For someone who actually likes women, it was heartening to see the American branch of the Taliban trumped by a diminutive blonde.
Her foes may come back with a win on this, but my bet is it will be a pyrrhic victory at best. I’ve spent my life around smart, strong-minded women, and I think Texas Republicans will find they have angered the wrong people.
What happened is that the Republicans in charge of the Texas state Legislature tried to ram through a bill that would have drastically restricted Texas women’s reproductive rights. So, last week, state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, staged a filibuster and talked for almost 11 hours until the GOP leadership used the Texas Senate’s arcane rules to shut her up. As a riot nearly developed, Democrats employed parliamentary tricks to run out the clock and kill the bill as the special session timed out at midnight.
Part of what struck me was the gallery filled with hundreds of irate women. I doubt that I could name any of those women, but I know them nonetheless. I’ve known – or am related to – a number of people who could be their sisters.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, has called a second special session to try again to pass the bill. It is widely thought it will pass, although after last week, who knows?
The bill itself has four provisions: It would require doctors who provide abortions to have admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic. It would ban abortions after 20 weeks, except in medical emergencies.
Abortion-inducing pills could only be taken in the presence of a doctor at an abortion clinic. And abortions could only be performed in a surgical center. Altogether it is thought the bill would effectively close 37 of the state’s 42 abortion clinics and make it all but impossible for many, if not most, Texas women to get an abortion – a procedure the Supreme Court has said is legal.
That has Texas women’s groups up in arms, and last week’s win should only embolden them. That could be something to see.
When I say that I like women, I mean beyond the obvious. While heterosexual and male, I am also happily married and plan to stay that way.
The thing is, I was also raised to value women and have always enjoyed their company – and their wisdom. Family history supports that.
My father graduated from high school, which wasn’t bad for the son of a steelworker in the 1930s. But my mother had a master’s degree, which led to something of a pattern. Both my sisters have master’s degrees. So does my wife. One of her sisters has a master’s degree, another a doctorate. My sister’s daughter holds a doctorate.
Nor is education the only factor. I married into a matriarchy. My mother-in-law was widowed with four children, the youngest still in diapers. She raised those four and three others that her second husband brought with a continuous energy she still exhibits. Often, when my wife gets revved up about something or other and decides it has to happen right now – the point where I have learned to step aside – she’ll shrug and remind me that having met her mother before we wed, I knew what I was getting into.
My Herald experience fits, too. Morley Ballantine is no longer with us, but in the time I knew her, she taught me a great deal. That included the idea that politeness does not require putting up with nonsense. And in recent years, I have increasingly come to rely on the judgment of Megan Graham.
I suspect Perry never had that sort of experience, that he never paid attention to women such as Davis or those in the gallery, and never learned to appreciate them or their point of view. He seemed to struggle talking about them when it was clear that the word he was looking for was “uppity.”
Others know better. Davis wore pink running shoes on the Senate floor last Tuesday. By Friday, those shoes – Mizuno Women’s Wave Rider 16 – were the best-selling shoes on Amazon. While quirky, that sort of thing is telling.
The Texas legislative effort is driven by an antediluvian view of women as nothing more than wombs, vessels for men’s progeny. There is no recognition of them as intelligent or moral beings.
Women deserve more – including the dignity of deciding their own fate. And if my experience is any guide, they will get it.
Bill Roberts is the Herald’s editorial page editor. Call 375-4560 or email email@example.com.