The Texas Legislature has embarked on its second special session to adopt tough abortion laws that not only will force the closure of all but five of the state's legal abortion clinics, but also will deprive hundreds of thousands of poor Texas women of contraception, STD testing and cancer screenings.
This is all part of the absolutely ferocious war on women, on our reproductive rights and on the poor that Texas lawmakers and Republican Gov. Rick Perry have been waging for the past three years.
“Well, of course it's a war on birth control, on abortions, on everything — that's what family planning is supposed to be about,' said Republican state Rep. Wayne Christian two years ago in the earlier stages of this war, when the state unsuccessfully tried to bar Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid funding to provide gynecological services to more than 400,000 poor women.
Now Texas, like several other states, is refusing to expand 100 percent federally funded Medicaid, which would provide health care coverage to more than a million Texans, primarily women and children.
Texas probably will pass an abortion bill in the next month, but its defeat in the first special session last week marked an important turning point in the war on women because it showed women that they can fight back.
And it made a political superstar of Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis, whose 11-hour filibuster last week made her a household name. Women everywhere are sending away for “We Stand With Wendy' buttons and bumper stickers.
Davis delivered a powerful message — that women must stand up and fight, state-by-state, to halt this war of attrition that is slowly depriving women of reproductive rights they have had for decades.
The filibuster has been described as “a publicity stunt,' and you could look at it that way. Or you could see it as an awesome, inspired, remarkably successful rallying cry for women's rights.
At the opening of the second special session last Monday, some 5,000 people came out in the sweltering Texas heat to voice their opposition. Not the numbers we used to get at pro-choice Washington marches in the 1990s, but a start.
Perry called the crowd “a small but vocal minority.' Actually he and his legislators are the ones pandering to a small, vocal minority, the far right fringe, by doing their bidding so as to not get “primaried" by them.
If Wendy Davis' filibuster was a publicity stunt, what the Ohio Legislature and governor pulled June 30 was exactly the opposite — a profoundly anti-democratic stealth campaign at the midnight hour to insert egregious anti-choice laws into the state's budget bill.
The new laws were enacted without any debate, without public comment and without even the knowledge or awareness of the people of Ohio, many of whom will be affected most grievously by them.
Nice going there, defenders of democracy and freedom!
The new Ohio law, instantly signed into law by Republican Gov. John Kasich as a posse of grinning old white men looked on, bans abortions after 20 weeks, defunds Planned Parenthood and defunds rape counseling programs if counselors dare to tell traumatized women that they can have a legal abortion.
It requires clinics providing abortions to enter into “transfer agreements' with local hospitals to transfer patients to those hospitals should complications arise, but then bans Ohio's 18 public hospitals from entering into such agreements. Never mind that hospitals are legally bound by federal law to treat such patients anyway.
It requires women seeking abortions — and perhaps those seeking prescriptions for birth control pills, no one really knows — to undergo mandatory vaginal ultrasounds even if their doctors do not recommend it.
And it forces doctors to read women a script concerning fetal heartbeat and development as they have that ultrasound, even if neither the doctor nor patient wants it. Talk about big government!
The contempt with which these elected officials treat women, treat families and treat their own voters and citizenry is beyond belief. And the same thing has been happening in Republican-controlled statehouses around the nation.
Many young people today say they hate “politics,' and most people, young and old, pay no attention at all to state politics.
What Wendy Davis and Ohio are teaching them, in such dramatically different ways, is that they have to pay attention — or when they go to exercise the rights they think they have, they will discover that they have none.