPrude and broke the ice.

Senator Jane Nelson: Jordon Brown.

Jordon Brown: Yes.

Senator Jane Nelson: Go ahead.

Jordon Brown: Thank you, chair and committee for allowing me to testify. My name is Jordon Brown. I am a resident of Austin Texas and a constituent of the velociraptor Senator Kirk Watson. [crowd laughter] And I am here to oppose SB1.

Last week I stood before the House committee under very similar circumstances. First, let me say thank you for promising to hear all of the testimony, for those of us that deserve to have our voices heard. During my testimony last week, I made a logical, rational, passionate argument about the dangers of this bill. I argued the attack against women’s healthcare was not merely an attack on women, but an attack on all Texans. That point, sadly, fell on the deaf ears of the House committee.

Today I won’t argue the bill hurts women and does nothing to actually improve their health. Last week, when Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst tweeted that we should “stand up for life”, the fa├žade of the health and safety of the woman had clearly been abandoned. Instead today I will talk to you about the War on Women the Right has actively waged.

I have news for you: You are losing. I know you hate the “unruly mob”, but take a walk around these halls if you have the chance. The number of orange shirts vastly outnumber the number of blue shirts. Last week, at what was supposed to be the anti-choice group’s big rally day, the pro-choice crowd outnumbered them 2,100 to 1,300. Today Mike Huckabee spoke as a proud Arkansan – Arkansawan? I’m sorry, I’m not sure what they’re called. [crowd laughter] But let’s just call them “non-Texans”. [crowd laughter]

I guess, as a white man, you can go to any state and dictate what women can and cannot do with their bodies. And even with him here and the buses bringing anti-choice folks from all across the Not-Texas, there are still more orange shirts in this capitol.

Wake up. You have waged a War on Women and you are losing. Badly. Look at what both sides have gotten out of this: the pro-choice side has Senator Wendy Davis, Mother of Dragons. The anti-choice side has, what? Representative “Rape Kits”? [crowd laughter] Open your eyes now, or by the time you will, your careers will be over. You cannot assault the rights of half the population and expect to survive the fight, not anymore.

The eyes of the world have descended on Texas. How you vote will not be forgotten. You will have to answer to the women of Texas. And may God have mercy on your souls if you enrage them.

Senator Jane Nelson: Now, I’ve been very patient. This is not a comedy club.

Jordon Brown: I find it very serious.

Senator Jane Nelson: Um, I need to ask everyone to respect the decorum here. We’ve done a good job all day long, I want to keep it that way.

I also recommend this video because all the sobs.

And I want to add something. Kathy Gill has pointed out that the 2011 numbers being mentioned re: abortion deaths (0) versus pregnancy-related deaths (116) in are probably directly related to another anti-abortion bill that was passed in Texas in 2004, the one that demanded that all abortions after 16 weeks take place in the (relatively few) Ambulatory Surgical Centers (ASCs), because that bill reduced the number of abortions taking place state-wide.

Since January 1, 2004, Texas “law requires that all abortions at 16 weeks gestation or later be performed in an ambulatory surgical center.”

What was the impact of the law?

[...] After the law changed in 2004, the number of abortions after 16 weeks that year dropped from 3,642 to 446.

This is the goal of the law. Not to ensure “safe medical procedures” but to stop access to abortion. To neuter Roe v Wade in the off-season (special session) because they couldn’t get the bill passed in the general.

[...] No women died while undergoing an abortion in 2011, however 116 women died of pregnancy complications that year.

Oh, and that reminds me. This was my personal favorite tweet of the night.


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