If you were awake late last night, you saw something pretty extraordinary unfold down in Texas. The legislature was attempting to pass a bill on the last day of the session that would have restricted abortion by (1) limiting it to 20 weeks; (2) requiring that clinics meet medical clinic standards; (3) requiring that abortion providers have hospital admission privileges. Opponents said the latter two would shut down all but five clinics in the state.
A building protest caught spark when Wendy Davis began a 13-hour filibuster to try to prevent a vote. When she was ruled to have broken the rules a third time — once for getting a back brace adjustment and twice for talking about topics deemed irrelevant — her filibuster was ended. What followed was two hours of parliamentary debate. At 11:45, the gallery erupted, shouting down the legislature. They voted for the legislation. But this morning, the Lt. Governor ruled that it had passed after the midnight deadline. For the moment, the bill is dead.
Many thoughts and I’ll have to go with bullet points that sum up much of what I said on Twitter.
Once again, the MSM fell flat on its face. Twitter, Facebook and blogs had copious coverage of what was going on. At the precise moment the vote was happening, CNN was highlighting … the calorie content of muffins. I’m calling it: 2013 is the year the MSM died. Almost all the big news — the IRS scandal, the NSA, last night in Texas — emerged from outside the MSM. And their typical reaction has been to either dismiss it or be snide about it, culminating in David Gregory pondering if Glenn Greenwald should be prosecuted for breaking the law (note to Gregory: I don’t think journalists breaking the law is a can of worms to you want to open, asshole). The MSM is still relevant, a little, for foreign news. Or at least they could be. Some journalists, like the ones who exposed the abuse in Bell, California, still fill a role. But the big news houses are nothing but fluff.
Probably the most amazing, if unsurprising thing, was the complete reversal of people’s attitudes on the particulars. Liberals who had spent years denouncing the filibuster suddenly thought it was the most awesome thing ever. People who had denounced peaceful Tea Party protests as display of thuggery and racism suddenly decided that shouting down the legislature was good citizen participation.
Me? Even though I’m mixed on the abortion issue and prefer the more dignified, restrained and lawful tactics used by the Tea Party, I am encouraged when I see citizens paying attention to what their legislatures are doing. I am always impressed by real filibusters not the bogus “we’re pretending to talk” kind.
The law itself, however, is not the most ridiculous thing. As pointed out, many countries have more restrictive abortion laws than Texas tried to pass, including western European ones. France, for example, only allows abortion on demand through 12 weeks, with exceptions for health of the mother or fetal illness. I really think, after the Gosnell horror, abortion clinics should be held to higher standards. And now that we’ve had fetuses survive after being born at 21 weeks, the push to move viability back was not unreasonable. However, the GOP has been winning legislative victory after legislative victory on the abortion issue. Something like last night was inevitable.
The victory abortion proponents scored last night may be temporary. There is no force on Earth that can stop Rick Perry from calling a special legislative session today to pass SB5. However, I suspect that the law is dead for now. The GOP, if they are wise … stop that snickering … will take their wins on abortion law and wait for passions to cool.
In the end, despite the extremely boring parliamentary debate that pushed SB5 past midnight, I found last night kind of riveting. Not because I am particularly sympathetic to the protesters, but because I am sympathetic to anyone pushing back on government. I want people protesting, calling legislators and getting involved because so many of us have fallen asleep at the switch. Our Republic only functions if we hold our leaders responsible for the decisions that they make and the laws that they pass.
So my challenge to those who participated last night, even it was just a “StandWithWendy” hashtag is this: are you willing to keep this up? Are you willing to push back on NSA abuses, even when it is the eeevil libertarians raising awareness? Are you willing to protest the IRS targeting groups based on their politics, even when it’s groups you don’t like? In short, are you going to stay involved when it’s not your pet issue? When it doesn’t involve aborting fetuses?
Because if you’re not willing to stay involved; if you’re going to bash the Tea Party when they do something like this; if you’re going to decry the filibuster when Rand Paul uses it, then you are not a participant, a protester, a citizen, a revolutionary, a patriot or someone who “stands” with anything.
You’re just a partisan.
You know, I have to agree with John Huntsman on this one:
A ballot initiative in Mississippi that would define a fertilized egg as a legal person has led to a rare divide among Republican presidential candidates on topics of abortion policy.
On Sunday, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, who has generally stuck to an anti-abortion platform during this campaign, became the first presidential candidate to publicly say that he opposed the so-called personhood amendment.
“I think it goes too far,” Huntsman said on NBC’s “Meet The Press.” “I mean, I’m pro-life and always have been. I have two little adopted girls to prove the point. But I think life begins at conception. And I, you know, have certain caveats or exclusions in the case of rape, incest, and life of the mother. But I’ve, I’ve always been–I’ve always been pro life and proud of my record.”
Huntsman is not not the only pro-lifer to come out against the amendment. A lot of pro-life groups are backing away from this proposal, which is so extreme, I have to think the courts will take it up.
Forget the abortion issue for the moment. If a fertilized egg is defined as a person, the legal implications are staggering. Morning after pills and IUDs would be illegal. IVF would be in questionable legal territory since most embryos fail to implant and leftover embryos are sometimes destroyed or used for research. Even ectopic pregnancies would come into question. Moreover, somewhere between 50 and 80% of fertilized eggs naturally fail to implant or survive more than a couple of weeks. Almost all women will have a miscarriage at some point in their lives, most without realizing it. What’s to be done about that?
What bothers me about this is not so much the ballot measure, which will either fail or be thrown out by the Courts, but what this says about the current mindset of many within the GOP. We have seen a series of these plans come out — on abortion, on taxation, on budgets — that have almost no connection with reality and are set upon an almost willful ignorance of details. The GOP has moved from a conservative party that was nervous of Big Grand Plans for Remaking the Universe to a party that is besotted with them and has little interest in the niggling details that often mean disaster. It’s as if they looked at Obamacare, with all its plunging forward regardless of fact, and decided that was a model. So we get a 9-9-9 tax plan that would massively shift the tax burden to the middle class. We get several candidates advocating 40% cuts in federal spending, ignoring that this would necessitate huge cuts in military or law enforcement spending. We get candidates opposing the withdrawal from Iraq with no clear idea of what they hope to accomplish. And now we get a personhood provision that no one has thought about in terms of basic human biology.
Our system of government is set up to temper these periodic outbursts of lunacy — from Right and Left. But these aren’t the sort of things we should be wasting our time and political capital on. It makes me wonder — are the GOP raising these garbage ideas and bullshit plans because they don’t want to make the tough choice that lie ahead?