Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis, who rocketed to fame by filibustering the Texas legislature for 11 hours over abortion rights, reminds me of Ginger Rogers. I mean that in a good way.
Rogers famously did everything that her great dance partner Fred Astaire did, as the late Texas Gov. Ann Richards, among others, used to say; "She just did it backwards and in high heels."
Davis did everything in her filibuster that U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) did in his 13-hour filibuster over drone policy, except she did it, as one Twitter tweeter put it, "in pink sneakers and a back brace."
That's because the Lone Star State's Senate has tougher rules. Texas Senate rules require speakers to keep standing without relying on food, drink, bathroom breaks, straying off topic or even leaning on anything.
Antiabortion forces object to the media attention that Davis' feat, as well as her footwear, received. But after months of enduring one-sided coverage of the grisly Kermit Gosnell case, I think it is only fair for the pro-choice side to have its turn.
I say "one-sided" because, for all of the attention that was given quite properly to Gosnell's atrocities at the Women's Medical Society in West Philadelphia, almost no attention was given to the circumstances that made women desperate enough to turn to his clinic.
Poverty may well have had something to do with it. Gosnell served a low-income clientele in a poor part of town who may not have known where to find a safe and legal abortion.
Some were immigrants like 41-year-old Karnamaya Mongar from Nepal, who died from an anesthesia overdose. Gosnell was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in her case and three counts of first-degree murder of three babies that prosecutors said were delivered alive and then killed by Gosnell. He was sentenced to life in prison.
The stomach-churning horrors that led to Gosnell's indictment along with nine employees for murder of a woman and seven infants were immense. They included filthy conditions, blood-spattered floors, broken equipment, fetuses stored in jars, third-trimester fetuses delivered alive only to have their spines severed by the doctor, two women reported dead and others seriously injured.
The horrors of the Gosnell case arrived like a perverse gift to abortion opponents. Their cause benefits in public opinion every time the gruesome nature of abortion procedures is highlighted, especially in late-term abortions which Gosnell illegally performed.
But most abortions are early and legal. The antiabortion movement is relentless in its efforts to change that. To get around constitutional protections of the right to have an abortion, some states like Texas are passing burdensome and unnecessary regulations to restrict the right.
In Texas, Sen. Davis is fighting a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy and require clinics to meet the same standards as surgery centers, like those in hospital wings, among other requirements.
A similar regulation in Virginia went into effect in April that included such seemingly irrelevant requirements as awnings and specific dimensions for doorways and janitorial closets. A clinic in Norfolk was forced to close days later after 40 years of reproductive health services, including abortions.
When will we ever learn? The tragic lessons from the days before Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortions nationwide, tell us what happens when access to abortion is blocked or reduced. Desperate women and girls turn to riskier alternatives like Gosnell's house of horrors, the very problems that the advocates say restrictive laws are intended to avoid.
Backlashes work both ways. After the Gosnell case helped to energize antiabortion forces and pressure for new laws, Sen. Davis' filibuster was a wake-up call to the other side. Women poured into the Texas Senate chamber to cheer her on until the clock ran out on the legislative session.
Nevertheless, Republican Gov. Rick Perry would not be stopped. He convened a second special session of the legislature before July 4 to introduce a second version of the bill. It is identical to the first in making the hard choices faced by real women even more difficult in the name of protecting life.
Clarence Page is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. His email: firstname.lastname@example.org.