Heroic TX State Sen. Wendy Davis Filibusters Terrible Abortion Bill
Matt | On 27, Jun 2013
Texas has surprised the nation this week, in both good and bad ways.
Access to abortion facilities has been under strong attack at the state level. Republicans want to ban abortion completely after 20 weeks of pregnancy. They devised a plan to shutter 37 of the states 42 abortion clinics. The five remaining would have to be upgraded and designated as ambulatory surgical centers.
All centers would be in east Texas — a state that’s nearly 800 miles wide and long with 26 million residents. So, if you live in west Texas, you would be completely out of luck trying to get an abortion locally and would need to drive hundreds of miles for the procedure. Also, doctors would have to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. That’s impossible for people in rural parts of the state.
THE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS
The bill had been through several procedural steps by Republicans and stalls by Democrats hoping to stop it in its tracks. By June 25, Democrats had 13 hours of time that either could be used for the bill’s passage or trying to talk it out of existence. Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) was chosen to filibuster the bill — an act of essentially talking a bill to death.
The catch is that Davis would have to talk about the bill on the floor of the Senate for 13 hours. According to the rules, she could not eat, drink, lean on a desk, use the bathroom, or come in physical contact with any other legislator during her filibuster. She would get three strikes before she was counted out of the process.
Davis used up all of her three strikes by late in the evening after 10:00 p.m. CT. So, Democrats stepped in using procedural motions to soak up the final two hours. By 11:45 p.m. or so, as Republicans were trying to take a roll call vote on what they thought would be passed legislation, the crowd in the gallery erupted. They cheered for 14 minutes straight, drowning out any hope of passing the bill.
Since Republicans did not make the 12:00 midnight deadline, they were supposed to pack up and go home. They lost fair and square to the Democrats. But, the GOP decided to take a vote anyway after 12:00, clear to everyone in the gallery and on the live YouTube stream. Then they altered the voting record to say they took the vote before midnight — a clear violation of the law.
Well, a few hours later, it was determined that Democrats were right and the vote was taken after the deadline. Republicans had to concede defeat and head home.
Gov. Rick Perry was none too pleased about the outcome of the special legislative session he called to get the bill passed. He said, “We will not allow the breakdown of decorum and decency to prevent us from doing what the people of this state hired us to do.” Umm, the Democratic filibuster and the protesting is a part of DEMOCRACY that I’m sure Perry forgot about.
To the shock of Democrats and social media observers, the governor announced he would call another 30-day special session of the legislature on July 1 to try to get the bill passed again. This is the second special session he has called of the legislature since their May 27 recess. As governor, he has the power to tell them what legislation they must work on in each session.
Democrats, protesters, and Davis fired back saying they would be ready to continue their fight for women’s reproductive choices in The Lone Star State.