Wendy Davis, the Texas state senator who held off a vote restricting abortion rights by staging an 11-hour filibuster in June, announced on Thursday that she will run for governor.
Davis’s filibuster was an attempt to block legislation intended to reduce abortion access, including a 20-week ban on the procedure, imposition of surgical center standards for abortion clinics, and a requirement for providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital — which would force the majority of Texas’s 42 abortion clinics to close.
The legislation was later enacted; a lawsuit is underway to block the admitting privileges and medication abortion provisions of the law from taking effect.
The state senator’s actions inspired women’s health advocates around the country (and a whole bunch of memes). Her actions capped off a difficult six months, as states enacted 43 provisions aimed at restricting access to abortion — the second highest number on record at the mid-year point, and as many as were enacted in all of 2012, according to Guttmacher Institute. These states are, not surprisingly, mostly led by Republican male politicians.
If Davis is successful in her run (a very big “if” considering Texas hasn’t had a Democratic governor since 1995, when the formidable Ann Richards, mother of Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, was in charge), she would join a very small group of female governors throughout the country. At present, there are only five.
But as Danny Hayes, a political science professor at George Washington University, writes in the Washington Post, getting more women to run for office is a very big deal: “[B]ecause the main barrier to electing more women in the United States is getting them to run in the first place, Davis’s emergence — the result of her 11-hour filibuster against an abortion bill in the state Senate in June — may be critical for encouraging other female candidates to throw their hats into the ring.”
While Davis’s views on abortion are clear, female representation is, of course, no guarantee of more sensible approaches to women’s reproductive health. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) signed a 20-week ban in that state last year.