BY KATEY PSENCIK
Tuesday was one of the most exhilarating days of my life.
As associate news editor at The Horn, I don’t see much action as a breaking news reporter these days. My life mostly consists of keeping an eye out for news and assigning, editing and posting stories.
When my fellow news editor said that most of our reporters were unavailable to cover Sen. Wendy Davis’ planned filibuster on Senate Bill 5, a GOP-backed bill that would shut down most abortion clinics in Texas and make abortions after 20 weeks illegal, I yawned and begrudgingly volunteered. Covering the legislature? Ugh. I’ve never liked politics. I’ve never been one of those reporters that dresses to the nines and spends days at a time on the Senate or House floor. I never found it interesting.
Man, I was wrong.
I had class Tuesday morning, followed by my internship. I tuned into the Texas Tribune live stream at work about an hour after Davis’ filibuster began. I didn’t realize that I was tuning into history. I simply followed along on Twitter, sharing memorable quotes from the testimonies Davis was reading and occasionally updating my live blog.
It wasn’t until Sen. Bob Duell, a Republican, rose to question Davis that I realized something really, really cool was happening – especially when Davis snidely told Duell that she had simply “browsed” some of the paperwork on ambulatory abortion clinics he had shared with her. Regardless of partisanship or my personal views, watching one senator stand her ground against a majority that wanted nothing more than to shut her up was fascinating. I was glued to the filibuster like it was reality TV.
It was better than reality TV – MTV should take notes. I laughed, I cried, I felt angry, I felt sad. But more than anything, I was amazed.
I was amazed by how fascinated I found myself simply listening to one woman talk for 11 hours. I was amazed when people from across the country – and across the world – started following me on Twitter, starting conversations with me and retweeting my coverage.
And wow, when I got to the Capitol after work . . .
It’s hard to find words to describe it.
The sheer amount of pro-choice activists I saw in the Senate gallery and lining the Capitol rotunda was awesome in every definition of the word. I was in absolute awe that there exists a sea of blue (well, orange – that’s what color the protestors were wearing) in our mostly red state, standing up for something so close to their hearts. I was in awe of the age and gender range of the protestors – I saw teenage girls, elderly men and everyone in between.
I knew I was going to have to drift in and out of the Capitol since I frequently needed a calm, quiet place with wireless internet to update my live blog. For this reason, I didn’t attempt to enter the gallery, and since I had jumped on the coverage last-minute, I had no press credentials. I spent most of my time tuned in to the live feed on my laptop.
That’s what I was doing around 11:45 p.m. when all hell broke loose.
Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, a Democrat, rose to question Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst as to why he ignored her request to adjourn as the Senate voted to end Davis’ filibuster.
“At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over the male colleagues in the room?” she asked.
The crowd in the gallery erupted in cheers, and my jaw dropped as I watched. I knew the rules – anyone causing a disturbance in the gallery could be arrested. They didn’t care. They kept cheering. And they kept cheering. And they kept cheering.
The crowd in the rotunda started cheering, too. And the crowd outside, all around the Capitol grounds. Several activists watching the live feed kept the crowd informed – they knew exactly what they were doing. In the days leading up to Davis’ filibuster, I had heard a few people refer to it as “the people’s filibuster” – and that’s exactly what it was. The bill was killed – yes, because of Davis’ filibuster. Yes, because of Sen. Kirk Watson and the other Democrats on the Senate. But mostly because of the people.
I couldn’t help but feel a little discouraged when Gov. Rick Perry announced a second special session yesterday. It doesn’t have to do with on which side of the abortion argument I find myself. I just felt bad for the thousands of people who dedicated their entire day – some way more than that – to fight for what they felt is a woman’s right to choose. And all that is going to be blown away by a new session of the legislature, a majority Republican vote and the signing of a bill into law. It saddened me that these thousands of people had worked so hard and saw no results.
But I was wrong again – funny how that happens. These people didn’t waste their time. Until this week, the rest of the world saw Texas as a conservative, pro-life state. Not anymore. Conservatives in the Texas Legislature may come out on top, but they now have the eyes of the entire country – the world – upon them. The thousands of pro-choicers at the Capitol screamed, and screamed, and screamed until the world started listening.
Katey Psencik is a senior at the University of Texas at Austin projected to graduate this December. She is an aspiring multi-platform journalist currently serving as Associate News Editor at The Horn and writing weekly stories for USA TODAY College. In her (minimal) free time, Katey is an avid news consumer, a clumsy tennis player and a lover of all things Texan, from sweet tea to Willie Nelson.