The “Unruly Mob” vs. “Democracy”

As anyone on social media knows by now, the draconian anti-abortion bill in Texas, SB5, was defeated last night.  It is truly a great thing for all of those who fight for women’s bodily autonomy.  The law would have closed down all but five clinics in the state of Texas, which is one of the largest states (in both population and area) in the U.S.  The most affected would have been poor and working women, who could not afford the travel or time needed to travel to find services if they did not live in one of the areas where those five clinics were located.  This would include a significant number of women of color, as well.  Some say it would have virtually ended access to abortion in the state.

The proposed legislation, SB 5, would have criminalized abortion after 20 weeks and forced all but five of the state’s abortion clinics to close their doors. Because of Texas’ size and population, Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards warned that SB 5 would amount to a “virtual ban” on abortion services in the state.

I watched the live stream online and followed the proceedings on Twitter last night, hoping against hope that it would turn out the right way.  I was so relieved that it did. Despite my unmitigated joy today, I am having a major problem with the narrative around the struggle.  Those who advance this narrative engage in both the celebration of bourgeois party politics and the cult of personality.  This narrative holds that one woman, Texas State Senator Wendy Davis, beat back this bill.  It ignores the throngs of people who flooded the Texas capitol in Austin, shouted down the Texas senators, and demanded to be let into what should be their house of law when the doors were locked against them.  It ignores the countless women who sent in personal stories of abortion for use in the filibuster.  It ignores those arrested and those who protested those arrests, at one time screaming at the cops to “let her go” as they arrested an older woman who would not (or could not?) rise from her seated position.  I prefer the “people’s filibuster” narrative, because it recognizes these facts.  It shows us the power of direct action.  Sadly, even that term is being misapplied to include only Wendy Davis.

Unfortunately (but not surprisingly), much of the coverage of and outrage over the events in Texas have been focused on the Democrats vs. Republicans “get out the vote” pseudo-movements.  When it was thought that the Republicans were going to ignore the time deadline and claim to have passed the bill, many liberal groups immediately began to declare that they would not forget, that people needed to get out and vote Democrat.  Even after the caucus declared the bill dead, this has been a major liberal rallying cry.  In fact, it’s the supporters of the bill who have recognized the power the people wielded in their legislative halls, blaming “unruly mobs” for the defeat.  While liberals “stand with Wendy”, conservatives recognize that they could have used parliamentary rules of “germaneness” to kill the filibuster and push the bill through, were it not for the crowds of people who shouted them down to run out the last 15 minutes of the clock.

What do we take from Texas?  We certainly should not believe the fight is over.  In fact, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is hinting that another special session might be called to bring the bill to the floor again, saying, “It’s over. It’s been fun. But see you soon.”  To put our trust in elected Democrats to protect us is misguided.  After all, when convenient, they have sold women out before.  Even more than that, simply supporting Democrats doesn’t change the underlying problems:  patriarchy, capitalism, imperialism and the corrupt structures of U.S. pseudo-democracy.  Controlling women’s reproduction, to push out more workers and soldiers, is a necessary function of patriarchy, imperialism and capitalism.  The corrupt structures of U.S. pseudo-democracy mean that our elections are bought and sold, and exercising control via elected representatives of either bourgeois party is bound to fail as often as it gives us minor successes.  I say the only true democracy in action in Texas yesterday was represented by the “unruly mob”–the people directly taking control.

UPDATE (6/26/2013, 3:49 PM MST):  Texas Governor Rick Perry has called another special session to reintroduce this bill.  The session will convene on the 1st of July, 2013.  This is why it’s so important that we have a movement, not just rely on a politician here or there.

UPDATE (6/27/2013, 6:31 PM MST):  I added a link to an article and video of the 72-year-old woman who was forcibly removed from the capitol.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT:  I need to thank Navdeep, a poster on  TLSOF’s Facebook page.  He made a statement regarding putting trust in politicians that I originally misunderstood.  After thinking about his comments for a while, I realized what he was saying and how right he was.  His comments, along with many other things that unfolded during and after the filibuster, led me to write this piece.