Former Texas Senator Wendy Davis will be speaking at the Planned Parenthood Spring Luncheon
Written by Hayleigh Worgan
Senator Wendy Davis will be the keynote speaker for the Planned Parenthood Spring Luncheon on Thursday, April 26. Senator Davis is known for her defense of women’s rights, and her fight for gender equality. Specifically, her eleven-hour filibuster in 2013 that temporarily thwarted a bill in the Texas Senate to enact a bill that would greatly restrict a woman’s right to end a pregnancy in a safe and legal fashion. Although the bill was later passed, the filibuster inspired women across the nation to stand up and fight for their reproductive rights. It called attention to the politicians who were trying to strip those rights, and others, from their constituents while few were paying attention. Most importantly, it added fuel to the momentum of a movement that continues five years later.
“I’ve had so many women, young and not so young, who have shared with me and continue to do so to this day, the inspiration experience that they had watching the 2013 filibuster. It motivated them to get involved on this issue, and I think that was the most important thing that happened that day. We brought awareness to what is happening in Texas and across the country. We made a lot of women who thought this was a right we could take for granted understand that it’s not,” Davis recalls.
Restrictions on ending a pregnancy in a safe, legal environment will ultimately cause devastation to women and families across the nation. Currently, we are facing potential limitations on abortions after 20-weeks. These cases only make up a small percentage of abortions, and those that do occur often happen because the baby will be delivered stillborn or is endangering the health of the mother. This is not a decision that women make lightly. As Davis explains, even if the law is written with exceptions in order to anticipate what women may be facing, each individual case is different.
“No language can capture what each of us, as individual women, may face. There is the danger that our autonomy is removed,” she explains. “My feeling is, why would we make a change from where we are today, when currently we are allowing women and their doctors, guided by their faith, to make these decisions for themselves?”
This is a question that needs to be repeated before every politician until lawmakers understand that women are not going to watch their rights be stripped away. With so many ignoring phone calls and refusing to see constituents, communication can feel difficult, if not impossible. It’s important to find respectful and effective ways to discuss these matters. If you’re looking for suggestions, try Davis’ organization, Deeds Not Words (www.deedsnotwords.com). Described as a “starting point for turning ideas about women’s equality into action,” the group began as a way to provide answers to questions people asked Davis as she travelled across the country. She found that many young women were passionate about gender equity, but had no idea how to get involved. They were at a loss on how to use their energy and passion to really make a difference.
Deeds Not Words seeks to show those fighting for gender equity how to do so digitally, by engaging, inspiring, and motivating women to understand how the process works at local, state, and federal levels. The goal is to show them where they can most effectively add their voices to progress in a way that motivates change. In Texas, advocate trainees recently worked ten different bills proactively and they were able to pass seven of them. All were centered around protecting women from sexual assault, particularly on college campuses, and protecting vulnerable young women who are victims of sex trafficking. They hope to expand their advocate trainee program to other parts of the country soon.
Ultimately, Davis and the Deeds Not Words program hope that women will continue to get involved in running for office in 2018 and beyond.
“We have to start by looking at who represents us across the country and the fact that we have an incredibly small amount of women at the local, state, and federal levels. What that means, of course, is that we don’t have the champions that we need. There are many men who support women’s reproductive freedoms. However, the true champions for these issues are women, and they are the ones who are going to fight with everything they have to make sure we don’t go back,” says Davis.
Davis is encouraged by the fact that more women are owning the responsibility for themselves of stepping out of their comfort zone and running for office. As she explains, if we don’t do it, no one will do it for us.
In her memoir, Forgetting to Be Afraid, Davis quotes Lady Bird Johnson on the idea that sometimes you have to get so caught up in something you forget to be afraid.
“The good thing is that we are there for each other,” she adds. “I see that more and more, particularly post-2016 election, the number of women stepping forward to run for office and support those putting their names on the line is increasing. There is a growing sisterhood and network, and that is important to know when we, as candidates, feel afraid. It’s so nice to know that our sisters are there and have our back.”
Davis hopes to continue to stay a prominent part of the conversation about gender equity and its many forms including reproductive autonomy, safety for women from domestic violence and sexual assault, and equalized economic opportunity. Although she knows she speaks from a place of privilege, she will use her voice to do everything she can to empower other women. Don’t miss this opportunity to hear her speak in person. Purchase your tickets to the Planned Parenthood Spring Luncheon at springluncheon.ppsat.org. Space is limited, so make sure to secure your tickets as soon as possible!