From the day my mother, Ann Richards, took office as governor of Texas, she made it her mission to open the doors of government and "let the people in." Here in Austin, hundreds of Texans are taking her up on that offer.
Governor Perry and friends are fast tracking a bill that would essentially end access to safe and legal abortion throughout the state - but folks from El Paso to Texarkana are coming right back with their own message: Not without a fight. Folks are packing the Capitol, prepared to carry out a "citizens' filibuster" if that's what it takes to block the bill. They're making such a splash that supporters across the country are sending pizza, coffee, and pillows in solidarity.
It's a standoff of Texas proportion - and it isn't necessarily pretty.
Governor Perry knows he couldn't pass this bill by the books - so he's doing it his way. Politicians in the Texas legislature have resorted to shutting down the debate, blocking testimony from the very women whose lives would be affected, even voting in the middle of the night. And as Lt. Governor Dewhurst reminds us, the Governor is ready to call a second special legislative session if "certain items" don't make it through this one.
We've seen and heard it all in the last week, including some truly jaw-dropping comments from the bill's sponsor in the House, who assures us all that victims of sexual assault and incest don't need access to safe and legal abortion - they've got rape kits. It's the latest in a growing body of evidence: We're better off when women and our doctors, not politicians, are the ones making medical decisions.
Unfortunately, Texans know that better than most. More than 130,000 women have already been cut off from health care with the gutting of the Women's Health Program. In this state, we know that we only get what we're willing to fight for - so women, men, and families have gotten used to taking on politicians to save access to family planning, birth control, even sex education. And now, forcing 37 of Texas' 42 abortion providers to close their doors could shut down health centers that also provide lifesaving preventive care - and leave many women with nowhere else to turn. History tells us how that will end.
Here's the good news for Texas (and the bad news for Governor Perry and SB5): This may just be the straw that broke the camel's back. Like never before, folks are standing up to say enough is enough - taking over the Capitol and social media, holding impromptu rallies between votes. One young Texas woman tweeted late Sunday night that she had been watching the debate in the House online, and it had left her so mad that the only thing left to do was run for office. Dozens of folks responded: "Do it!"
Today, as the Senate takes up a bill that's made the entire country sit up and pay attention to what's going on in Texas, a whole new generation of activists is flooding into the Capitol. Orange t-shirts on and smartphones in hand, they are joining us under Mom's portrait in the dome to fight tooth and nail for women's rights - knowing this is our chance to finish what she started. With every attack, Governor Perry and his allies have poured kerosene on a fire. It's catching across the state, and there is no going back.
"A Standoff of Texas Proportion" by Cecile Richards originally appeared on the Huffington Post. You can find the article here.