Inside the Filibuster, an anarchist account of the fight for the right to choose in Texas


Interview with Texan Anarchist, Jen Rogue

Q. How easy is to get an abortion in Texas?

Depends on what you mean by “easy.” To begin with, there is a very conservative culture that shames and silences women about sex and opts for abstinence-only sex education, which contributes to abortion being inaccessible. Texas is almost ten times the size of Ireland and has the nation’s largest rural population, which is yet another obstacle to access, given the limited options in health care. Additionally, with a price tag of $450 to $3,000 (depending on how advanced the pregnancy is), the cost alone makes access to abortion a huge challenge.

Q. How was this law going to change the situation?

The bill would ban any and all abortions after 20 weeks. Also, it would require clinics to be certified as “ambulatory surgical centres” and their doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. This would close almost every clinic in the state, leaving only 5 out of the current 47.

Q. Who would this change affect?

Rural folks for sure. Many clinics don’t have a hospital within 30 miles, and in a lot of parts of Texas, the only hospital around is religiously affiliated and refuses admitting privileges to abortion providers. Not to mention the women whose lives would be at risk if forced to give birth after 20 weeks regardless of any concerns for their welfare.

Q. How did you hear about the filibuster attempt?

There was a ton of social media conversation about it over the last few days, but it was also being discussed in line at the grocery store and at the bus stop – Austin is a pretty politically active town.

Q. When did you get to the building and what was the atmosphere like?

When I first arrived, it was fairly orderly. A lot of people had been there for hours or even days, and everyone knew Senator Davis would be going until midnight. As time passed, more and more people packed the building, and the closer we got to the deadline, the more tense and noisy things became. Senator Wendy Davis had been filibustering for hours and the Republicans were throwing every procedural point they could at her in an attempt to shut her down, which continually frustrated the crowd. About 15 minutes before midnight, when Senator Leticia Van De Putte tried to challenge the latest Republicans attempt to end the filibuster, she was flat-out ignored. After being refused the floor, she said, “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognised over her male colleagues?” The gallery exploded in cheers and applause, and the whole Capitol went up in a deafening roar that lasted well after midnight.

Q. Who was protesting at the building?

There was a sea of orange-clad pro-choicers with the occasional smattering of anti-choice people in blue. Austin is a progressive-leaning town in an extremely conservative state, but the crowd was much more than just locals and University of Texas students. I talked to people from all over Texas, urban and rural, young and old, religious or not; it was a pretty diverse crowd of people who were angry about the bill.

Q. Are there other anarchists involved in this struggle?

There were several anarchists present and to varying degrees involved in the organising in response to the bill. There is no specific anarchist organisation in Texas, but a lot of anarchist and sympathetic folks are involved in mass work or community organising.

Q. Why is this struggle important to anarchists?

I see it as a largely defensive measure that is very personal to me, and directly effects the lives of the working class in concrete ways, but it is also an opportunity to talk about state intervention into bodies. Texas is a pretty individualistic state and with this fight, there is a lot of room to connect the struggle for choice to a critique of the state and capitalism. Organising within and alongside a broad coalition affords the opportunity to challenge and push feminists to broaden their analysis. When the senate was continuing to vote after midnight and were illegally backdating the vote to be before the deadline, there was a lot of anger and frustration in the crowd. The response from the democrat politicians was to push the crowd to vote in November 2014. This was met with cheers, but also quite a few looks of skepticism and frustration. There is a growing understanding of the limit of electoral politics and that is a key rupture for anarchists to be involved in.

Read more about Anarchists and gender politics in Insurrections at the Intersections: Feminism, Intersectionality and Anarchism by Jen Rogue and Abbey Volcano which is published in the extended edition of Quiet Rumours