Texas Abortion Bill Fails to Pass, Sen. Wendy Davis is Our New Queen
12:48 pm, June 26th | by Colette McIntyre
Meet your new spirit animal, Feminist leader, and imaginary best friend, a goddess among women, Senator Wendy Davis (D – Fort Worth). With the help of a raucous crowd of pro-choice activists, fellow Texan Senators who believe in women’s right to accessible healthcare, one 11-hour filibuster, and a pair of sneakers, Sen. Davis defeated a garbage anti-abortion bill that would’ve likely resulted in the shuttering of all but five of Texas’ 42 abortion clinics.
Senate Bill 5, which previously passed the Republican-dominated House, would’ve banned abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, required clinics to meet ambulatory surgical-center standards (which would’ve necessitated numerous renovations and upgrades that a vast majority of Texan clinics can’t afford), and mandated that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles — a near impossibility in Texas’ many rural communities. SB5′s opponents called the legislation a politically-motivated attempt to shut legal abortion clinics. If the law passed, women living along the Mexico border or in West Texas would’ve had to drive hundreds of miles to obtain reproductive healthcare.
Democrats determined that their only chance at defeating SB5 would be to prevent lawmakers from voting on the bill before the midnight deadline. Forth Worth Democrat Senator Davis, a woman who gave birth to her first child as a teenager and went on to graduate with Honors from Harvard Law School, was the party’s choice to filibuster the bill. She began talking at 11:18 a.m. and she spoke for hours — eleven hours, to be exact; eleven hours without food, water, or bathroom breaks. (The Daily Beast has rounded up five moments from Davis’ epic filibuster.) Strict Senate rules forbade her from straying off topic, sitting in a chair, or even leaning on her desk. After three sustained points of order — that is, if the filibusterer is found to have violated the stipulations three times — lawmakers can vote to end a filibuster.
Although Davis’ filibuster was officially (through controversially) ended when Senator Donna Campbell (R-) called the third violation, the damage had been done. With just a few minutes to midnight and the filibuster interrupted, the state Senate attempted to come to a vote amid the chants and screams of protestors gathered in the upstairs gallery. Attempts to call the Senate to order failed. When state Senator Leticia Van De Putte asked, “At what point must a fennel senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues,” the crowd roared.
While the Republican majority claimed the final vote was legitimate and that the bill had passed in time, Senate Democrats argued that the vote took place past the deadline. The confusion was widespread. The Legislature’s official website reported that the Senate’s vote occurred on Wednesday, post-deadline, but the date was later changed to Tuesday for “unknown” reasons.
Hours after alleging that the bill have been successfully passed, Republican lawmakers came out and admitted that the vote could not be made official. At 3 a.m., LT. Gov. David Dewhurst, presiding officer of the Senate and one of Senate Bill 5′s many Republican supporters, blamed the bill’s death on “an unruly mob using Occupy Wall Street tactics.” In response to news of the bill’s derailment, the protestors cheered and collectively sang “The Eyes of Texas,” the alma mater of the University of Texas at Austin.
The victory may be short-lived — since Republicans control both the state Senate and House, they will likely have a second shot at considering the bill —but it was hard-fought. Let’s celebrate! And now that DOMA is out of the way, let’s all marry Senator Wendy Davis, a fierce hero for women’s rights.