Pro-choice campaigners celebrate as Texas Democrat Senator Wendy Davis completes a marathon 10 hour filibuster to block a drive for new abortion restrictions.
Senator Davis spoke for 10 hours in a bid to shorten the time available for voting on a measure that would place a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Her filibuster attempt stalled about two hours short of the deadline over a complaint that she had violated rules, and the Republican-controlled Senate then began voting on the bill to cries of protests from spectators.
Republicans said they met the deadline but, after a meeting with senators, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst said that some of their votes had come in after midnight which was the deadline for the 30-day special session and were therefore inadmissable.
The bill called for stricter standards for abortion clinics.
— Molly Ringwald (@MollyRingwald) June 26, 2013
Republican backers said the bill would protect women’s health and that the ban on late-term abortions would protect the fetus, based on disputed research that suggests pain is felt by 20 weeks of development.
Opponents said it would force nearly all Texas abortion clinics to close or be rebuilt.
Davis, who began speaking at 11:15 a.m. local time, was prevented by procedural rules from deviating off-topic or taking a break by eating, leaning against her desk, sitting down or using the rest room.
Republicans tried to disrupt her by charging that she meandered off-topic and, at one point, received help adjusting a supportive back brace.
— TMF (@TMFtx) June 25, 2013
Davis read testimony and messages from women and others decrying the legislation, reciting previously suggested changes to the bill and tapping into her own life history as a single mother at 19.
She said the bill would have choked off her own access to a local Planned Parenthood clinic.
“I was a poor, uninsured woman, whose only care was provided through that facility. It was my medical home,” said Davis, now 50, several hours into her speech.
Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst, who is Senate president, suspended the filibuster after roughly 10 hours, to cries of “let her speak” from supporters.
Democrats appealed the ruling, sparking a row over parliamentary rules.
Thanks to the powerful voices of thousands of Texans, #SB5 is dead. An incredible victory for Texas women and those who love them.
— Wendy Davis (@WendyDavisTexas) June 26, 2013
After the session, Davis tweeted: “An incredible victory for Texas women and those who love them.”
But Republican Governor Rick Perry, a strong opponent of abortion, could still revive the proposal by calling the legislature into a new special session.
The U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion nationwide in 1973, but conservative states have enacted laws in recent years that seek to place restrictions on the procedure, especially on abortions performed late in pregnancy.
Twelve states have passed 20-week bans, including two states where the bans take effect later this year, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights. Courts have blocked the bans in three of the 12 states – Arizona, Georgia and Idaho.