Texas Senator's 13-Hour Solo Filibuster Kills Brutal Abortion Bill
After 13 hours, three warnings, a long debate about parliamentary procedure and hundreds of thousands of messages from supporters, Wendy Davis can finally sit down: SB5, the "toughest" abortion bill in the nation, is dead.
Davis, a Democratic Texas State Senator (once called a "show horse" by Rick Perry) took to the floor around 11 a.m. yesterday in an attempt to filibuster the draconian bill, which Republicans were attempting to ram through in a sneaky special session of the legislature called by Gov. Rick Perry. The bill would criminalize abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy and enact a series of severe restrictions on doctors to provide care, leaving Texas—the nation's second-largest state—with only five abortion providers.
These were the rules: Davis—who had her first daughter at 19, graduated at the top of her class at Texas Christian University, and went on to Harvard Law—couldn't take a break, for water or for the bathroom. She couldn't receive assistance, or even lean on an object for support. She had to stay on topics germane to the bill. And she had to last until midnight, at which point the special session would end without a vote.
So, fast-forward 15-ish hours. Here's Planned Parenthood's Cecile Richards in the lobby of the legislature, talking to the hundreds of abortion-rights supporters who had gathered there over the course of the day:
If you can't tell from those cheers: Wendy won. It just took a while.
Davis was cited under the filibuster's "three strikes" procedural rules twice for straying from the topic at hand (she wasn't: She was talking about Planned Parenthood and sonograms), and once for receiving minor assistance from a fellow Democratic Senator in putting her back brace on. At around 10 p.m. her time, following her "third strike," Republicans attempted to shut the filibuster down—leading to chants of "let her speak" from the protestors outside:
Luckily, the Democratic senators banded together, and launched a two-hour debate on parliamentary procedure, highlighted by Texas State Senator Leticia Van de Putte asking, "At what point must a female Senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues in the room?"
A vote was eventually held; the bill passed. But—as it came out eventually—the vote was held after midnight, when the session was over. David Dewhurst, Texas' Lt. Gov., declared at 3 a.m. that the bill would not be enrolled, thanks to "[a]n unruly mob using Occupy Wall Street tactics." And show horse Wendy Davis, still wearing her pink sneakers, got to sit down.