Future Blue State?
Wendy Davis, a Dixie Chick and minor celebs rally in abortion fight, talk of Texas turning blue
Thousands of protestors descended on the Texas State Capitol with legislators having reconvened to address a controversial anti-abortion bill recently blocked by a dramatic filibuster that threw Austin into the forefront of a national debate on women's rights.
Kicking off yet another special legislative session, the Republican-led House and Senate met for less than an hour on Monday to schedule public hearings on increased abortion restrictions. A recess was called for the rest of the week.
Using a legal but hotly-contested procedural amendment, the Senate changed the standard two-thirds vote to a simple majority vote for any bill proposals — leaving Democrats in the lurch since the party holds only 12 of 31 senatorial seats. The House too made a strong push with its owns procedural change to limit public testimony.
This type of rule changing has rallied an increasingly vocal Democratic opposition, which gathered an estimated 8,000 protestors outside the Capitol for a noon rally on Monday. The event included a rousing speech from filibuster hero Wendy Davis, a musical performance by Dixie Chick Natalie Maines and celebrity appearances from both Lisa Edelstein of House, MD and Dallas' own Stephanie March of Law & Order: SVU.
"Republicans have to break the rules to pass laws that appease the extreme right of their party," attendee Justin Perez of University Democrats at UT-Austin told CultureMap in a phone interview. "It's an abuse of power to help them get re-elected. We're rallying to show that we won't back down."
"People have come from all over the state to be here . . . Citizens are fired up and anxious."
Travis County Democratic Party president Jan Soifer feels that Texas may be reaching a tipping point that will "turn the state blue" as more people take note of the political strong-arming taking place in Austin.
"People have come from all over the state to be here," she told CultureMap. "Citizens are fired up and anxious not just about the abortion bill, but also about fair pay for women. The protests that have been happening here in recent weeks are evidence that we're not going to take this sitting down. "
Rick Perry and his fellow state Republican remain committed to passing some of the strongest abortion restrictions in the nation. The strict pro-life bill is expected to reach a vote as early as July 9.
“The Texas Legislature is poised to finish its history-making work this year by passing legislation to protect the unborn and women’s health,” Perry said in a statement.
Soifer maintains that while she and her Democratic opponents are aware that the bill is almost guaranteed to pass, they will continue to maintain a presence at the Capitol.
"Texas Republicans may win this particular battle in the legislature," she said, "but they're certainly going to lose the war in the long run."