Sorry, Wendy, it’s going to pass, and this time you probably can’t do a thing about it, pink sneakers or no pink sneakers.
Nothing probably is ever final in politics, and febrile assumptions can turn to dust; but the Texas Legislature seems certain to undo, in a special session, a deed extravagantly hailed in pro-“reproductive rights” America. The deed in question is the 11-hour filibuster whereby Sen. Wendy Davis, a Fort Worth Democrat, strangled a bill with numerically overwhelming legislative support.
She didn’t do it alone. As the final minutes of the special legislative session ticked away, a Senate balcony crammed with Davis supporters made so much racket that proceedings on the floor couldn’t be heard. The House-passed bill that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy never came to a Senate vote. Next morning the senator found herself a national celebrity. “Pictures of the sneakers she wore beneath her dress zoomed across computer and television screens,” said the New York Times’ Manny Fernandez. “The press corps demanded to know her shoe brand.” President Obama himself, in a Twitter message, took admiring note of Sen. Davis’ abrasive achievement.
Or of whatever it represented in fact, as opposed to myth. The myth was alive, if not as well as it might have been, as the Legislature went back to work in another special session promptly called by Gov. Rick Perry for the primary purpose of negating Sen. Davis’ handiwork.
This abortion thing, according to the myth propounded by the senator and her cheering squad, is all about the rights of women and their ability to make informed, responsible choices. At the cost of human life? Well, yes. Doesn’t that follow from any handover of “choice” to the mother? On this point, formally at least, the myth prevailed as the legislative session expired, with Davis’ mouth aggressively wide open.
Now it’s back to talking. The anti-myth, this time, as opposed to the myth itself, should receive a full hearing, over against the clamor of the other side, centered on a proposal in both houses of the legislature to ban abortions after 20 weeks. Similarly culpable, from Sen. Davis’ perspective and that of her fellow Democrats, is a requirement in both bills that abortions take place in ambulatory surgical centers.
Both sides in the dispute held public rallies as the debate, to give it that high-flown name, recommenced. Addressing his fellow pro-lifers, Mike Huckabee, the TV host and former Arkansas governor, declared that “the eyes of America are on Texas.”
Maybe they should be. The Republican-controlled Legislature’s intention is to see just how much protection the federal judiciary will allow unborn life, consistent with expanded or contracted readings of Roe v. Wade. Not that other states aren’t playing on the same team as Texas. North Dakota’s legislature in March voted to ban abortions once the fetal heartbeat becomes detectable: possibly as early as six weeks. Arkansas in February passed the same 20-week limit now under debate in Texas, with exceptions to protect the mother’s life. Ditto Kansas. A Guttmacher Institute spokeswoman says that “well over half the states have enacted some sort of abortion restriction in the last three years.”
The “eyes of America” are unlikely to make out anything new in the Austin confrontation: save maybe the downright cotton-picking stubbornness of the side that was supposed to have been counted out of the match 40 years ago, when the U.S. Supreme Court turned abortion policy in a wholly new direction. These pro-life people won’t go away. They just won’t. They keep offering bills to restrict a “right” they see as injurious not just to life but to civilization.
Rick Perry’s much-heralded decision July 8 to retire from the governorship after his current term is unlikely to undercut the pro-life cause in Texas. The two Republicans—Attorney General Greg Abbott and former Texas Republican Chairman Tom Pauken—who will contend for Perry’s job (there could be others, but probably not) are savvy and committed pro-lifers.
The Democrats could field, in opposition—Wendy Davis? Pardon me while I stifle a yawn. The Democrats haven’t won a statewide race in Texas since 1994. Davis—despite the considerable character she displays as a Harvard Law grad and single mother who started out in a trailer park—has marked herself down now as, essentially, a one-issue rabble-rouser. Or if you prefer, firebrand. The very Hispanics who will soon constitute the state’s biggest voting bloc can’t be counted on to support abortion virtually on demand.
So take Gov. Huckabee’s advice: Watch Texas. Watch even Wendy Davis, knowing that this time the wise and the warned won’t allow her within spitting distance of the finish line.
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William Murchison writes from Dallas for Creators Syndicate and is a senior editor of the Human Life Review. The author of Mortal Follies: Episcopalians and the Crisis of Mainline Christianity (Encounter Books), he is working on a book about the moral collapse of secularism.