26 Jun 2013

Let her speak: crowds cheer Texas senator’s 10 hour speech

Pro-choice campaigners celebrate as Texas Democrat Senator Wendy Davis completes a marathon 10 hour filibuster to block a drive for new abortion restrictions.

Crowds cheer Texas Senator Wendy Davis

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.

Texas abortion bill

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.

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.

‘Incredible victory for Texas women’

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.

Who is Wendy Davis?

  • After graduating with honours from Harvard Law, Wendy Davis became a practicing attorney in Fort Worth and served nine years on the Fort Worth City Council.
  • As chair of the City’s Economic Development Committee, Wendy helped create numerous public/private partnerships and successfully helped to bring thousands of new jobs to Tarrant County.
  • Wendy was elected to the Texas Senate in 2008, defeating a longtime Republican incumbent in a race widely considered one of the biggest upsets in Texas politics in recent times.
  • Last year, she was the lone voice to take on Governor Perry and his majority, staging a filibuster and forcing a special session in her attempt to stop $5 billion in crippling cuts to Texas public schools.
  • She authored and collaborated to pass a law that will bring justice to rape victims and jail sexual assault predators before they commit another crime by addressing Texas’ backlog of tens of thousands of DNA samples collected from sexual assaults.
  • She filed “Texas Jobs First” legislation to give preference to Texans in the award of state contracts, protected the Veterans’ Assistance Fund from being used to fill budget gaps, and fought against the severe cuts to women’s cuts to women’s health care.

Source: http://www.wendydavisforsenate.com/