Texas state Senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) successfully blocked an extreme anti-abortion measure from coming to a vote by filibustering the bill for over 10 hours until the end of the special congressional session.
The measure, Senate Bill 5, would have outlawed abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and required abortions clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers, even if only nonsurgical procedures, or medication abortions, are being done. It would also have required the doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic.
Beginning at 11:18 am CST, Davis talked about the dangers of Senate Bill 5, read testimony from women and others who opposed the bill, speaking of her own experience at Planned Parenthood, and discussing the changes the bill had experienced. During the filibuster, Davis was not permitted to go off-topic, sit down, break for eating or to use the restroom, or even lean on her desk. Davis successfully continued her filibuster until 10:00 pm local time when supporters of the bill challenged her saying that she had violated procedural rules. The challenge prompted a two hour debate on the procedural rules of the filibuster and whether Davis has violated any portion of them.
Hundreds of protesters packed into the Capitol opposing the bill and supporting Davis in her filibuster. When Davis’ filibuster was challenged, chants of “Let Her Speak” and “Shame” caused chaos in the hearing room. The chants continued when the final vote on the bill was taken at 11:45pm, making it difficult to count votes. Initially, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst (R) who is a supporter of the bill, announced that it had passed in a vote of 17 to 12. Opponents decried the vote, saying that was taken after midnight and therefore invalid. At 3:00 am, Dewhurst announced that though the bill had passed, the final votes were cast after midnight making the vote moot.
Dewhurst attributed the late vote to an “unruly mob using Occupy Wall Street tactics.” He also suggested that the fight may not be over. Conservative Governor Rick Perry (R) could call another special session of the Senate where they are only allowed to debate what bill the Governor directs them to, and then instruct them to reopen debate on SB5.
On social media websites, opponents of the bill were watching the filibuster non-stop. Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority, said in a tweet “Shame on GOP male controlled TX senate who broke the rules to deny women their constitutional rights. Feminists #StandwithWendy.” Davis tweeted after the filibuster, “Thanks to the powerful voices of thousands of Texans, #SB5 is dead. An incredible victory for Texas women and those who love them.”