The Supreme Court decision throwing out Texas's strict abortion clinic law is a big moment for abortion-rights advocates. But perhaps no one feels more personally vindicated than Wendy Davis, the former Democratic Texas state senator who in 2013 filibustered the bill on the Texas floor in her pink sneakers for 11 hours, launching her to national stardom and spurring a run for governor.
Both prospects ultimately failed -- the law passed a month later, and she lost her run for governor in 2014 in a blowout, by 20 points. But on Monday, the highest court in the land sided with her on the abortion bill. The Fix caught up with Davis to talk about the whole experience and her future plans. Our conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
THE FIX: So, as you pointed out on Facebook, you launched your filibuster almost exactly three years ago today.
The fact that people were talking about the three-year anniversary suggests to me there's a community in Texas built up around your filibuster. Is that true?
DAVIS: There is, and I think the community is bigger and broader than that. It's a community that came together centered around the idea that our voices really can make a difference when we're involved in tough fights. I know a lot of people felt that in some ways we were a part of helping to shape the landscape of what we see happening in other fights in the country -- the U.S. Senate filibuster that Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and his colleagues conducted, the sit-in from Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.) and his colleagues, and the idea that, even if we're facing long odds, there is power in standing up for the things that we believe in and fighting a fight and making our voices heard.
THE FIX: Take me back to those final hours on the Texas floor, with much of the nation watching. What do you remember about it today?
DAVIS: What I remember most, of course, was the privilege of reading the stories that so many women shared -- very personal stories they were willing to share -- in order to help women who might one day find themselves in the shoes they've once worn.
I vividly recall and will forever be grateful to my Senate Democratic colleagues who so brilliantly helped with parliamentary maneuvers to eat up the clock. I, of course, cannot ever think about that day without thinking about the thousands of people who decided that it was worth it to get up off the sofa and make a pilgrimage to the Texas capitol and be a part of that fight, and who literally rose and used their voices to propel us past the midnight deadline. [Editor's note: Davis held the floor until about 10 p.m., and supporters in the gallery yelled and screamed to hold the floor until midnight, ending the clock on the special legislative session. The bill passed in a second legislative session the next month.]
It was the most symbolic demonstration of democracy, a beautiful and poignant one, and it set off a ripple effect around the country and inspired people to believe in their own power to participate in that way.
THE FIX: It feels like a consequence of all this gridlock is that huge pieces of legislation are decided by eight, nine judges on a bench.
DAVIS: Yes, and thank God for it. Thank God for the fact that we have the three-branch system of the government in place and that it exists to check and balance against the will of a minority that has managed to exert itself as though it were the majority in the legislatures in states across the country.
THE FIX: Do you feel vindicated by this decision?
DAVIS: I feel vindicated on behalf of the women who will once again access safe and legal abortion care in our state. I feel vindicated on behalf of them and the fact that their health will no longer be jeopardized as a consequence of this particular law.
THE FIX: I talked to an abortion rights advocate who said this is the most momentous Supreme Court decision on abortion in a generation. What are your thoughts?
DAVIS: It's certainly the most monumental decision that we've had since Roe v. Wade. And it not only reaffirms the constitutional protections that were echoed or articulated in Roe v. Wade; it solidifies them, it strengthens them, and it certainly ends any question of whether this Supreme Court will continue to uphold the principles that are embodied in them.
THE FIX: After the filibuster, what was your involvement in this case?
DAVIS: The case itself was a multi-layered effort to get us to where we are today. It started with our ability to lay a solid legal foundation for this case to be decided upon, and that meant being very thoughtful about the record that we built on the Senate floor. And I was very grateful for my legal training and the ability to see down the road and to play a role in laying the predicate for the court's decision making today. [Editor's note: Davis has talked openly about her own abortion and filed a friend of the court brief sharing her story.]
It was important for us to create a record that demonstrates that the advocates of this law actually had no basis in protecting women's health, as they argued that they did.
And going forward, I'll continue to push for gender equality as a whole. I'm very proud of the initiative that I launched a little over a month ago -- Deeds Not Words -- which is aimed at helping young women to find the power of their advocacy in advancing gender equality, including reproductive autonomy, but so much more as well, including economic opportunity, sexual assault protections and justice. We're helping to make sure that young women are connected to organizations that recruit and support women to run for office. These are all an important part in making sure that one day in this country, we realize the dream of gender equality.
THE FIX: So you're touring the nation for this nonprofit. Would you consider parlaying that into running for office again?
DAVIS: I would be thrilled to serve. I would be honored to serve. I hope to serve again one day in that role. But I am privileged to continue to play a part in making sure some of the policies and issues that I care about are advanced.
THE FIX: If I were to sum up our conversation in one take-away, it would be: Speak up. Sound about right?
DAVIS: Well, I named my organization, Deeds Not Words, with a lot of thought. And yes, I believe in acting, and I believe that we all have an important role to play. And I'm working as hard as I can to encourage that in as many women as I possibly can.
Act, just act. Do a deed. Don't just talk.