Van de Putte had only returned to Austin hours before, coming directly from her father's funeral in San Antonio. With almost no time to grieve, Van de Putte arrived at the capitol, she told me, "so drained, so exhausted...'I have nothing left. I have nothing emotionally.'" It was another woman--the wife of Senator Royce West, Carol West--who encouraged Van de Putte to join the parliamentary fight that was taking place on the floor of the Senate following the end of Davis' filibuster. Van de Putte said that Carol told her, "You're here but you're not here. You need to speak up. You've got to engage. Use your voice." The she said the words the got Van de Putte going, "I know your Dad. He was so proud of you. Honor his memory by fighting."
The minutes were ticking away and as midnight approached, the president of the Senate tried to move to a vote on the bill. Van de Putte realized this and "I kept trying, thinking, 'I'm going to move to adjourn,'" she told me. "I'm going to use every parliamentary trick I knew." But you can't argue parliamentary procedure if you aren't recognized by the president of the Senate and allowed to speak. "I would not get recognized," she said. "I was jumping up and down. Dan Patrick [a Republican Senator] in front of me got recognized. I was screaming, 'Did you not hear me? Did you not hear me and refuse to recognize me?'"
When Van de Putte finally got her chance right around 11:48 pm, these words just came out of her mouth, unplanned: "At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?"
The crowd in the gallery immediately started yelling and didn't stop. The senators could not hear each other and so they couldn't take a vote. When the people outside the gallery figured out what was happening, they started yelling, too, and it spread out into the Texas capitol rotunda.
So, two minutes after Van de Putte's statement, I found myself standing near the center of that rotunda. My pink uterus necklace was around my neck and I was wearing an orange shirt. (We had chosen that color months before because we thought it would stick out in a crowd.) Thousands of other Texans in orange clothing surrounded me and filled up the three floors above where I was standing. They crowded into overflow rooms in the capitol basement and packed into the wide hallway that led to the gallery of the Texas Senate chamber. And inside the Senate gallery, hundreds of abortion rights supporters were up out of their seats. And I, like everyone else in all of these parts of the capitol, was screaming my face off.
For just over ten minutes, we stood as a collective one. American society tells women that they're supposed to be calm. When women raise their voices or shout about the ways they are hurt by the system, they are painted as dramatic, hysterical, or irrational. Yet, here we were, thousands of us, literally yelling together in an effort to destroy a bill we saw as deeply sexist.