Democratic Senator Wendy Davis showed the true meaning of endurance on the Texan senate floor when she launched a 13 hour filibuster against a proposed anti-abortion bill (SB5) to stop it from landing on Texas Governor Rick Perry’s desk.
The proposed bill would ban abortions in Texas after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and tighten standards and safe access to abortion across the state of Texas. These changes could mean almost every abortion clinic in Texas would have to close.
The bill has already passed the state House of Representatives and Gov Perry has previously said that he would sign it.
Wearing pink-tennis shoes, Senator Davis spent much of her time on the floor speaking slowly and recounting testimonials from women and doctors who would be impacted by the changes. In her opening remarks, she said she was “rising on the floor today to humbly give voice to thousands of Texans” and called Republican efforts to pass the bill a “raw abuse of power”.
Anti-abortion lawmakers claim the bill is about “protecting women’s health” because sometimes “bad things happen”, however Davis questioned why vasectomies aren’t also required to take place in clinics surrounded by stringent rules.
“Because I’ve been unable to have a simple question answered to help me understand how this would lead to better care for women, I must question the underlying motive for doing so,” she said.
During the 13 hour filibuster, Davis was not allowed to eat, sit down, take bathroom breaks or lean on her desk. She received a strike when a colleague helped her adjust her back brace and republican lawmakers said it violated the filibuster rules.
Nearing her tenth hour Lieutentant Gov David Dewhurst ruled that Davis had violated the Texas Senate’s procedural rules — saying she didn’t remain on the topic when she spoke about sonograms — thus suspending the filibuster.
Democrats moved to quickly appeal the decision, however AP later reported that the Republicans had defeated the filibuster and had passed the new abortion restrictions. According to The Guardian, the bill is still being disputed given all the votes for it were not counted until after the midnight deadline.
Even despite a potential defeat, Davis — who was chosen by Democrats to lead the effort because of her experience becoming a single mother at 19 and going on to graduate from Harvard law school — has found herself a new global audience and plenty of admirers, with dramatic calls for her to run for governor.
More than 150,000 viewers tuned in at one point to watch a live stream on YouTube, and her campaign sparked an outpouring of reaction on social media with the #standwithwendy trending on twitter during the mammoth session.
And in a show of support for Davis, and women’s rights, President Obama tweeted prior to the session: “Something special is happening in Austin tonight. #StandWithWendy”
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) June 26, 2013