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The Making of a Movement

Moments from the battle for women's rights ... in progress

By Michael King and Amy Smith, Fri., July 19, 2013

GALLERY

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Photo courtesy of Tanene Allison

The words "End the War on Women" are projected onto the side of the Reagan Building during a "citizens' filibuster" June 20 before the House State Affairs Committee. About 700 people from across Texas attend the hearing, setting the stage for the mass public actions that follow.

The emotional crest of the latest and ongoing fight for women's rights in Texas occurred a few minutes before midnight, Tuesday, June 25. The last minutes wound down on Gov. Rick Perry's first special session of the 83rd Texas Legislature, and it seemed certain that the Senate Republican majority couldn't be stopped in its determination to impose draconian regulations on abortion and women's health care. They had broken or ignored the Senate's rules and traditions in shutting down the daylong filibuster of Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, and they were moments away from forcing a final vote.

San Antonio Democratic Sen. Leticia Van de Putte had heard enough, and when she went unrecognized by the Senate chair (at that point, Lubbock Republican Robert Duncan), she rose and asked, "At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over the male colleagues in the room?" That simple, pointed question summed up weeks of frustration, and triggered an explosion of emotion and noise from the gallery – loudly echoed by the crowd in the rotunda outside. The sound was explosive and overwhelming, eventually making it impossible to conclude the business on the Senate floor – and time expired before a vote could be concluded.

That moment was unforgettable for its culmination of the popular opposition to these laws that will not only severely restrict abortion rights in Texas, but will also undermine basic health care across the state. In the days before and since that victory, there have been plenty of other moments to remember.

There was the debate on the House floor, when Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, and some of her colleagues brandished coat hangers as the symbol of what will happen when the GOP succeeds in virtually outlawing abortion in much of Texas. (Later, she amplified the tool kit with knitting needle, feather, and turpentine.) There were two House committee hearings, where hundreds of women who had waited all day bore witness and hundreds of others were turned away from testifying. There was the Senate committee hearing, where hundreds of people waited long into the evening to speak for two minutes of their personal stories and political convictions, even knowing that the bitter outcome on this particular legislation, at this particular time – that of a coordinated national move by Republicans to suppress reproductive rights – was inevitable.

But most of all, there were the thousands of people, throughout this process, who made it clear inside and outside the Legislature that enough is enough, and that – in the words of the song they were singing this week as the bill moved again from House to Senate – they're "not gonna take it, anymore!"

Selected here are photographs, most of them by Chronicle staff photographers John Anderson and Jana Birchum, of many of these high points, culminating in the Senate July 12 with final passage. Birchum and Anderson, along with photographer Shelley Hiam, have been recording history as it happens throughout these past weeks; more of their photos are posted in our galleries at austinchronicle.com.

They serve as firsthand reporting, as historical record, and as inspiration.

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