Texas’ ‘People’s Filibuster': Who Was There, What’s at Stake, and What’s Next


See all our coverage of the “people’s filibuster” against HB 60 here.

UPDATE, 2:55 pm EST: The State Affairs Committee has passed HB 60. 

What happened Thursday night in Texas was not supposed to happen, for a lot of reasons.

Young people, we are told, do not care about reproductive rights.

Old people, we are told, resent a generation that doesn’t appreciate their hard work on reproductive rights.

Men, we are told, can’t be bothered with whether women have access to abortion.

Texas, we are told, is a hopelessly red state full of bumpkins and rednecks that should be allowed to secede so the United States can cut its losses.

But Thursday, Texans of all stripes, from teenagers to septuagenarians who remember what the reproductive rights landscape was like before Roe v. Wade, signed up to testify against an omnibus abortion bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks, shutter all but five abortion clinics in the state, require physicians who provide abortions to have hospital admitting privileges, and make legal medical abortion all but impossible to acquire and prescribe.

They drove in: six hours from the Rio Grande Valley, three hours from Houston and Dallas, an hour and a half from San Antonio. Many were abortion providers and OB-GYNs. Many were lawyers. Many were college students. Many were parents. Seven hundred people in all reportedly signed up to testify, according to a statement made just before midnight by one of the committee members.

But as the night wore on into morning, State Affairs Chair Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana) grew tired of all the democracy. He adjourned the meeting just before 4:00 a.m. and left the legislation pending. Three women, representing a total of nine more minutes of remaining testimony, watched without recourse as Cook rose from his chair and exited through the hearing room’s back door.

The vast majority of those who bore witness at the nearly 11-hour hearing were white, city-dwelling, English-speaking, cisgender women, and it is vital to remember that white, city-dwelling, English-speaking, cisgender women are not the Texans who will be most affected by this legislation.

The Texans who will be most likely to be denied abortions, who would travel over the border to Mexican pharmacies, who would have no choice but to carry unwanted pregnancies to term because they could not travel to one of four remaining Texas cities with an abortion provider, are those who are already unable to take time off work, arrange child care, and drive hundreds of miles to sit in a cold, sterile room—either for an abortion or for three minutes of air time in front of a Capitol committee.

When I remember Thursday night—and I will remember the citizens’ filibuster for years to come, because it fills me with pride—I will particularly remember the testimony of a woman named Lesli Simms, who in the wee hours of the morning chastised Rep. Cook, who just after midnight first tried to silence hundreds of people who had come to the Capitol to speak by ending public testimony. In his opinion, criticisms of HB 60 were getting a little too “repetitive.”

“My presence isn’t repetitive,” said Simms, gesturing to the Texans lined up behind her anxious to get a few words in. “Their presence isn’t repetitive. I’m a Black woman, and I’m coming back.”

As for when to come back, organizers of the citizens’ filibuster are asking Texans to return to the Capitol on Sunday, when the Texas House of Representatives will take up this legislation on the floor. In the meantime, the State Affairs Committee is meeting Friday afternoon in a closed hearing—without public testimony—to officially vote on Thursday night’s proposed legislation. It will almost certainly be recommended favorably to the house at large. [Per the update above, it was.]

We’ll see y’all on Sunday.

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  • David

    What’s the best place to get updates on when and where to show up Sunday to make the greatest impact?

  • DreaM7481

    David, show up at the Capitol anytime between now & Tuesday at midnight to make the greatest impact.

    Texans, these bills are very likely to be passed. It was so moving to see people make their views known against all odds.

    This battle is just beginning. Imagine crowdfunds transforming all Texas abortion clinics into the required ambulatory surgical centers, imagine caravans to transport & house those wanting or needing to terminate their pregnancies or wanting birth control or pap smears to the 5 clinics that will be left in this state. Imagine the birthing communities & the reproductive justice communities joining hands to create a coalition for reproductive safety, health, & liberty that is a force to be reckoned with. Imagine better sex education, more access to birth control, & the solidarity of all sexes & genders to create a more sex positive, & choice positive Texan environment.

    The impossible only exists outside the human imagination. There will be ways to win this war after it seems we have lost. I sincerely hope that every person who walks out of that building on Tuesday possibly feeling heavy-hearted or defeated will march forward with the same passion & dedication that led them there.

    We have the opportunity & the duty to make the rest of the country & the rest of the world know that YOU CANNOT MESS WITH TEXAS BODIES.

    • Jonathan Kuperberg

      “sex positive” :( no thanks.- abstinence until man/woman marriage and fidelity thereafter is what one should be positive about, not sin.

      • DreaM7481

        All the Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas

        Layin’ in the sun,

        Talkin’ bout the things

        They woulda-coulda-shoulda done…

        But those Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas

        All ran away and hid

        From one little did.”

        • Jonathan Kuperberg

          I am not God. I am just one of millions of people who are His children saved by His grace, hoping to evangelize some of the lost.

          • DreaM7481

            Then let your god decide who are whose children.

            I’ve had a lifetime of evangelizing. If I remember correctly, all are god’s children.

            If you’re a Calvinist & you believe in God’s Election & Particular Redemption- there really is no point in evangelizing, is there?

            Otherwise, I think you’re implication that some are lost is a bit out of line. Who are you to speak for omniscience & who are you to decide who’s saved? Did Christ not shed his blood for all, or is that not your faith?
            It’s a sad world where the act that brings human beings into this world is considered a sin when it’s not done under the sanctity of man’s laws, as if the eyes of your God exist only behind the face of a judge or a minister.

            And what of creating an environment that makes illegal, dangerous, botched, & even deadly abortions more likely? What of creating an environment where people are not taught about their own bodies, are not taught about consent, or the very real facts of S.T.I.’s & unintended pregnancy? What of creating a world where females are raped, mutilated, & forced to abort on one side of the globe & raped, mutilated, & forced to birth on the other? Do you honestly think that by keeping information & resources from a population, you are preventing sin?

            Are females chattel to you? Should the beings whom nature assigned to bring life into the world not have the power & wisdom to know when they are ready and able to be mothers?

            If you think criminalization stops actions, ask yourself what law is in effect today that successfully stops the action it intends to?

            By supporting these bills, the very people who would wrongly call abortion murder are condemning females to possible death, to say nothing of what they approve of in regards to viable human beings. Laws do not stop abortions- they only allow or deny safe ones.