The only thing left standing between Texas and one of the strictest anti-abortion bills in America is State Senator Wendy Davis.
Literally: Davis, a Fort Worth Democrat, is nearly three hours into a 13-hour filibuster intended to derail a Republican effort to pass a law that would "virtually ban" abortion in Texas, according to Planned Parenthood Action Fund president Cecile Richards.
NBC DFW explains:
[SB 5] would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy and force many clinics that perform the procedure to upgrade their facilities and be classified as ambulatory surgical centers. Also, doctors would be required to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles — a tall order in rural communities.
According to Choice USA, if the bill passes, "all but 5 abortion clinics [out of 47] in the entire state would be forced to close their doors."
A Texas House version of the bill passed on Sunday after some stalling on the part of Democrats to try and keep the bill out of Senate hands until Monday.
This allowed Senate Democrats to pull a few delaying tactics of their own in order to prevent Republicans from voting on the measure before Tuesday morning.
Today, around 11 AM, Sen. Davis began a filibuster that must last until the special session ends tonight at midnight in order to ensure the bill's demise.
This will be no easy task: Senate rules require all filibustering lawmakers to remain standing for the entire duration of their speech — forbidding them from so much as leaning against a desk.
Davis is allowed to take questions from fellow Democrats, giving her time to rest her voice, but can't leave the podium for any reason.
To ensure she had sufficient material to speak for 13 hours straight, Davis asked women who have undergone abortions to send her their story "so I can tell it from the Senate floor."
To put into perspective the kind of mindset Davis is up against, the bill's sponsor, Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (R), believes putting an exemption in the law for victims of rape and incest is unnecessary because these women have already been "cleaned out" by emergency room "rape kits."
UPDATE: In case you're just tuning in and wondering where Sen. Davis went, this is the gist of what happened: Lieutenant Gov. David Dewhurst sustained a point of order declaring that Davis violated the Texas Senate's filibuster rules on three separate occasions — when she brought up Planned Parenthood's budget (ruled not germane), when she had a colleague adjust her back brace, and when she discussed the state's 2011 sonogram law (again ruled not germane by Dewhurst) — and Davis was forced to yield the flood.
Since then, the Senate has been debating an appeal to Dewhurst’s ruling, which, by the looks of it, may just run long enough to make up the difference.
UPDATE 2: Cheering erupts in the gallery after Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D) asks Sen. Robert Duncan (R) why he ignored her motion to adjourn.
"At what point must a female senator raise her hand to be recognized over the male colleagues in the room?" Van de Putte asked Duncan.
The cheers were still going strong as the special session officially ends.
It's worth noting that Van de Putte buried her father this afternoon, and then rushed back to the Senate to participate in the debate.
UPDATE 3: Video of Van de Putte delivering her instantly iconic line:
UPDATE 4: Confusion reigns in the Texas Senate as lawmakers remain unclear on whether a vote on SB5 that was taken around midnight should count.
For its part, The Associated Press has already called the vote in favor of Republicans, quoting Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst as saying the roll call "began just before [midnight]."
UPDATE 5: At exactly 1:18 AM Texas time, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards announced that Lt. Gov. Dewhurst reversed course and conceded that SB5 had not passed. The AP soon followed suit.
Thanks to the powerful voices of thousands of Texans, #SB5 is dead. An incredible victory for Texas women and those who love them.
— Wendy Davis (@WendyDavisTexas) June 26, 2013
[image via Whole Women's Health via Choice USA, livestream via The Texas Tribune]