Reproductive Rights

Davis Continues to Speak Up For Reproductive Rights

Image of Wendy Davis and Kurt Hochenauer

Former Texas State Senator Wendy Davis was in Oklahoma Saturday speaking up for Planned Parenthood.

That’s a good thing because in a crass, anti-women political move Friday, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to defund the health organization for a year.

It’s GOP political theater and part of a risky political strategy as the presidential election looms in 2016. The disingenuous and stated idea behind the one-year suspension of funding is that it will give conservative politicos time to “investigate” Planned Parenthood. House Republicans also passed an absurd, meaningless bill that would make it a criminal act if medical workers don’t try to save the life of a child born during an attempted abortion. This is a bill also based completely on absurdities and misinformation.

Both bills pander to low-information conservative voters and further fuel myopic ideologues, the cultural scourges and haters, who have devoted their lives to dangerous and threatening levels of religious extremism.

Women have a right to control their bodies. Women have a right to ALL reproductive health procedures, tests and checkups. Women have a right to go to a Planned Parenthood.

Oklahoma U.S. Sens. James Lankford and Jim Inhofe have helped to lead the ongoing attack on Planned Parenthood in the Senate even though the organization doesn’t perform abortions in the state. The entire attack on the organization is based on heavily edited and fraudulent videos manufactured by the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress. The videos are clearly fabrications about how fetal tissue is obtained and used in stem cell research. This coordinated attack on Planned Parenthood is a political ploy by conservatives, a doubling down on taking away a woman's right to have an abortion in order to score political points.

But it’s goes much further than that, and the GOP might even try to shut down the government over the issue, an issue which is much larger than one organization.

The defunding measure, of course, will not make it through the U.S. Senate. If it does, President Barack Obama will veto it, and Republicans don’t have enough votes to override it. The companion bill won’t make it through the Senate either, and even if it did and even if it was signed into law by Obama, it wouldn’t matter. Like the fabricated videos, it’s based on a lie, which the corporate media doesn’t stress enough. The idea of a kicking and crying healthy baby “born” as if in a regular childbirth during an abortion might make everyone cringe, but it doesn’t happen. Unscrupulous Republicans just want everyone to think it does.

The ongoing attack against Planned Parenthood, which receives $450 million in federal money primarily in the form of Medicaid payments for providing services to low-income women, is more than a typical anti-abortion stunt as I mentioned. It’s about opportunistic white men, for the most part, a worn out, aging patriarchy, trying to deny women equal rights, equal health care and equal pay. It’s a ploy to infantilize women, to put them in their place, to control, denigrate and abuse.

Think for a minute about the relationship between women’s basic reproductive health and their economic stability and opportunity. These two things are inextricably intertwined.

Here’s how Florida U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, a Democrat, described the bill to defund Planned Parenthood:

This bill is dumb, it’s foolish, and it’s mean-spirited. The bill is based upon lies and exaggerations. If you want to have a truthful debate, then let’s talk about the 400,000 Pap smears, the 500,000 breast exams, the 4.5 million STD and HIV tests that Planned Parenthood does each year.

All this makes it increasingly important that Davis, a former Texas Democratic state senator and gubernatorial candidate, continues to speak up for women’s rights and support organizations like Planned Parenthood.

Davis, who is widely know for filibustering a draconian Texas legislative anti-abortion bill in 2013, was the featured speaker Saturday night at an annual fundraising dinner for Planned Parenthood of Central Oklahoma. I was fortunate to hear the speech and to talk personally with Davis, pictured with me above, at the event.

In her speech, Davis spoke up against the “demigods” like presidential candidate Donald Trump who demean women and lamented “sadly” the division of women on issues like reproductive health. She brought up the struggles of single women and mothers, who clearly need organizations such as Planned Parenthood for basic health reasons.

These women used by demigods for political gain are not the fictions created by conservatives. To drive home her point, Davis repeatedly used the refrain, as she described various women, “She’s real. I met her.” It was perhaps the most powerful part of her speech because the reality of what Planned Parenthood does is always lost in the political and media spectacle.

Davis talked about the struggles her grandmother and mother faced in their lives, and talked about her own journey. Davis graduated with a law degree from Harvard University, and held political office as a Fort Worth councilor and Texas state senator, but she faced her own financial and personal obstacles as a single mother along the way. In 2014, she lost her bid to become Texas governor, and now practices law in Austin and Fort Worth.

Her filibuster in 2013 of a bill that placed draconian restrictions on abortion in Texas drew worldwide media attention. She was able to stop Senate Bill 5 temporarily, but the restrictions were later passed and signed into law. What made her filibuster important, however, was Davis’ courage in standing up for women’s reproductive rights in an extremely conservative state where she was sure to face ridicule and personal attacks, which she did. This, in turn, empowered other women and men to speak up, and the momentum continues.

In her speech, she urged women to tap into their collective power, and said the “ballot box” is where change happens. She said the Goddess of Liberty statue on top of the Texas Capitol building dome continues to stand for “freedom and justice” for women in our neighboring state to the south.

Republicans have demonized Planned Parenthood as a political ploy, banking on visceral responses from voters not paying attention to outright lies and doctored videos. It’s a desperate and immoral strategy to win the presidency and to implement laws restricting the rights of women even further.

Wendy Davis gives us courage to stand up against this onslaught against women. She’s real. I met her. Maybe she will run for office again. Let’s hope so.