Funnily enough, there is nothing in the American social contract that permits the disgruntled to scream their way to political victory. On Tuesday night, however, you could have been forgiven for thinking otherwise. When a speaking filibuster conducted by America’s new pro-choice darling, Wendy Davis, was ended by a procedural technicality, a turbulent mob descended on the chamber of the Texas state senate and set about unleashing chaos. Distressingly, the tactic worked — for 90 minutes, at least. Although the ayes prevailed in a vote held in the dying minutes of the session, the passed bill was signed at two minutes past midnight — after the session had closed for the year. Despite the self-serving attempts of the Republican majority to pretend that this did not matter, it was determined that it did. At 3 a.m., the bill was pronounced dead, and Wendy Davis and those who stood with her had won.
Had you listened solely to Davis’s bevy of supporters, you would presumably not have known what it was that she had taken to the floor to protest. In the course of their hysteria, the usual suspects rolled out the usual rhetoric, focused on irrelevancies. New York mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn explained that Davis showed an “amazing amount of courage and strength”; Sheila Jackson Lee thanked Davis for “her hard work and dedication to Texans”; Maryland’s governor, Martin O’Malley, admired “her courage”; Cory Booker was “proud and inspired by her courage.” And typical American ingenuity was brought to bear in finding euphemisms for “killing”: New Jersey gubernatorial hopeful Barbara Buono contended that “women are worth fighting for in all our states.” And President Obama’s Twitter feed, now little more than an externally controlled avatar for all things progressive, noted that “something special is happening in Austin.”
“@WendyDavisTexas just said ‘menstrual’ which most Texas state senators think involves a song done in black face,” The Nation’s Dave Zirin wrote, in an attempt at humor that aptly demonstrated why he remains the sports editor. The fatuous charge that opponents of abortion use the issue as a way of “controlling women” was quite popular. But dress it up as they might, the truth remained ghastly: What Wendy and her team of protesters were trying to do was block a bill that would have made it illegal to deliberately kill an unborn child after 20 weeks of pregnancy. And that is a disgrace.
The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson wrote that, during the filibuster, Davis explained “how a pregnancy unfolded — all points on which, she noted, her male colleagues seemed vague.” Perhaps Davis is right that many of her fellow human beings know embarrassingly little about how they grew. I’d venture, though, that this is to her advantage: It is precisely the knowledge of how babies develop that informs my revulsion at their execution.
We might recap: By the time that a baby has been in utero for one month, blood is pumping around the body. In the second month, facial features develop, including the growth of ears, eyes, arms, legs, toes, and fingers. At six weeks, the baby’s brain, spinal cord, and central nervous system are all pretty well formed — in outline at least. By the two-month mark, sensory organs begin to develop and bone replaces cartilage.
Three months in, arms, hands, fingers, feet, and toes are fully formed, and the baby can grab with its fists as well as open and close its mouth. Teeth are on their way, as are reproductive organs. In month four, the baby is fully formed, and eyelids, eyebrows, eyelashes, nails, and hair develop. At this point, a baby can suck his thumb, yawn, hiccup, stretch, and make faces. At 18 weeks, the baby can move around, and experience REM sleep, including dreams. At 20 weeks, some studies show, it can recognize its mother’s voice.