The Texas GOP state Senators did what they were expected to do (with the assistance of one Democrat), and approved the omnibus abortion bill, thereby “protecting” women from abortions after 20 weeks, while the legislators themselves were protected by the Department of Public Safety law officers from scary things like tampons. As the day went on, the story that got a lot of publicity wasn’t what was happening on the Senate floor, but that some DPS officers decided that tampons and other hygiene items were among the things that couldn’t be allowed on the Senate gallery.
After learning of the over-zealous actions of some of the DPS officers, Sen. Kirk Watson (D) intervened, and while water bottles, food and other items were still not permitted (sensibly, that seems), hygiene items were no longer considered a threat to the senators. And then there’s this, which also made the twitter world light up, via Think Progress:
Even though the Texas legislature may not be comfortable with feminine hygiene products, it’s a bit more relaxed when it comes to firearms. Individuals with concealed carry licenses are permitted to bring their guns into the Senate gallery.
I saw no reports that there were, or weren’t, legally armed citizens in the gallery.
Early morning, the lines were long for gallery seating (the Senate was scheduled to convene at 2:00). Reports indicated that those in the gallery were about half blue (pro bill) and half orange (anti bill), and for the most part, they were quiet, with a few outbursts, quickly ended by other DPS officers. In the hallways and rotunda, and in an evening march to a nearby park for a rally, and back again to hear from Democratic Senators, including Wendy Davis, the reported thousands opposing the bill were not quiet.
I did find it curious that while tampons and such were confiscated, a few women managed to get in with some chains. DPS officers spent quite some time cutting one free. And I did enjoy the comments of one woman, who asked the DPS officer taking her dangerous tampons if he wanted the pads from her bra as well.
On the Senate Floor
All of that, of course, is more side story than anything else, though it does reveal something about the incredible amount of not just public attention, but actual engagement, by both “blue” and “orange” clad citizens. In terms of sheer numbers at the capitol, over the course of the last couple of weeks, orange won that one.
They lost the vote, of course. The Senate and House have passed the omnibus bill, Perry will sign it, and as everyone knows, it will end up in the courts.
In the Senate, much of the time was spent hearing amendments and as frequently characterized by senators, “impassioned” and “emotional” stories and arguments that, to me, occasionally sounded like sermons.
From the Texas Tribune:
Democrats offered 20 amendments, ranging from proposals to add exceptions to the bill’s 20-week abortion ban for victims of rape and incest to requiring annual inspections of abortion facilities … . All were rejected on party-line votes in a debate that lasted until nearly midnight on Friday.
Sen. Glenn Hegar (R), who presented the bill, refused all amendments, as expected.
Democrats, as the Tribune reports, frequently pointed to the “consequences for women faced with unwanted pregnancies” while “many Republicans emphasized the importance of preventing abortions after 20 weeks.” One of the most “impassioned” speeches – one which fits the “sermon” description, from my perspective – came from Sen. Dan Patrick (R), who did everything but have an altar call.
‘It’s about taking the life of an innocent baby,’ said … Patrick … . ‘What choice does the baby have? Who speaks for the baby?’
A suggestion from Patrick that senators who voted for the legislation were ‘listening a little closer’ to God than those who opposed it prompted a heated response from Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, who told his colleague he had crossed the line.
‘Don’t question the faith of any member,’ he said.
I listened to a great deal of the debate, and while not at all surprised, I think it’s accurate to say that the idea of the separation of church and state would be considered heresy by many – not all – of those speaking.
Burnt Orange Report (around long before the current debate) had a live blog, and one of those reporting pointed to another “sermon” (my word, not hers), this one from a Democrat.
Sen. Lucio has been talking on the floor of the Senate for about ten hours now, apparently wanting to make sure everyone … knows he’s the one Democrat voting for this … legislation.
It really wasn’t ten hours, though it felt like it. Lucio, from my perspective, had a more obviously “fire and brimstone” kind of “sermon.”
Finally the second vote was done. A third reading was necessary, and since it was almost midnight – and since he’d clearly done better preparation for this debate than he’d done for the earlier filibuster – Dewhurst quickly got a motion to end that session and begin the July 13 session a few minutes later. Which new day session began with a prayer. At least there wasn’t another sermon. Things moved very quickly after that, and the Senate stands adjourned until next Wednesday.
From the Tribune:
After the final vote, Dewhurst appeared tearful as he called on the senators and activists for and against the legislation to come together despite the differences that have separated them in recent weeks.
He said he prayed for them ‘not to forget to love each other as Christ loved the church and as we love all those unborn babies.’
Meanwhile, out in the hallways and rotunda, and on the streets, the “long run” view seemed pervasive. From the Burnt Orange report:
The crowd marched back to the Capitol just as the Senate finally adjourned sine die. Senator Wendy Davis and others came out to speak … .
Overall the mood is largely energized. People were talking about next steps and registering voters, and what we need to do to elect leaders who respect women’s rights.
There’s no doubt the citizen activists are “energized.” What that ends up meaning, say in 2014, is yet to be seen, but at least at this point “long run” is the word.
(In It For the Long Run photo via Planned Parenthood)