Wendy Davis Filibuster a Bust

By Abrahim Harb

Texas State Senator Wendy Davis spoke in front of Texas Senate at around 11:18 am on June 25, 2013 and planned to speak until midnight, when the special session was to end. During this special session, the pending Senate Bill 5, known as SB5 plans to shut down the majority of abortion clinics in Texas and ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Unless, as stated in section one of the bill, "necessary to avert the death or substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman." It would also "hold abortion clinics to the same standards as hospital-style surgical centers, among other requirements," according to The New York Times.

The bill was authored by Republican Senator, Glenn Allen Hegar, Jr. and signed by 8 co-authors with two additional sponsors, House Members Jodie Laubenberg and Harvey Hilderbran. 14 days after filing the bill, the successful filibuster was viewed by 180,000 via a live YouTube feed. Davis spoke for almost 11 hours in front of the Texas Senate. According to NPR.org, "Under the quirky rules of the Texas Senate, Davis wasn't allowed to eat, drink, sit, use the bathroom, speak off­-topic or lean against any furniture for the entirety of her marathon filibuster attempt."

This isn’t Davis’ first attempt, she unsuccessfully filibustered a school finance plan that left a gaping hole of $4 billion in the Texas public school system. She was flooded with support via Twitter by everyone from President Barack Obama and Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa to the throngs of people who were in the rotunda or watching at home. Obama tweeted "Something special is happening in Austin tonight." Followed by a link of the live feed and the hashtag #StandWithWendy. A few of those in attendance tweeted out photo's of the packed rotunda or posted Vine video's of the masses of people chanting.

Wendy Davis During the Filibuster / Photo:DallasNews.com
During the filibuster attempt, Republicans interrupted on several occasions to ask questions and have Davis give up the floor. "I will not yield," she repeated each time. Republicans took advantage of a three strikes rule, in which the speaker has the floor taken away from them after breaking the filibuster rules three times. A mention of Planned Parenthood was deemed off-topic, creating the first strike. When Davis was offered a back brace, it violated the no-lean rule. Finally at 10:07 P.M. Davis was removed from the floor with her third strike, when she mentioned a 2011 sonogram law.

A disgruntled crowd of onlookers, made up primarily of opponents of the bill, began to shout at the Republican lawmakers. When the bill was called for a vote at 11:45 P.M., those same onlookers broke out into applause and shouted even louder, in an attempt to delay the vote. Lawmakers struggled to vote over the uproar. State troopers were brought in to quell the crowd and a vote was eventually taken with enough to pass it into law. However, due to the delays of the crowd, the bill was voted on after midnight, effectively killing SB5.

Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, called another special session Friday, July 12, that passed the bill with a vote of 19 to 11. All documentation concerning the passed bill can be found on www.capitol.state.tx.us/BillLookup (the document has  since been removed from public access). The bill was amended 33 times, one of them being a failure, another being withdrawn and a final one being adopted on June 6. According to the Texas State Capitol site, during stage five, the bill was passed by the house on June 24. The final two stages, respectively labeled "governor action" and "bill becomes law" have not been reached. As of July 31, no further action has been taken, updates will be made when they are available.

BREAKING NEWS : On August 5, The New York Times reported, "Wendy Davis, the Texas state senator who captured the national spotlight with an 11-hour filibuster against restricting abortion rights, turned up in Washington on Monday with the news that she was considering a run for governor. "I can say with absolute certainty that I will run for one of two offices: either my State Senate seat or the governor," Ms. Davis said after a luncheon and speech at the National Press Club."

UPDATE : On September 15, 2013, a book titled "Let Her Speak" was published by Counterpath. The book is a transcript of the June 23, 2013 Filibuster. It can be purchased on Amazon.

*This article was commissioned for the Independent. The final draft did not make the extended deadline when breaking news called for a rewrite. The version that went to print will not be featured, instead, both versions will be mashed up. It appeared in Volume 33, Issue 1 of the Independent, dated Tuesday, July 16, 2013.