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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Texas abortion bill has FAILED, thanks to American hero Wendy Davis

by David Atkins

In one of the boldest moves in the history of American legislative politics, Democrat Wendy Davis filibustered for 13 hours in the Texas Senate against the viciously misogynistic SB5, designed to essentially eliminate abortion in the Lone Star state.

As of this writing at 1:30am Pacific Time, no traditional news outlet appears to have a correct, final version of the story. CNN is questioning whether the bill passed, USA Today is still reporting that the bill had passed, even though current indications are to the contrary. The New York Times is also reporting that the bill appeared to have passed. Ironically, of the major news sources only Fox News appears to have the story right that the bill failed. As of now, the best recounting of events in Texas tonight comes from DailyKos diarist Karen from Maui, who writes:

Less than two hours before midnight and the end of her 13+ hour filibuster to prevent the passage of SB5 in Texas, Republicans made the 3rd procedural challenge to Senator Wendy Davis' 13+ hour filibuster.

Sen Davis had to stand (not lean) without any breaks (even bathroom breaks) in order to maintain her filibuster against the draconian anti-abortion bill in the Texas Senate (SB5).

However rules say that what she said had to be "germane". And if she was found straying from the subject 3 times, they could shut her down.

Here's the catch: The majority Republicans favoring the bill also voted on what was germane. So when she talked about this bill being yet another hoop that women had to jump through like the previous bill requiring ultrasounds, Republicans claimed that was "not germane" and moved to shut her down.

So the Democrats, running out the clock, launched procedural question after question. The Chair clearly manipulated the rules to let a motion to close discussion in when a Democrat still had the floor.

So at 11:49pm, the Democrats lost their ability to run out the clock.

Senator Judith Zaffirini rose and asked:

"At what point must a female senator raise her hand to be recognized over the male colleagues in the room?"
Here is a video of that riveting incident:

Karen from Maui continues:

Huge whoops, catcalls, applause, cheers erupted from the gallery. In fact 11 straight minutes of shouts, screams, cat calls prevented the chair from continuing on the vote as to whether the mention of ultrasound was germane.

Nonetheless he gathered the senators together and they appeared to vote to end the filibuster.

Still the crowd shouted and yelled and none of the senators could be heard.

The clock ran down. MIDNIGHT. The crowd, unbelievably, became even louder with sustained cheers having successfully prevented SB5 from passing.

Not so fast! At 12:02, in a huddle, the Senate supposedly passed the anti-abortion bill.

Reports (and images) show that the vote was taken after midnight but then changed to be prior to midnight.
What happened afterward? The Texas Tribune reports:

3:13 a.m. by Brandi Grissom
Without recognizing Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, for a motion to adjourn Sine Die, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst stepped down from the dais after ruling that time had expired on SB 5, telling the senators, "It's been fun, but, um, see ya soon."
He then told reporters that "An unruly mob using Occupy Wall Street tactics" derailed legislation that was designed to protect women and babies.
He said he was "very frustrated."
"I didn't lose control of what we were doing," he told reporters. "We had an unruly mob."
2:53 a.m. by Brandi Grissom
Emerging from a Senate caucus meeting, state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, said the legislators decided that the after midnight vote on SB 5 was invalid.
"There was not a valid vote," he said.
Now, the senators are coming back into the Senate chamber, where we expect a formal ruling on the final disposition of the bill.
It's fascinating that Texas Republicans first tried to cheat by changing the date and timestamp of the bill. When they realized that wouldn't work due to the damning video evidence and the fact that over a hundred thousand people were watching, they were forced to admit the bill did not pass.

Where do we go from here? Well, it seems clear that eventually Texas Republicans will be able to pass the bill. But what Wendy Davis' filibuster accomplished in the long term was put Republicans on notice about the depth of anger and public sentiment about their attempts to control women's bodies. It will also direct attention to the misogyny of the conservative power base.

And for at least a little while longer, abortion will remain legal and accessible in Texas--all because one woman had the courage and fortitude to stand and do the right thing.

Update: The Texas Tribune has an updated story before the rest of the major traditional media outlets:

The nation watched on Tuesday — and into Wednesday — as Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis and hundreds of impassioned reproductive rights advocates stalled proceedings and ultimately defeated controversial abortion legislation in a storm of screams and shouts as the clock struck midnight.

“I am overwhelmed, honestly,” Davis said after standing for nearly 13 hours to filibuster Senate Bill 5, the abortion legislation. The outpouring of support from protesters at the Capitol and across the nation, she said, “shows the determination and spirit of Texas women and people who care about Texas women."

Some have called the abortion restrictions proposed in SB 5 the toughest in the nation. The bill would have banned abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, required physicians to have hospital admitting privileges within 30 miles of an abortion facility, required abortions — even drug-induced ones — to be performed in ambulatory surgical centers and required doctors to administer drugs that induce abortion in person.

Republican senators made a last-ditch effort to approve SB 5, voting 19-10, but by then the clock had ticked past midnight. Under the terms of the state Constitution, the special session had ended, and the bill could not be signed, enrolled or sent to the governor.

That fact was not immediately clear, and confusion abounded on the Senate floor. Republicans claimed the bill had passed while Democrats said it had not.