Gail Collins, in her traditionally precise prose, wound up a recent column on Wendy Davis‘ now historic filibuster in the Texas legislature thusly:
“A few years back, Davis told me about an incident during a debate when she had asked a veteran Republican a question about a pending bill. Dodging her query, he said: “I have trouble hearing women’s voices.”
“I guess they can hear her now.”
There’s something about hearing women’s voices that can make men, especially men who would like to tell women what they can or cannot do with their own bodies, too uncomfortable to listen.
In one poignant story included in my new book Perilous Times: An inside look at abortion before – and after – Roe v Wade (plug intended) Karen Mulhauser tells of the time when she testified before a congressional committee about being brutally raped in her home. She was trying to make the point that had a pregnancy resulted she would not have wanted it to continue. But Congressman Ed Patten (who died at 89 in 1994, after serving 17 years in Congress) “appeared to be asleep.” Representative Silvio Conte (1921-1991; then a Republican from Massachusetts) turned his swivel chair away from her to face the wall. Mulhauser, former head of NARAL Pro-Choice and current chair of Women’s Information Network, was angered — but not silenced.
Some voices, those of women without resources who are facing unwanted pregnancies in states where safe abortion is de facto impossible, are going unheard. And those women are doing desperate things.
But it is for them that Wendy Davis, and Karen Mulhauser, and every woman and man who believes in a woman’s right to choose, is raising her own voice of encouragement and support. And those voices will be heard.