Senate Bill 5: Texas Rep Resorts to Coat Hanger to Make Her Point

Two weeks after Texas State Senator Wendy Davis now-famously filibustered to death Texas Senate Bill 5, the Texas state legislature is in another special session called by Governor Rick Perry. Perry and other Republicans hope to use the session to finally pass a version of the bill, but that hasn't stopped some Democrats from digging in their heels. Today, one of the heel-diggers, State House of Representatives member Senfronia Thompson, stepped to the floor to defend a proposed exception for rape victims to the 20-week deadline on abortions mandated by the bill.


It would take much more room than I have here to fully unravel the collection of tangents and non-sequiturs that adorn Rep. Thompson's comments. There are multiple references to the "undue burdens" imposed on socioeconomically disadvantaged women who might seek an abortion — a fine point, but not directly relevant to her amendment. There is an odd and seemingly irrelevant aside about whether or not rapists consider the political affiliation of their victims.

The core of Thompson's argument, of course, is that rape and incest victims face special circumstances that other women who have unwanted pregnancies do not face, and thereby ought to be given time exceeding the normal abortion deadline. Given the psychological strain of confronting and overcoming such brutality, especially in abusive homes where family members are often the perpetrators, Thompson's proposal itself seems entirely reasonable.

Unfortunately, the reasonableness of Rep. Thompson's argument was completely undermined by the demagogic tactic she used to make it. Thompson clearly intended to play to the basest emotional responses of her audience, hoping to elicit fear and anger by waving around, one after another, a knitting needle, a feather, a coat hangar, and a bottle of turpentine. Take a second, please, and consider: just how many thoughtful opponents of abortion rights — because surely the thoughtful ones are the ones you can actually convert — do you think will be won over by that kind of macabre imagery?

Liberals often and rightly tag anti-abortion activists brandishing pictures of dismembered and aborted fetuses as scare tacticians who exploit pity and anger — rather than good sense — to make their case. I sincerely hope to find the same disgust and righteous indignation from liberals (bastions of polite civil discourse that they take themselves to be) towards Rep. Thompson's display.

Indeed, Rep. Thompson's reliance on the crutch of emotional appeals in a civil debate was not only lazy, it was arrogant, too, for it signals that she does not consider her opponent's decision to be strong enough to warrant a well structured argument. But of course there are strong positions on both sides of the abortion debate — that's why for decades the battle cries on both sides of it have ricocheted off the walls of classrooms and cafes, in homes, and in the halls of academia. If it were an easy question, we wouldn't have to talk about it so damn much.

Clearly Thompson was aware that she was being filmed (after all, 100,000 + watched Wendy Davis's filibuster attempt two weeks ago), so it seems that she was more interested in putting on a show for the crowd and than engaging in any kind of real debate. Wendy Davis relied on principle to make her points. Senfronia Thompson relied on props.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Jeffrey Webb

A Southerner in exile living in San Francisco. I studied Political Philosophy and Ancient History at the University of Virginia, and now I work for a large tech company here in California.

MORE FROM

Women beer drinkers finally get the Beer for Her they never asked for

Why drink a rugged manly beer when you can have Aurosa's pink girly beer instead?!

Six months after the Women’s March on Washington, the Resistance Revival has a message for Trump

"Well I/ Went down to the White House and I/ Took back what they stole from me," the Resistance Revival Chorus sang in a Times Square flash mob last weekend.

20 attorneys general write letter urging Betsy DeVos to keep sexual assault protections

The attorneys general reminded DeVos that scrapping Title IX guidance will have a chilling effect on sexual assault and rape reporting rates.

New study suggests high workloads and aging doctor population means looming OB-GYN shortage

Obstetricians and gynecologists are overworked at nearing retirement age — without a younger contingent to replace them.

Why pro-life doctors want the First Amendment to protect their right to lie to patients

Crisis pregnancy centers believe they should be exempt from a law saying they should inform patients about all their medical options, including abortions.

‘Brown Girls’ wants to tell women of color’s stories in all their messy, complicated glory

Creators Fatimah Asghar and Sam Bailey want to let their characters break free of the neat identity categories people are wont to place them in.

Women beer drinkers finally get the Beer for Her they never asked for

Why drink a rugged manly beer when you can have Aurosa's pink girly beer instead?!

Six months after the Women’s March on Washington, the Resistance Revival has a message for Trump

"Well I/ Went down to the White House and I/ Took back what they stole from me," the Resistance Revival Chorus sang in a Times Square flash mob last weekend.

20 attorneys general write letter urging Betsy DeVos to keep sexual assault protections

The attorneys general reminded DeVos that scrapping Title IX guidance will have a chilling effect on sexual assault and rape reporting rates.

New study suggests high workloads and aging doctor population means looming OB-GYN shortage

Obstetricians and gynecologists are overworked at nearing retirement age — without a younger contingent to replace them.

Why pro-life doctors want the First Amendment to protect their right to lie to patients

Crisis pregnancy centers believe they should be exempt from a law saying they should inform patients about all their medical options, including abortions.

‘Brown Girls’ wants to tell women of color’s stories in all their messy, complicated glory

Creators Fatimah Asghar and Sam Bailey want to let their characters break free of the neat identity categories people are wont to place them in.