Today in Haltom City, at the place where she received her high school diploma, State Senator Wendy Davis announced her candidacy for governor of Texas.
Here's a sentence we don't get to say often enough: This is great news for women in Texas.
This summer, when Governor Rick Perry, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, and Attorney General Greg Abbott tried to force harsh restrictions on abortion through the state legislature, folks turned out by the thousands to speak out in Dallas, Fort Worth, Waco, Houston, San Antonio, Brownsville, and Austin. I've never seen anything like the outpouring of activism we witnessed, especially in Texas. Most of all, the night of the people's filibuster, folks in my home state got a glimpse of something we hadn't experienced in a while: democracy in action.
As we celebrate Wendy's historic announcement, I'm reminded of something that happened the day of the final vote in Austin. On my way into the Capitol that day, I saw a mother and her teenage son in orange T-shirts. When they saw us coming, the mom elbowed her son and said, "Show them your sign."
He held it up. It said "I still have my mom thanks to cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood."
His mother started to cry, and said, simply, "Thank you."
They came to Austin that day to thank Planned Parenthood and the thousands of people who were there speaking out for women's health and fighting for them when nobody else would. Through her historic, 11-hour filibuster, State Senator Wendy Davis gave a voice to the millions of people who have felt shut out of the political process.
The fact is, women in Texas are suffering. Over the past two years, 76 women's health centers have been forced to close their doors and stop providing affordable, lifesaving cancer screenings, birth control, STD testing, and basic preventive care. And when Governor Perry and his allies ended the Texas Women's Health Program, more than 130,000 women were shut off from accessing the health care they need, purely because of politics.
Texas women deserve better -- and Texas can do better.
The day my mother, Ann Richards, announced her plans to run, she quoted former Speaker of the House and fellow straight-talking Texan Sam Rayburn: "Any jackass can kick down a barn, but it takes a carpenter to build one."
The contrast in this election is just as stark. Throughout her career, Wendy Davis has led the charge to build better schools, expand women's access to health care, and to make sure every Texan has a fair shot. She knows firsthand that women's ability to access family planning is key to their ability to get an education and pursue a career. She's taken on tough fights -- and as the world saw this summer, she doesn't give up.
Greg Abbott supports the policies that have left thousands of women in Texas with nowhere to turn for health care. He wants to end access to safe and legal abortion, and has supported shutting 76 women's health centers -- in some cases the only health care provider women visit. He epitomizes extreme positions on women's health that are opposed by the vast majority of Texans (and their doctors).
This election will have very real consequences for millions of women in Texas. The stakes are high, and the choice is clear: Wendy Davis knows Texas can't move forward if half the population is left behind. Greg Abbott would make a terrible situation even worse by cutting off health care to the women who need it most.
Twenty-four years ago, they said a Democrat would never be elected Governor of Texas -- much less a Democratic woman.
The day my mother was sworn in, she said: "Today, we have a vision of a Texas where opportunity knows no race, no gender, no color -- a glimpse of the possibilities that can be when the barriers fall and the doors of government swing open."
"Tomorrow, we have to build that Texas."
This summer, we saw what's possible when thousands of people come together to demand a say in our government and stand up for the Texas we know and love -- the Texas we want to see. Today, the task at hand is nothing less than building that Texas -- and that starts with electing Wendy Davis.