State Senator Silences Pro-Choice Testimony

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When you're presiding over a hearing in the Texas state legislature, you know what's a pretty good way to tell you've taken things too far? When you shatter the top of your own table in the process. Which is exactly what happened during public testimony before the Texas Senate Committee on Health and Human Services this week, as reported by the San Antonio Current ― a Texas senator smashed a table while silencing a woman's pro-choice testimony, a rich metaphor for the state of the ongoing reproductive rights battle if ever there was one.

The incident reportedly took place on Wednesday morning, when Texas state senator Charles Schwertner was introducing a new bill restricting womens' ability to donate aborted fetal tissue to science. Among a slew of new laws and restrictions on abortion, including one of those "fetal funeral" laws Vice President Pence signed into law while governor of Indiana, the public testimony portion of the hearing turned several speakers, both for and against.

But the speakers who were supportive of Schwertner's bill were reportedly treated far better than the very first member of the public to hold the floor. That was Maggie Hennessy, an intern with NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, and a student at the University of Texas. According to multiple reports, as Hennessy was wrapping up her two-minute statement, Schwertner tried to cut her off, saying her time had expired. When she continued wrapping things up, he reportedly whacked his gavel against the glass-surfaced table in front of him so forcefully that it shattered. Alexa Garcia-Ditta, the comms director for NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, captured a photo of the damage.

You won't find many more compelling symbolic representations of the battle between legislators in Republican-led states and advocates for safe, legal reproductive health care. And constitutionally protected health care, at that ― although many states have adopted strident new laws curtailing access to abortion through imposing heavy new regulations on clinics, it is still meant to be a woman's legal right.

In some respects, the image of Schwertner's smashed tabletop is evocative of other recent scenes that have caught fire on the progressive left, like all the attention that followed the procedural silencing of Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell earlier this month. That incident generated headlines rooted in McConnell's explanation: "she persisted." You could probably use the same words to describe Hennessy's stand that led to the smashing of that glass table.