Ten Tips for Filming at Protests

Many times over the years, I have operated as a legal observer at protests. These days, this often means being a person documenting events on video. Legal observers in theory should be treated similarly to media, but do not have any special legal protections beyond those guaranteed private citizens in the First Amendment.

Don’t assume “I’m a legal observer” will get you special treatment or protection. Do assume people might assume you have information they want, so know where to refer people. Direct law enforcement or media to the march/rally/protest organizers. Do not speak on their behalf. Direct protesters who have information to report to the organizers or to groups. like the ACLU.

You’re there to be impartial, but if someone is hurt in front of you and no one else can help, stop filming and help! You’re neutral but you’re not a monster.

Ideally, you will have been trained in principles of nonviolent demonstrating prior to serving as a legal observer. It is mostly common sense, but as with anything, it helps to consider all of the possibilities ahead of time, when it is calm, so you can rely on training under pressure.

This advice is based on my experience using an iPhone to capture video, and my completely amateur level of experience as a photographer or videographer. Much of it would apply, I think, if you were using a Go Pro or some other mounted camera, or a larger and more sophisticated video recorder, but some things might change.

1 – Document the Action, Don’t Become the Action

Decide before attending a rally, march, or protest which role you want to play. Each has value. Your goal is to secure footage that, in the worst case scenario, could be used as evidence in court. You do not want to give anyone viewing it reason to question it. Shouting slogans or providing commentary behind basic who/where/when narration could cause someone to question the video.

You want to stand far enough away that you don’t get swept up in a group of marchers. You want to document interaction between police and marchers to create context and show the whole scene. When things are moving fast,  you might become surrounded from time to time. Move to another location.

Do not engage counter-protesters. Don’t engage anyone, really, but particularly those who have come to provoke a reaction, sometimes even a violent one. Be very, very careful when counter-protesters arrive.

I’ll repeat it—you are there to document the action, not be the action. Everyone has a cell phone. If something starts to happen, you can bet dozens of other people will whip out their phones to film, too. They may be closer. Their videos will be more helpful if you pull back and capture the context.

2 – Be Discreet

Again, your purpose is documentation for use at a later time. You’re going for candid shots, not formal portraits. You are not using your camera as a weapon or visible caution sign to shake in someone’s face. Do not walk aggressively toward a police officer holding your camera high and in front of you. Stand, filming with your camera in front of your chest or abdomen. That stance not only seems less aggressive, it steadies the camera.

Be mellow and seem disinterested. Be non-confrontational. Your goal is to capture what law enforcement does when they think no one is watching. If you are filming someone standing directly in front of you at noon, you can always turn your head so it looks like you’re checking out something at 10 o’clock or 2 o’clock. The officer is more likely to note where you are looking than the direction of your camera, especially if you are holding it low across your body.

3 – Narrate Key Information

This does not mean provide moment-by-moment narration. Ideally, you should remain quiet so your conversation does not become the focus of someone watching the video. But in the absence of landmarks, or in case of confusion, you might need to signpost what happened, who someone is, or where you are. Even better, however …

4 – Stand Still, Film Landmarks, Film Adjacent Areas & Things

I watched video purporting to be of a particular building in Houston. It didn’t look like that building to me, so I looked for landmarks. The video will make you dizzy, and even though it is seven minutes long, it never stops panning. There is no real way to tell where the video was taken other than the say-so of the person posting it.

Stand sill. Remember, you are documenting information so it can be used later. You’re not doing a tribute to Aaron Sorkin. Movement and shakiness as artistic devices are not helpful in this situation.

Hold the camera on things of note for at least ten seconds so people watching the video without a pause or slow-motion button can register what they are seeing. Film street signs, or the sign in front of a building that has a company name and address on it, then slowly pan to the next thing you are watching. Excellent tip from Larissa, who suggests you could even film a “menu of the day” with a date on it in a restaurant window to provide a 3rd party time-stamp.

The same applies if you are documenting what has happened to a marcher. If someone wants you to film them describing an incident, and they can stand next to a street sign or easy-to-identify building address or sculpture or fountain, show them in context then move in closer to record them talking. That documentation plus the time stamp in the film will show without question where someone was.

Don’t forget to document things as well as people. If you arrive early, document the police staging area and the protest site. If you film an area and there are no piles of bricks, it is going to be difficult for rumors about piles of bricks to carry any weight. And if you film police officers staging in an area where there are unsecured construction supplies, and the police are simply standing around not securing them, or leaving them unguarded, that tells a story as well.

Film the blocks near a demonstration to see what vehicles may be on hand for detaining or transporting those arrested.

5 – Film in Short Bursts

Don’t stop filming in the middle of the action, but if you are just documenting a situation before action seems imminent, consider filming in bursts of 2-3 minutes. That way, if you capture something critical, you needn’t scroll through 35 minutes of nothing happening to find it.

There are arguments to be made for continuous filming when things are moving quickly and happening. But 20 minutes of filming 20 officers holding a line, nearly motionless? You’re not doing Sorkin, but you’re also not doing Warhol’s Empire.

6 – Watch Your Back

You should keep your head on a swivel and be aware of your surroundings at all times. Things happen fast during demonstrations. If possible, stand or sit with your back to a wall or tree. If you are on stairs, or standing on a bench, be extra careful about what is behind you so nothing catches you by surprise. It’s even more helpful when you have someone else who has your back, so when possible …

7 – Film in pairs

I wish I could say that I am part of a two-person ninja squad that communicates like cops in a television show entering a dangerous area using hand signals and subtle head-nods to cover an area without exposing our backs, because how cool would that be?

It is helpful, of course, to film in pairs. You can watch each other’s backs, and you can capture two angles on a situation. Don’t get complicated, but it’s pretty easy to point and use hand signals if you are paying attention to each other.

Try not to walk up to your partner talking, as they may be capturing sound on something they are shooting and your talking will drown it out. Even worse if you walk up and say something that you wouldn’t want other people to hear in court. And approach from the side, so you do not end up featured in your partner’s video.

Hat tip to Larissa who remarks that it can be helpful to have a spotter as your partner who is not filming, but who is keeping an eye on things to help you know what to film next. This may be more helpful than filming in pairs. Consider a threesome? Two people filming and one spotter could work as well.

8 – Don’t Use Tripods or Selfie Sticks

This may seem counterintuitive, but this is not tourism, this is documenting a potentially dangerous situation in case the information is needed for a court case.

At a protest, never carry anything that police could construe as a weapon. Once they decide your umbrella, selfie stick, or tripod is a weapon, they can use that belief, as misguided or contrived as it may be, to justify coming at you with force. It’s also much easier to “accidentally” knock someone’s camera over if it is held up our out away from the person’s body. If you need a better angle, pull back and find elevated ground.

Recent events have shown over and over that law enforcement officers are armed, armored, and prepared to go on the attack. It bears repeating. Do not let them use your selfie stick as an excuse to claim you started the violence.

[By the way, this goes for all marchers. Use cardboard tubes instead of wooden dowels for signs. Don’t carry a wooden or metal flagpole. I hate saying don’t use an umbrella or parasol because they can be great in the blistering sun, but use a small, compact one rather than a giant wooden golf umbrella if you must. Better yet, get a giant hat.]

9 – Back Up and Title Your Files

Protect what you’ve filmed so that even if something happens to your phone, you still have what you’ve captured. You can sometimes upload automatically to Dropbox or another similar program. You can always use a secure messaging system to share videos with someone else in a different location.

When you get home after filming, and charge your phone, transfer the files and give them titles using some naming system that will make it easy to find the right video later. Some combination of date and location of the shot is what I use, like June 2 2020 Walker at Louisiana Street. Keep them together in one folder per event.

In a pinch, you can record on Facebook Live to preserve what you’ve recorded, but better to have experience and be intentional about doing that. I don’t have experience live-streaming so do not have great advice for doing that. And you might not want to do that…

10 – Think Carefully Before Posting Video to Social Media

When something goes down, everyone will whip out their phones, and many will post to social media.

You might capture something you want to post to social media, but I repeat once again, you are documenting what happened for the specific purpose of making a helpful record to be used in court.

This means that you have endeavored to capture information about people—close-ups of their faces, license plates, badge numbers. Consider before you upload a video to Facebook that from a strategic perspective, you might not want them to know what you captured.

You’ve also likely caught lots of detail about people participating in the march. Consider their safety before uploading a video to Twitter. You don’t want your carefully-shot video to be the reason a protester gets doxxed or fired.

You also don’t want your video to be deceptively edited or used in a nefarious fashion. I don’t have the skills to do it, but someone could easily take a video, record a new voice track to it, and completely change the meaning of what you have filmed. Don’t feed the trolls.

You can share video with others you trust to use it effectively and strategically in a way that will not jeopardize anyone’s safety. Those people and entities might include:

  1. The local ACLU affiliate likely has a media contact on their website. You can reach out to them, as they are most likely to know of any litigation involving a protest or march.
  2. An investigative journalist you know and trust. If you don’t know anyone personally, consider reporters who work with organizations like ProPublica, known for a high level of professionalism and integrity. Most investigative journalists and outlets have secure upload protocols or at least a secure email or phone number in a twitter bio. The Texas Observer, a great outlet to contact if you are in Texas, gives very detailed information on ways to contact them and transfer data in a secure and encrypted fashion.
  3. A private attorney, either your own or one representing people harmed in a protest.

Other reasons to let someone else be the person who releases your video include your credibility and personal safety. A video promoted by a recognized news outlet will be much harder to deflect, minimize, or discredit than one tweeted by you when your Twitter handle is @Poodle_Lover_18 and your Twitter stream is largely poodle memes. And you may be 100% in the right and operating in a completely legal fashion, but do you want a rogue police officer to decide to harass you? Or to incur the wrath of Twitter trolls who will dox you?

If you *do* upload to social media, make a copy of the file to preserve the integrity of the original and only post the copy. And strongly consider using one of the face-blurring/meta-data-stripping apps to protect the identities of those filmed.


All the usual rules apply. Be hydrated. Carry snacks so you don’t bonk. Have critical information written in indelible ink on your arm, like your lawyer’s number. Wear sunscreen. Plan a safe escape route. Again, it can be extremely helpful to look into nonviolent demonstration training before you go out to film a march, rally, or protest. Your goal is to help, so make sure you don’t unintentionally undermine the cause you mean to support.

Posted in advice you didn't ask for, politics, pro-choice activism | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is Stupid and Anti-American

Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick stunned the nation when, on Tucker Carlson’s news broadcast, he suggested that grandparents are willing to sacrifice their lives so that the rest of the country can get back to work. He seems to suggest that by letting the elderly die off, somehow the rest of us will be protected and able to go about business as usual.

First, let’s address the stupid part.

Dan Patrick is dumber than a box of hair.

Viruses aren’t good ol’ boys swaddled in camo with Yeti coffee mugs and Ducks Unlimited decals on their rear windows, out to bag the daily limit.

Viruses are motherfucking spree killers pumped up on angel dust and Four Loko.

We can’t ask TxDOT to use those nifty signs to direct viruses which exit to take and which parking lot to use to go get the olds.

The more people exposed, the more who fall ill. That’s it. That’s the way this works. There’s no vaccine, and the treatment doesn’t always work even if you can access it. The outbreak will only run its course if we limit the number of people the virus can reach, which we can do by staying at home and avoiding other people who might be infected.

Now, let’s look at the second issue, Dan Patrick’s stunning lack of confidence in each and every one of us in this country, which is what leads me to say that

Dan Patrick is anti-American.

Dan Patrick and Donald Trump are making the same argument—equally ineloquently—letting the economy tank is worse than letting the virus kill a bunch of people, so we should go back to work and pretend it’s all good.

Why does Dan Patrick think a month or two of large numbers of people working from home and some people needing increased government assistance over the short-term will completely and totally wreck us?

Does he not believe in American ingenuity? In bootstraps? In our cultural obsession with reinvention? Doesn’t he know we’re the Timex Nation?

There are only two options here, and honestly, hard to say which paints Danny boy in the worse light.

Either he thinks Americans have become so worthless and weak that we can’t dig ourselves out of a hole, or he knows the game is rigged.

Can’t we dig ourselves out of a hole? Isn’t that who we are as a people? And I don’t say that in a jocular and jingoistic way, but in a very sincere and human way. Despite much evidence to the contrary, humans are remarkably resilient. It might really, really get bleak, but we will push through. As noted scientist Dr. Ian Malcolm said, “life, uh, finds a way.”

Or does Dan think we can’t dig ourselves out of a hole because he knows he and the other kleptocrats are ringing the edges, filling it up with quick-setting concrete faster than we can pull ourselves out?

America, don’t listen to Dan Patrick, who is truly just another bombastic two-bit Texas dimwit. Tell MawMaw and PeePaw it’s safe to come out onto the porch as long as they stay six feet away from everyone else for the next couple of months and keep washing their hands. They don’t have to sacrifice themselves for our mutual funds. We’ll all get through this together.

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Judge Hidalgo & Mayor Turner – Raise Hell Now

Update 9am Tuesday 3.24
A stay home / work safe order will be in effect beginning at 11:59 pm tonight, running through April 3rd. Stay home if at all possible, but you can go out for essentials, and you can go outside as long as you stay 6′ apart from other people. ReadyHarris.org has more information. So glad this has happened. Let us hope it is enough, and soon enough, to flatten the curve so our hospitals are not overwhelmed. 

Update 10am Monday 3.23:
Judge Hidalgo press conference solo to clarify that term isn’t shelter in place, but something more like stay-at-home. Which she is not announcing this morning or yet. Talks with Houston mayor & regional mayors & county judges are ongoing so they can act in a “data-driven” way and make one announcement that doesn’t require lots of updating, tweaking, etc.

County now has 2 testing sites each doing 250 tests a day thanks to getting supplies from federal government; city has an additional site. ReadyHarris.Org has info and the intake process.

Judge Hidalgo did NOT say this. This is me saying this. I think we need to lean on Mayor Turner. That’s my takeaway from how this is playing out. I could be wrong, but keep pressure on him to put stricter measures in place so that people stay home. mayor@houstontx.gov or on Twitter @sylvesterturner. Thank Judge Hidalgo & encouarge her to press for stay-at-home orders ASAP at @HarrisCoJudge on Twitter.

It makes sense for city & county to coordinate but Judge Hidalgo does have the authority to make this decision on her own and I hope that if she can’t rally the other electeds, she’ll do it anyway.

Original Post:
Governor Ann Richards, asked what she would have done differently had she known she would only have one term in office, said she would’ve raised more hell.

Judge Hidalgo and Mayor Turner, if you need to raise hell to reduce the number of people who die, raise hell.

Don’t hesitate.

Order as strict a shelter-in-place as you can. Do it now.

Mayor Turner, what have you got to lose? You can’t run for mayor again.

Judge Hidalgo, what are you waiting for? You yourself have said you feel the urgency of what Governor Richards said.

The President won’t do anything—he says he’s our back-up plan. Governor Abbott just today said it is up to local officials, not him, to make the difficult calls.

Houston and Harris County have the smallest of windows for reducing the impact COVID-19 has on our shared medical and civic resources.

Be the leaders we elected you to be. Do not be the people who let that window close.

Ignore the head-in-the-sand crowd claiming closing restaurants and businesses is somehow taking away their freedom. That’s ridiculous. Do whatever it takes to protect their lives even if they post mean things about you on Facebook.

Four essential steps you must take now:

First and immediately, order a shelter in place with an exception for absolutely essential services—medical, emergency, and food. Set it for 14 with a promise of daily updates and a reassessment with the option one- or two-week extensions announced on the 12th day. And follow that schedule.

Give us quick, easy to understand data. Ask experts to design a Coronavirus dashboard with clean, simple infographics that are updated at regular intervals, at least several times a day. Be as transparent as possible, and use information that drives the behavior you want to see, which is sheltering in place and isolating people from each other to slow the spread.

The front page of the Harris County Health Department features an easy-to-understand world map of hot spots, followed by a fact-filled but visually challenging to digest grid of Harris County cases. Flip that. What is happening in Italy isn’t convincing Harris County residents reluctant to stay home to stay home, but seeing data about neighbors might.

Manage anxiety by addressing resource panic. Ask major companies to loan their logistics experts to the cause. Put systems in places to help grocery stores and pharmacies manage the flow, like using license plate numbers or the city’s trash pick-up days to determine who shops on what days. Makes sure food pantries have partners so vulnerable individuals without access to cars or the internet can receive deliveries by calling a central number, like 2-1-1 or 3-1-1.

Launch a major plain-language public education effort. Think about WW2 propaganda posters updated for social media. Enough with social distancing. Show us graphically how spitting distance can make a child or a grandmother or a father sick. Tailor messaging and select messengers for different audiences. Sports heroes. Mega-music stars. War heroes. Houston has them—use them.

Prepare triage sites now in case the worst happens. During Harvey, the George R. Brown never caught up to itself after opening amid pure chaos, but Reliant, with the benefit of three or four days’ head start, made the GRB shelter’s redundant after a week.

We do not know if those are the facilities we need for this emergency, but we do need to know that whatever overflow or triage sites are envisioned are being prepared now. There is time for volunteers to work calmly and deliberately, after being screened for fever and with six or more feet separating them from each other, to set up the sites with whatever fixture they need. And time for thorough decontamination and sanitizing to happen before the first users show up.

Learn from what didn’t work last time. Don’t store the supplies everyone is desperate to obtain out in the open right inside the main entrance and in front of the bathrooms. Print signage directing people to the proper entrances, and easy-to-read maps showing what is where once they are inside. Order and stock matching hats or t-shirts so volunteers are easy to identify. Red means medical. Green means sanitizing crew. White means food service.

Houston loves to talk about how we do things differently and come out better for it.

Here’s a life-or-death chance to turn that talk into action. Don’t squander one more day.

We’ve got your back.

Raise hell.

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A Love Letter to the Caucus & Democracy

The Houston GLBT Political Caucus met yesterday to vote on endorsements for the March 2020 primaries. Having served on the screening committee for several races, I was obligated to be there most of the day, but I usually attend even if I’m not there in any official capacity.

The meetings run long and have contentious moments, but that, as they say, is what democracy looks like.

Midway through the day, I got a text from my friend, Januari Fox, who was across the packed room. Yes, she texted because the auditorium was so full it was tough to press through the crowd, but also, because she was proposing something terrifying. Her message simply read:

Andrea, I think I’m going to speak against Borris Miles. I just can’t not say anything.

Texas State Senator Borris Miles was indicted on two counts of deadly conduct in 2008. Numerous women have spoken out about him sexually harassing them, including someone identified as “Lauren” in an article in the Daily Beast by Olivia Messer which describes then State Rep. Miles propositioning her on the sidewalk in front of an Austin club:

“I said, ‘Hi Representative, how are you?’ Then he slowly looked me up and down, counted out more money, reached out his hand and said, ‘Bitch, you want to fuck with me tonight?’

“I said ‘No, thank you’ and physically stepped back,” Lauren recalled. “I didn’t want to be rude to him. I remember his intern pacifying him and saying, ‘It’s time to go.’

“Everyone was just shocked that he said that—that he cussed at me and that he was offering me money. It was outrageous,” she continued. “I just remember thinking, ‘I need to go, and I need to not be here anymore.’”

I’ve long been on the brink of publicly going after another very powerful sitting Texas State Senator to hold him to account for allegations about his own sexually manipulative and abusive behavior, so upon seeing Januari’s text, I did not have to think.

I support you, I said.

She said she was nervous, but was hoping to get a vote for no endorsement in the race, which I said I’d speak to, and suggested we whip some votes.

We each moved along the opposite sides of the room, speaking to Caucus members we hoped would be willing to vote our way, or at least not speak out against us. I’m happy to say that each person I spoke to was immediately supportive.

I took a deep breath and texted a request for support to another text group I was in that had been formed to support a different candidate in another race. I didn’t know everyone in the group, but I knew we needed votes so couldn’t risk not asking. Two of the people in the group I did know indicated they’d be supportive.

The race was called, and the candidate challenging Sen. Miles spoke. Sen. Miles was not there. The screening committee members stood up to explain how they arrived at their recommendation to endorse Sen. Miles and audience members asked questions.

Januari asked if they had discussed the allegations of sexual harassment, I asked if they had discussed his indictment, forgetting that the screening questionnaire actually asks about indictments and convictions. Asking those questions was our way to signal what we’d be doing.

The floor was then open to people to speak for or against the recommendation to endorse.

Januari stepped up first. I had said I’d stand next to her, but as I walked up, at first, I got a look because it is not usual for two people to approach the mic. I stopped a few steps away, and I’m sorry that I didn’t just take those final 4 steps, but Januari was amazing.

She asked the Caucus membership—her friends, her coworkers, people she’s campaigned for and alongside, people she’s championed and people who have been her own heroes—to say enough. To refuse to endorse someone who abuses women. I remember exactly what she looked and sounded like. I barely remember her words, because I was so focused on the power of her voice and the strength she summoned to take this step.

Procedure calls for speakers for and against a motion to take turns speaking, so following her was someone speaking on behalf of Sen. Miles, dismissively referring to the allegations but saying the good he has done for so many outweighs any them.

Then I spoke, saying the reasons these things were allegations only was that women who want to work in politics or run for office are far too afraid to come forward because they know what will happen to them. They know what people will say. And I said that all of the men in the capitol with these issues need to be on notice. I had the other senator in mind when I said that, but did not say his name.

Had I had time to say more, I would have added that the fact that so many interns and staffers have been called upon to clean up their members’ messes is also deeply unfair to those people. Covering up sexual abuse and harassment is not in anyone’s job description.

Januari and I stood together. One dear friend also spoke with us—I’ll ask if he wants his name mentioned or not but obviously it was a public meeting—but the people who spoke for Sen. Miles said exactly what you always hear people say when they defend a powerful man against charges of sexual harassment or abuse.

He’s done so much good for so many people. He’s a reliable vote on our issues. Someone even mentioned his poor health.

Yeah, sometimes he makes it hard to support him, said former Mayor Annise Parker, but she shrugged and suggested that you get behind people who are behind you.

We knew it wouldn’t be easy, but it hurt more than I expected it would to have people both of us know and respect stand up for him. I understand why it happens. I know that democracy is messy and nobody is perfect.

But I’m done using that as a reason to excuse any and all behavior.

And apparently, so are a majority of the voting members of the Caucus, because when the question was called and the vote happened, the motion to endorse Sen. Miles failed.

Failed. He will not be endorsed.

A motion was made for no endorsement in the race, and I remember yelling out SECOND and voting, but I also was one deep sob away from the ugliest of ugly cries. Januari and I were hugging each other and crying and shaking.

I’m so deeply grateful to everyone who voted against the endorsement.

I hope the abusers all realize they are on notice. They might get re-elected one more time, they might keep doing what they do, but maybe they won’t, and they’ll know more of us are watching and no longer afraid to speak up.

Love you, Januari. Thank you for making this happen. Thank you Caucus members who voted with us against the motion to endorse.

It is beyond time. This really is what democracy can look like it we want to make it happen.

 

 

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To Protect Abortion Access in Texas, Flip District 134

If you believe people should have access to legal abortion care, and you live in Texas House District 134, you must vote for the Democratic nominee for that seat in November. It is imperative that we defeat Republican Sarah Davis, as she cannot be counted upon to protect abortion rights should a law banning abortion come before the Texas House in the 2021 session.

Texas Democrats need to flip only nine seats to gain a majority in the Texas House of Representatives. Winning that majority is already critical, since the House is body charged with developing the decennial Congressional redistricting map.

But now, we are closer than ever to Roe v. Wade being overturned.

A Louisiana case, June Medical Services v. Gee, will come before the Supreme Court in March. The brief history of and issue presented in June Medical:

  • Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, decided in 2016, established that requiring physicians performing abortions to have admitting privileges in nearby hospitals and requiring abortion clinics to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers place an undue burden on the right to abortion and therefore are unconstitutional.
  • Justice Kennedy was the fifth vote in this case. He has since retired from the court and Trump appointed his replacement, Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
  • Louisiana passed a law requiring doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges in a nearby hospital. The US 5th Circuit found that the facts in the case challenging the Louisiana law were “remarkably different” from those in the Whole Woman’s case, and so they should not be bound by precedent in June Medical.
  • The Supreme Court agreed to hear the Louisiana case.

Today, 209 members of Congress, including both Texas Senators Cruz and Cornyn, as well as 17 members* of the Texas House delegation, all Republicans, signed an amicus brief saying that the court should use June Medical as an opportunity to reconsider and overturn Roe v. Wade. Not an opportunity to require admitting privileges, mind you, but an opportunity to completely reverse the decision in the case which made abortion legal.

Currently, six states have what are known as “trigger laws” on their books, which are laws that say in the event that Roe is overturned, abortion immediately become illegal in that state.

Texas does not have a trigger law.

Yet.**

Such a law was proposed in the 2019 legislative session, but it did not pass out of committee. Texas H.B. 896 was authored by Republican Reps. Tinderholt, Lang, and Swanson, and co-authored by Republican Reps. Stickland (who has since retired), Biedermann, and Cain.

Those are the only six co-authors and co-sponsors the bill attracted. And yes, it is true, none of them are Sarah Davis. But that’s on purpose.

From a strategic perspective, it was easy enough for Sarah Davis (and a bunch of other Republicans) to refrain from signing on while the bill was in committee. That allowed her to maintain the fiction that she is pro-choice, a fiction Republicans are only too happy to help her perpetuate in order to keep her in the House as part of their majority.

Had the bill come out of committee, it would likely have (a) attracted the entire Republican caucus as co-sponsors, and (b) passed out of the House and gone to the Texas Senate.

The only reason it did not is that after the 2018 elections that flipped some solid Republican seats red to blue, Texas Republicans realized how fragile their hold was on certain districts. They did not want to energize Democratic voters ahead of the 2020 presidential race, knowing that Democrats would already be highly motivated to defeat Trump.

But they are playing a long game. They know if they hold onto the state house in 2020, they can draw the congressional district lines that would, for example, make it much harder for Democrat Lizzie Fletcher to win in 2022. They know how to wait for the right moment.

If ever you doubted that Republicans in Congress want to do all they can to overturn Roe v. Wade, this is your wake-up call. They have literally asked the Supreme Court to do the work for them.

And if you were still wondering about the level of urgency for flipping the Texas House to protect us from bad laws at the state level, wonder no more.

It is true that Sarah Davis sometimes supports bills that are positive for women’s health generally, like cervical cancer screening. But any bill she would support would also be supported by a Democrat, and with a majority of Democrats in the House, might actually pass. And there is absolutely no guarantee that she would oppose a trigger law, and some evidence she would support one.

The time for playing defense is over. It is time to play offense, and that means flipping the Texas House from Republican to Democratic control.

Volunteers and campaigns are already hard at work to give the district a great Democratic candidate (I’m supporting Ann Johnson).

Democratic voters in TX-134 outnumber Republicans. Even Lupe Valdez beat Greg Abbott in that district. The votes are there. It comes down to the voters doing the right thing.

  • I’m calling on Planned Parenthood Texas Votes to decline to endorse Sarah Davis this cycle.

  • I’m calling on the Human Rights Campaign to rescind their endorsement of Davis or issue a dual endorsement of the Democratic candidate.

  • I’m calling on pro-choice Republicans in TX-134 to withhold their financial support of Davis, and to pledge their votes for the Democrat in this race.

The time has come to pick a side. Republicans are working at every level of government to restrict access to abortion, and are not even hiding the fact that their ultimate goal is to overturn Roe. 

Abortion won’t go away if it becomes impossible or illegal to obtain. It will just become more dangerous, and people will die seeking to terminate unwanted pregnancies.

Are you ready to have a hand in their deaths? Is having a token Republican that important to you?

Which side are you on?


*As noted above, both members of the US Senate from Texas, Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, signed the amicus brief. The seventeen Republican members of the House of Representatives from Texas who signed the brief are:

  • Jodey C. Arrington (TX-19)
  • Brian Babin, D.D.S. (TX-36)
  • Kevin Brady (TX-08)
  • Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (TX-26)
  • Michael Cloud (TX-27)
  • Michael Conaway (TX-11)
  • Dan Crenshaw (TX-02)
  • Bill Flores (TX-17)
  • Louie Gohmert (TX-01)
  • Lance Gooden (TX-05)
  • Kay Granger (TX-12)
  • Pete Olson (TX-22)
  • John Ratcliffe (TX-04)
  • Chip Roy (TX-21)
  • Van Taylor (TX-03)
  • Randy Weber (TX-14)
  • Roger Williams (TX-25)
  • Ron Wright (TX-06)

** Should a ruling come out in June Medical that overturns Roe, we should anticipate the very real possibility of Greg Abbott calling a special session to try to pass a law banning abortion in Texas. He might not, for the reason mentioned above, not wanting to energize anti-Trump voters, but the level of hubris in Texas Republicans is pretty strong. We can’t rule out the possibility.

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