Former Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis sought to galvanize women and millennial voters in Orlando while stumping for Hillary Clinton and attending a youth conference focused on climate change this Friday.
At the University of Central Florida's Student Union, Davis was joined by the Clinton campaign, Planned Parenthood, UCF's College Democrats and Stephanie Murphy, candidate for U.S. House District 7.
Amidst a sea of blue Democratic and pink Planned Parenthood T-shirts, the politician stood out in her very red dress as she stumped for Clinton and shared her vision with the woman whom she calls an inspiration. Davis gained national attention and nearly immediate icon status in June 2013 after staging a viral 11-hour filibuster in the Texas Legislature aimed to kill Senate Bill 5.
The bill, which required abortion clinics to have admitting privilege at nearby hospitals and to refuse abortion past 20 weeks, eventually passed and was signed into law by the then Texas Gov. Rick Perry. The number of abortion clinics in the entire state ultimately dropped to 19, according to the Texas Tribune.
This June, the Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional.
A federal judge blocked a similar law in Florida, signed by Gov. Rick Scott, preventing state funds from going to organizations like Planned Parenthood on Aug. 18. Davis says his tactics ring a bell.
"You know, I look at him and I feel like I'm looking in the mirror of what we've experienced in Texas under both Rick Perry and Greg Abbott," Davis tells the Orlando Weekly
. "Rick Scott, of course, has shown that he's an enemy of a true understanding of why women's reproductive autonomy matters so much. He's been completely hostile to that."
A student in the audience asked why she should vote for Clinton, citing the shift to third-party candidates by some in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.
"For young people, one of the most important things to think about in that regard is not only Hillary's platform about loan forgiveness and education, but it’s the appointments she will make to the Supreme Court, and that this president will not only make one, but will likely make two or three," Davis said.
Debra Gardner stood up from the audience, and with tears in her eyes, pleaded with the student to think about the magnitude of this election.
"We who have come before you, we believe you and we’re going to do the right thing, and I love you," Gardner said.
After being asked what the campaign is doing to alleviate the plight of Syrian refugees, Davis compared their struggles to those of Anne Frank's.
"We cannot afford to turn a blind eye," Davis said. "We are human beings who have a responsibility to each other."
Murphy shared that her own parents escaped Vietnam as refugees by boat.
"What I find so lacking in the conversations that we are having today in politics is a lack of compassion," Murphy said. Davis added, "This is why I think it's so important to elect Hillary Clinton. We've got to be able to correct the imbalance of governors like Rick Scott."
At the Power Shift 2016 Southeast conference in the heart of Orlando's tourist district, Davis focused on the intersections between climate change and gender issues to a crowd of about 100 young people.
“Working with young women across intersectional issues related to gender equality, climate change is a critical challenge that is sometimes left out of the conversation," Davis told the crowd. "But women are disproportionately impacted by climate change, both here and across the globe, and like so many important issues, this generation of young women will be the change makers. It's time we provide the resources and empower them to help deliver solutions."
Davis tells OW there's still a number of elected officials at the state and national level who refuse to believe climate change exists or deny that humans have anything to do with it, including Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. The catastrophic flooding that happened in Louisiana this summer should have been a wake-up call for everybody, she says.
"We know from rising sea levels, from the dramatic weather conditions that are happening here and elsewhere
around the world have reached a devastating loss of human life," she says. "There is a very real problem that demands all of us seek solutions. Florida has a governor who is a denier and who has decided this is an issue that doesn't deserve or demand his attention. But coastline states have a great deal at stake when we're talking about climate change. It has to be taken seriously here."
After losing her own bid for the Texas governorship last year, Davis says she remains unsure of what the future has in store for her.
"I would love to serve again," she says. "I don't know what that would look like for me."
An original version of this story mistakenly attributed a quote to Murphy. The person whose words were quoted was actually Davis.