Texas Abortion Bill Filibustered

A thirteen hour filibuster by Wendy Davis ran out the clock on a special session of the Texas legislature, apparently defeating an abortion bill that passed 19-10 after time expired.

wendy-davis-pink-tennis-shoes

A thirteen hour filibuster by Wendy Davis ran out the clock on a special session of the Texas legislature, apparently defeating an abortion bill that passed 19-10 after time expired.

DMN (“Chaos erupts in Texas Senate after filibuster over abortion measure“):

The special legislative session erupted in chaos late Tuesday over an abortion bill, with an extraordinary protest from abortion-rights advocates watching the debate and uncertainty over whether the measure was properly passed.

Republicans contend that senators voted 19-10 in favor of the bill, almost entirely along party lines. But Democrats said that the vote came too late and that the matter could end up in court.

The extended drama came after Republicans used strict interpretations of Senate rules to knock Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, off her marathon filibuster. The final vote was delayed several minutes by loud applause from the gallery, drowning out the action on the floor.

That followed more than an hour and a half of tense debate over Senate rules and decorum, after Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst ruled on a procedural point that the filibuster must end.

[…]

And it prompted a rancorous fight in the usually genteel Senate over fairness, with the Republican majority using a procedural vote to threaten Davis’ filibuster because she received help putting on a back brace. Senate rules require a filibustering member to stand alone and speak on the matter at hand — no leaning, no food or water, and no help from others.

The legislation would give Texas one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.

Abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy would be banned. All clinics would be required to be upgraded to high-standard surgical centers, likely prompting many to close. Doctors would need admitting privileges at hospitals. And new restrictions would be placed on abortion-inducing pill procedures.

Both sides are claiming victory here, with Democrats correctly noting that the party-line vote occurred well after the midnight expiration of the special session and Republicans arguing that the vote was delayed only be “Occupy Wall Street” tactics from an “unruly mob” that had assembled to watch the filibuster and that therefore the vote should count. I don’t have any idea how the Texas courts will rule here but Democrats would seem to have the better of the argument.

Certainly, the live blog from DMN’s Christy Hoppe makes it appear that the bill was successfully filibustered. Indeed, she titles the post “After 12.5 hour filibuster, Senate Bill 5 is dead.” It’s worth reading just to gain an appreciation of the spectacle of the whole thing.  Republicans were clearly frustrated by the filibuster effort, the very strict rules of which make it nearly impossible to carry off, and Davis likely did technically violate the letter of the rules by getting assistance to don a back brace.

Ultimately, Davis was ruled to have violated the rules of the filibuster by straying from the topic and introducing topics not germane to the bill at hand. CBS (“Long filibuster against Texas abortion limits suspended“):

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst determined that Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis strayed off the topic when she talked about a sonogram bill passed in 2011 and how the new abortion restrictions only compounded the anti-abortion laws in Texas.

That’s rather transparently an unfair ruling; indeed, the back brace thing had more merit. Regardless, as HuffPo’s Laura Bassett notes (“Texas Filibuster By Wendy Davis Shut Down By Republicans As Pandemonium Erupts“), this third point of order ended the filibuster just in the nick of time.

With 12 minutes to go before the special session’s end at 12 a.m. local time, Senate Republicans tried to vote on the abortion bill. But the crowd of protesters in the capitol erupted into loud cheers and screams when state Sen. Leticia Van De Putte asked, “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?”

Amid the bedlam, it was unclear whether a vote was taken before the clock ran out on the session.

Republicans said it passed, according to the The Austin American-Statesman. Several Democrats told the newspaper the midnight deadline had passed while the vote was still being taken.

All in all, a very raucous and lively display that, depending on one’s perspective, either shows democracy at its finest or its worst.

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    More from the AP (via TPM)

    “Initially, Republicans insisted they had started voting before the midnight deadline and passed the bill that Democrats spent much of Tuesday filibustering. But after official computer records and printouts of the voting record showed the vote took place on Wednesday, and then were changed to read Tuesday, senators convened for a private meeting.”

    An hour later, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst was still insisting the 19-10 vote was in time, but said, “with all the ruckus and noise going on, I couldn’t sign the bill.”

    Doctoring a vote, getting caught at it, and then baldly lying about it…. In a nutshell, that describes today’s Republican party to a ‘T’.

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    At what point does an honest conservative say, “Enough.” ?

  3. Christine says:

    By far the best thing I have ever watched on YouTube.

  4. edmondo says:

    At what point does an honest conservative say, “Enough.” ?

    An honest conservative tries to remove government from peoples’ lives, not insert it. Crazy religious fanatics, on the other hand,……

  5. aFloridian says:

    Always love a good filibuster, for the theatrics if nothing else.

    Haven’t given a lot of thought to who has the right of it here, but I do think the bill shouldn’t pass with its draconian measures.

    I’m not sure why my fellow Republicans consider abortion to be an issue worth fighting about. First, there’s Roe. Second, it’s not as though the fundies are going to jump ship and start voting Democrat if the GOP eases up a little on all these pathetic measures to make something legally functionally illegal.

    I guess it must really be a matter of conscience for them. I personally agree insofar as I think abortion is a terrible thing and we shouldn’t be encouraging its use, particularly for those women who use it essentially as a form of birth control on healthy babies after knowingly having unprotected sex. It’s irresponsible and I do condemn and judge them morally. That said, I also don’t see how I can possibly support any legislative efforts that take my personal feelings on the matter to make a 17 year old woman give birth against her will. Abortion opponents are willing to treat pregnancy and living babies as punishments with this “well, you should have thought about that before, huh?” attitude which completely undermines the whole sanctity of life and family values arguments they use.

  6. Rob in CT says:

    Before reading anything but the opening sentence: Bravo for a *real* filibuster.

    As to the substance: I’m glad the bill was blocked, for now.

  7. Kari Q says:

    Wendy Davis has become a national figure overnight. The pro-choice movement is energized. And women largely feel that Davis was told to shut up and sit down, which will enrage women who are ambivalent about abortion rights.

    The bill will certainly pass, eventually, but the pro-life side lost more than they realize last night. If laws restricting access to abortion start getting pushed back, and I think they will, Wendy Davis and the way she was treated last night will be the turning point, the moment when momentum began swinging back to the pro-choice side.

    (Note I say abortion rights, there. We are all, even most of the staunchly pro-choice people I know, ambivalent about abortion. We’d all like a country where it never happens, because no woman is ever in the position of having an unwanted, unplanned pregnancy.)

  8. Latino_in_Boston says:

    I hate filibusters as a matter of principle, and I think Senates at the state level are superfluous, but if you’re going to have both, it should be done like they did in Texas last night.

    It also helps that Senator Davis is a badass. Good for her.

  9. Rafer Janders says:

    @Kari Q:

    We are all, even most of the staunchly pro-choice people I know, ambivalent about abortion.

    Speak for yourself. I am not at all ambivalent about abortion.

    We’d all like a country where it never happens, because no woman is ever in the position of having an unwanted, unplanned pregnancy.)’

    And I’d also like a pony. Plus I’d also like a country in which there are no quadruple bypasses, appendectomies, cardiothoraic surgery, gastrectomies, etc., but, sadly, we live in a world in which human beings develop medical problems and need medical procedures to solve them. As long as we have people, we will have unwanted, unplanned pregnancies and we will want abortions.

  10. Gromitt Gunn says:

    I’m really glad that this has turned her from one of our best stealth assets in TX (although she got a bit of notoriety for her 2011 budget bill filibuster) into a potential national Dem rockstar. She’s been doing yeoman’s work here, and deserves the recognition.

  11. Kari Q says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Speak for yourself. I am not at all ambivalent about abortion.

    Then you are the exception. Even those of us who strongly favor keeping abortion legal accessible generally regard it as, at best, a sad necessity.

    And I’d also like a pony. Plus I’d also like a country in which there are no quadruple bypasses, appendectomies, cardiothoraic surgery, gastrectomies, etc., but, sadly, we live in a world in which human beings develop medical problems and need medical procedures to solve them. As long as we have people, we will have unwanted, unplanned pregnancies and we will want abortions.

    This was my implied point.

  12. Rafer Janders says:

    @Kari Q:

    Even those of us who strongly favor keeping abortion legal accessible generally regard it as, at best, a sad necessity.

    So is an appendectomy, and yet every time we talk about appendicitis, we don’t go around moaning about how we really wish appendectomies were rare. Why the constant need on some pro-choicers parts do so when we talk about abortion? Doing so reinforces the perception that there’s something wrong, something seedy, something tragic about it, when we should instead be up front, open and proud.

    In a world in which birth control fails, in which couples change their minds, in which birth defects develop, I don’t regard abortion as a sad necessity at all — or at least no more a sad necessity than any other medical procedure.

  13. Kari Q says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    I’m not your enemy, why are you attacking me?

    But I do think it’s tragic when a woman has to undergo a medical procedure that it would be better to avoid. I also think it’s sad when someone has an apendectomy, it’s better not to have one of those either. In either case, if someone told me they were having one, I would respond by saying “I’m sorry. How are you holding up?” or words to that effect.

    And I have to say, an abortion that happens because of a birth defect? You don’t think that’s sad? That’s one of the saddest things I can imagine! A woman wants this child, but discovers it has a serious medical condition, and that shouldn’t be sad?

  14. Nikki says:

    All in all, a very raucous and lively display that, depending on one’s perspective, either shows democracy at its finest or its worst.

    I think we can all agree that the Republican senators’ attempt to cheat by changing the time stamp on the vote is pretty much democracy at its worst.

  15. Rafer Janders says:

    @Kari Q:

    I’m not your enemy, why are you attacking me?

    Um, I’m not attacking you. I’m merely discussing a point of disagreement between us. If you think this is an attack, you haven’t read many of my comments here.

  16. Rafer Janders says:

    @Kari Q:

    And I have to say, an abortion that happens because of a birth defect? You don’t think that’s sad? That’s one of the saddest things I can imagine! A woman wants this child, but discovers it has a serious medical condition, and that shouldn’t be sad?

    Yes, but what’s sad isn’t the abortion, it’s the birth defect. Not being able to get an abortion would make the whole situation much, much sadder.

    Again, I don’t know why there’s a need to pin the blame on the medical procedure itself, rather than on the situation that the medical procedure is intended to fix. When someone with, say, lung cancer has a thoracotomy, we don’t wish for a world in which lung cancer surgery is rare — instead we wish for a world in which lung cancer is rare.

    Abortion is the solution, not the problem.

  17. Rafer Janders says:

    @Kari Q:

    I also think it’s sad when someone has an apendectomy, it’s better not to have one of those either. In either case, if someone told me they were having one, I would respond by saying “I’m sorry. How are you holding up?” or words to that effect.

    Yes, but you wouldn’t say “if only we had a world without appendectomies.” That would be bizarre, because an appendectomy is what saved that person. It’s not sad when someone has an appendectomy, it’s sad when someone has appendicitis.

    You’re making a false analogy, and confusing the medical problem with the medical procedure to treat that problem.

  18. Kari Q says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Then let me rephrase: Since we completely agree on everything except our emotional response to the woman, why are you are criticizing me for my empathy for the women? And that’s what it is, because the women I know who have had abortions were quite sad about, although they do not regret their decision.

  19. Kari Q says:

    @Rafer Janders: @Rafer Janders:

    First off, I didn’t bring up other medical procedures, you did. So I’m not the one making the false analogy here, you are. I simply responded to your point.

    Yes, but you wouldn’t say “if only we had a world without appendectomies.” That would be bizarre, because an appendectomy is what saved that person. It’s not sad when someone has an appendectomy, it’s sad when someone has appendicitis.

    You’re making a false analogy, and confusing the medical problem with the medical procedure to treat that problem.

    Yeah, but you’re not attacking me! *laugh*

    I might go around talking about how great it would be if we had a world without appendectomies if someone was trying to ban them. No one is, that I know of.

    But let’s try this: It is sad when a woman has an unplanned pregnancy. It is sad when she ends that unplanned pregnancy through abortion, even if that is the right choice. It is even more sad when a planned, wanted pregnancy ends in an abortion for whatever reason. I cannot think of a situation where an abortion is anything but sad. Sorry. I can’t think of throwing a dang party to celebrate your abortion.

  20. Barry says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: “Doctoring a vote, getting caught at it, and then baldly lying about it…. In a nutshell, that describes today’s Republican party to a ‘T’. ”

    I don’t know what state this happened in, but recently a bill was introduced, failed on a roll call vote, was immediately reintroduced, and declared passed on a voice vote.

  21. Rafer Janders says:

    @Kari Q:

    Then let me rephrase: Since we completely agree on everything except our emotional response to the woman, why are you are criticizing me for my empathy for the women?

    I am not doing so. That’s a frankly ridiculous thing to say.

    And that’s what it is, because the women I know who have had abortions were quite sad about, although they do not regret their decision.

    And I know women who’ve had abortions who were not sad about it, but were happy as hell not to have had a child they didn’t want.

  22. Rafer Janders says:

    @Kari Q:

    First off, I didn’t bring up other medical procedures, you did. So I’m not the one making the false analogy here, you are. I simply responded to your point.

    No, the reference to the false analogy was your continued confusion of the medical problem with the medical procedure designed to solve that problem.

    Yeah, but you’re not attacking me! *laugh*

    I’m not attacking you. This isn’t personal. I don’t know you. I’m simply treating you as a rational adult with whom it’s possible to have a substantive disagreement on a matter of public policy, a matter that I happen to think is quite important.

    I might go around talking about how great it would be if we had a world without appendectomies if someone was trying to ban them. No one is, that I know of.

    Wait, that doesn’t make any sense. If someone was trying to ban appendectomies, why would you then go around talking about how great it would be if we didn’t have appendectomies? Wouldn’t the right response be to say that appendectomies were simply necessary in the world we live in and that it’s insane to try to ban them? Why cede the rhetorical ground to a crazy opponent? As long as we have appendicitis, why would you ever agree that we need to ban appendectomies??

    But let’s try this: It is sad when a woman has an unplanned pregnancy. It is sad when she ends that unplanned pregnancy through abortion, even if that is the right choice. It is even more sad when a planned, wanted pregnancy ends in an abortion for whatever reason. I cannot think of a situation where an abortion is anything but sad. Sorry. I can’t think of throwing a dang party to celebrate your abortion.

    I just don’t share your emotions. I agree that it’s sad when someone has an unwanted pregnancy, but not that it’s sad when she ends that unplanned pregnancy through abortion. I think it’s great, frankly — first, because the woman has the option to control her body, and second, because I think bringing an unwanted child into the world is far, far worse than an abortion. If a woman doesn’t want to have a child, I frankly don’t want her to go through with the pregnancy, because I don’t want children raised by mothers who don’t really want them and will resent them.

    I cannot think of a situation where an abortion is anything but sad.

    Again, for me it’s not the abortion that’s sad — it’s the unplanned and unwanted pregnancy. Abortion is the solution to that problem, it’s not the problem itself.

  23. Kari Q says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    And that’s fine. They are perfectly entitled to feel that way.

    I do get what you’re saying: the entire emotional response should be for the situation, not the procedure.

    I can only tell you, for the women I have known, it does not work that way. Even the ones who were relieved, pleased, happy to know that they weren’t going to have that unwanted child, had a set of emotional responses to the situation that was not limited to happiness.

    The woman I know who had to have an abortion because carrying a child to term would have severely undermined her health is pleased to be healthy, glad that she was able to have an abortion, relieved to know that she wasn’t forced to carry to term by some draconic law, and was sad to have an abortion. No doubts, no second thoughts, but it still sad. She isn’t any more, but at the time, yes.

    Going back to other medical procedures, people have emotional responses to them all the time; even ones that are necessary and life-saving. They often, in my experience at least, have one set of feelings about the underlying disease and a different set of emotions toward the procedure. They may hate, fear, or be angry at cancer, but they feel regret about the surgery to remove the tumor – they don’t like the idea that they have to have their body opened up to get the disease out. It’s no more wrong to feel sad about an abortion than it is to regret needing surgery to remove a tumor.

  24. Kari Q says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    I’m not attacking you. This isn’t personal. I don’t know you. I’m simply treating you as a rational adult with whom it’s possible to have a substantive disagreement on a matter of public policy, a matter that I happen to think is quite important.

    Careful! You’re in great danger of implying that I’m too emotional to talk to. 🙂

    I might go around talking about how great it would be if we had a world without appendectomies if someone was trying to ban them. No one is, that I know of.

    Wait, that doesn’t make any sense.

    Because it was intended to be flippant. I failed to put in my snark indicator.

    @Rafer Janders:

    I just don’t share your emotions.

    That’s fine. I’m not saying you should be sad. When you disagreed with me the first time, I said you were the exception. No judgment implied. You feel differently than most of the people I know. Nothing wrong with it.

    You, however, have been trying to tell me that I shouldn’t be sad, that my emotions are inappropriate. (I do not often get accused of being overly emotional, by the way. It does not trigger any anger or hostility in me, possibly because I don’t hear it often). I am not looking at the situation rationally. To that I can only say, damn straight I’m not. It’s an emotional issue, and I fail to see how an emotion of sadness is wrong, or that it’s inappropriate to direct that sadness to the procedure in addition to the situation.

    I agree with all you say about abortion being necessary, that the world being what it is we should accept that, that women should have control over their lives, bodies, and reproductive choices, etc. etc.

    I just reserve the right to feel what I feel.

  25. Tylerh says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Since the 90s, the Pro-Choice rejoinder has been

    “Safe, Legal, and Rare.”

    I applaud your passion, but dogmatism doesn’t win the marginal voter.

  26. Caj says:

    Way to go Wendy! About time Republicans got a taste of their own medicine. In this case it was more than justified. Rick Perry and the other nut jobs in Texas should secede the union. Best place for all of them is on a remote island surrounded by sharks so none of them could come back!!

  27. rudderpedals says:

    I hope Davis runs for Cornyn’s seat. She presents the good face of Texas and is a reminder that it’s not all Gohmertville and Cruzland, there are actually great Texans out there.

  28. JohnMcC says:

    @Rafer Janders: @Kari Q: At the risk of being offensive to everybody, may I suggest a way of saying what I think you both are trying to expess? My family is full of TeaParty, Fundamentalist, GlennBeck style conservatives. This is how I express my liberalism on the abortion question to them. I say, ‘you know those wonderful ultrasound pictures of treasured and hoped-for children-in-the-womb. We liberals see those pictures, too. We even have those pictures of our own treasured children-to-be to show. We feel the same joy you feel, for the future of that family. The difference is that we understand that what is a great blessing for some, is a great tragedy for someone else. And we respect the sad choices that must confront the 13 yr old who has been raped by her step-father or the 38 year old professional who after spending her life in the expectation of a late-in-life baby, finds that she is bearing a horribly deformed fetus that is condemned to a sad death no matter what she does. We respect those choices made with no possible good outcome. Sometimes that choice is to terminate the pregnancy. It represents a terrible sadness for the people involved. But just as we shared the sense of joy for the happy outcome, we can understand the tragedy. Your point of view attempts to mask the deplorable situation.’

    Submitted respectfully….