Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Ft. Worth, filibustered on Tuesday a bill that placed new restrictions on abortion in Texas. The Senate session dissolved in chaos as the clock neared midnight and it was not immediately clear if the legislation passed. TEXAS TRIBUNE PHOTO by BOB DAEMMRICH
Texas senators are trying to get to the bottom of whether Republicans successfully pushed through a vote on Senate Bill 5, the omnibus abortion restriction bill, ahead of their midnight deadline.
Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, says the bill passed at 12:02 a.m.; if that’s true, the vote may not withstand legal scrutiny.
“It’s pretty conclusive that it didn’t pass,” said Whitmire.
But the Senate still has not officially adjourned sine die. When Senators resume floor proceedings, Whitmire said Democrats will call a point of order on the motion to vote on a bill after the midnight deadline.
Texas Democrats, far outnumbered by Republicans in both the House and the Senate, are nonetheless on the verge of killing one of the most restrictive abortion proposals in the nation — at least for now.
Using delaying tactics and parliamentary rules, the minority party argued into the wee hours in the state House on Monday morning and then stuck together to keep the GOP from jamming Senate Bill 5 through the Senate in the afternoon and evening. Republicans vowed to try to muster enough support to push the bill through Monday night, but that effort failed. And Democrats are prepared for a final talk-a-thon Tuesday that could spell death — for now — for the bill.
SB 5, by state Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, would make abortion illegal after 20 weeks and would establish stringent new requirements for facilities that perform abortions. Supporters of the bill say it would make the procedures safer for women and protect unborn babies. Abortion rights proponents say the legislation would shut down most of the abortion facilities in Texas.
With barely more than a day left in the 30-day special session called by Gov. Rick Perry at the end of May, that means Democrats have moved much closer to putting the controversial measure within the range of a filibuster.
“I think we are now in a position to try to do what’s right for the women of this state,” said Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus. “We need to be protecting women’s health in this state, and we need to be protecting a woman’s right to make choices about her body.”
Sen. Wendy Davis, a Fort Worth Democrat and rising star in the party, has vowed to launch a filibuster. Unless Republicans can change some votes, the abortion measure can’t be brought up for debate until Tuesday morning at about 11 a.m. Since the session ends at midnight Tuesday, that means she could kill the legislation by talking nonstop for about 13 hours.
The Democrats won a test vote at about 4 p.m., turning away a GOP attempt to fast track the abortion legislation by suspending a 24-hour layout rule. It takes a supermajority — two-thirds of those present — to suspend that rule. The Democrats voted as a bloc and stopped debate on the measure.
The Senate took a short break and reconvened at 7 p.m., but the result did not change. Once again, in a vote that broke along party lines, the GOP effort to begin debating the abortion legislation Monday night failed. Democrats began preparing for the final kill with a filibuster to run the clock out before a midnight deadline Tuesday that marks the end of the special session.
Sen. Dan Patrick, a Houston Republican who is eyeing a race for lieutenant governor, criticized the Senate’s Republican leadership for allowing the abortion measure to fall prey to Democratic attacks in the waning hours of the session.
“If you don’t have a plan, sometimes you don’t achieve what you’d like to achieve,” Patrick said, a thinly veiled attack on his potential rival in the GOP primary, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. “We appear to be flying a little bit by the seat of our pants. These are important bills. You don’t fly by the seat of your pants when you’re trying to pass important bills.”
Dewhurst bristled at the suggestion that he didn’t have a plan. He blamed Democrats for sabotaging the legislation and also said the Texas House failed to get the bills over to the Senate in a timely fashion.
“We had a clear plan all during the session to try to get a group of these pro-life bills passed, but unfortunately the Democrats chose not to negotiate in good faith,” Dewhurst said.
Perry added abortion restrictions to the agenda of the special session on June 11. If the legislation fails, he could choose to call the Legislature back for another 30-day special session at any time.
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.
1:22 a.m. BY AMAN BATHEJA
The Capitol rotunda, a space normally filled with tourists gawking at the architecture or couples snapping wedding photos, was filled with thousands of people waiting on news from the Senate at 11 p.m.
As the clock ticked closer to midnight, people looked anxiously at their phones for tweets and texts with the latest news. Many struggled to translate the parlimentary maneuvers into plain English.
At 11:47, someone from near the Senate chamber called out “We won!” The rotunda erupted in confused cheers. It died down briefly but soon started up again, many not understanding what they were celebrating. Activists on the ground floor and the balconies above began encouraging everyone to keep the cheering going. At the center of the rotunda stood Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards furiously pumping her arms in the air, helping the crowd to understand what was going on. They weren’t celebrating, she and other activists were wordlessly telling them. They were all working to drown out the Senate so it could not take another vote. Almost immediately, the crowd’s actions shifted from yelling to a deafening scream that seemed to shake the Capitol building.
The noise continued for nearly ten minutes unabated. At 11:55, a man on the second floor balcony removed a black “Rick Perry Sucks” T-shirt and began waving it as a banner. The crowd somehow began screaming and yelling louder. As every minute passed, activists put up fingers in the air to signify how many minutes were left until midnight.
With one minute remaining, protesters in the rotunda could be seen clapping, cheering and crying all at once. Some had their hands over their ears, their mouths frozen in mid-roar.
And then all at once, the crowd grew quiet, waiting to learn what happens next.
As news spread of an apparent vote in the Senate chamber after midnight and the uncertainty of its significance, the rotunda crowd grew restless, occasionally chanting “Wendy” or “Hell no, we won’t go.”
At 12:30 a.m., Democratic members of the Texas House walked into the rotunda, greeted like rock stars. State Reps. Jessica Farrar of Houston, Senfronia Thompson of Houston, Chris Turner of Arlington, Dawnna Dukes of Austin, and others thanked the crowd for their passion and work and vowed that the fight wasn’t over.
“It’s because of you we’re still in this fight,” Farrar said. “I can not tell you the debt of gratitude I have for you.”
Several made a point of reminding the activists to continue their work at the ballot box.
“We know we can make a difference when we take our government back,” state Rep. Yvonne Davis, D-Dallas, said. “And that means, in 2014, what?”
“Vote,” some of the protesters called back.
“And that means what?” Davis asked again.
“Vote!” the crowd yelled back at her in unison.
1:08 a.m. BY BECCA AARONSON
The state legislative website currently shows a record vote on Senate Bill 5 on June 25 — Tuesday, before midnight. The page has been edited, as it originally showed a record vote on June 26, 2011.
1:08 a.m. BY JAY ROOT
Sen. Wendy Davis, speaking to reporters after speech outside the Senate chamber to supporters: ‘’I have to say in my short experience here I‘ve never experienced a day at the Capitol like this one and I think people who have been here a lot longer than me will say the same thing. What I think it accomplished is what I hoped it would and that was to inspire people to understand that there are voices here on the senate floor that represent them. And I felt empowered by their presence by their support by the letters …. They made a difference and they are what makes Texans so amazing. And I am proud to be a Texan tonight.”
12:43 a.m. BY BECCA AARONSON
12:02 a.m. — that’s the time state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, says the Senate timestamp shows a vote taken on Senate Bill 5. If that’s true, the vote may not withstand legal scrutiny.
“It’s pretty conclusive that it didn’t pass,” said Whitmire. The Senate still has not officially adjourned sine die, although the special session legally ends at midnight. When Senators resume floor proceedings, Whitmire said Democrats will call a point of order on the motion to vote on a bill after the midnight deadline.
12:39 a.m. BY BRANDI GRISSOM
Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston: “I’m informed [SB5] passed 19-10.” He said the vote started before midnight.
“Things got out of control and they shouldn’t have gotten out of control,” Patrick said.
Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, interrupts Patrick surrounded by reporters and says the vote happened after midnight.
“The whole process was rigged and the vote didn’t happen until after midnight.”
Meanwhile, the crowd has been cleared from the Senate gallery but continues to cheer and shout in the Capitol halls.
12:35 a.m. BY JAY ROOT
Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin: “I don’t think people knew what they were voting on if a vote was taken.”
Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo: “We don’t know what happened because we couldn’t hear anything.”
12:31 a.m. BY BECCA AARONSON
It’s still unclear the exact time that the Senate voted and approved Senate Bill 5 — and whether that vote is valid.
“There will be people who see things as they see them…I think its fair to say this is not the way the Senate should do its business,” state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, told the press. He blamed the outburst in the gallery for disrupting the Senate’s processes. “The people can’t come and create so much of a ruckus that we can’t do our job,” he said.
Standing next to Patrick, state Sen. Juan ‘Chuy’ Hinojosa, D-McAllen, agreed that this is not the way the Senate should conduct its business. But he said the Senate should not be allowed to approve a bill during a special session past the midnight deadline, at which point, the session should be concluded.
“We didn’t even know we were voting,” said Hinojosa, adding that the Republican senators knew they were voting, but he and other Democrats were off the side holding up their cell phones at the time to show the press that it was past midnight. “How can we call a vote if we can’t hear?” he asked.
12:27 a.m. BY BECCA AARONSON
When the clock struck midnight, Republican senators were gathered around the dais attempting to vote on Senate Bill 5. It’s still unclear whether they were successful.
The protesters seated in the gallery erupted roughly 10 minutes before midnight, and screamed so loudly that the floor proceedings couldn’t be heard.
State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, told the press, “we started voting before midnight,” and therefore, it counted. But state Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, said, “the session is over with…it’s over with at midnight,” and so, the vote didn’t count.
10:57 p.m. BY ALANA ROCHA
Capitol staff assigned to the Senate confirms that Texas Department of Public Safety officers have locked the doors to the gallery on the 3rd floor of the Capitol. Anyone who leaves the third floor won’t be able to come back up. The same goes for those on the second floor. He was not sure if the outer doors were locked.
10:41 p.m. BY BECCA AARONSON
With less than an hour and a half remaining in the special session, Democrats are now asking a series of parliamentary inquiries to stall proceedings.
“Since I was at my father’s funeral, I ask that you please let me know, what were the three motions or the three points of order so that I may understand?” state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, asked Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, who is currently presiding over the Senate at the dais. “I was not looking online because I was at my father’s funeral.”
Duncan described the three points of order briefly: one was on the germaneness of the discussion, one was related to Davis receiving assistance from another senator, and the last was also on the germaneness of the discussion.
That’s when things got messy. Democrat and Republican senators began talking over each other, and passing the debate back and forth in order to gain control of the proceedings.
Specifically, Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, attempted to table Watson’s motion to appeal Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s decision to sustain the third point of order.
“The chair began recognizing other people when I began the process of debating the motion,” said Watson in an attempt to maintain control of the floor. “Sen. Estes’ motion was out of order, because I did not yield the floor.”
Other senators joined in the debate on whether the Senate should act on the motion to table Watson’s motion to appeal the point of order. The back and forth continues.
10:39 p.m. BY ALANA ROCHA
People seated in the senate gallery erupt upon learning that Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s ruling on a point of order ends state Sen. Wendy Davis’, D-Fort Worth, filibuster of SB 5.
10:11 p.m. BY BECCA AARONSON
State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, has moved to appeal Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s ruling on the third point of order that would end the Senate Bill 5 filibuster.
10:07 p.m. BY BECCA AARONSON
The Senate Bill 5 filibuster is coming to an end. The Democrats, led by state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, are on the verge of losing after she talked for more than 11 hours, nearly continuously, in an effort to kill abortion legislation.
State Sen. Donna Campbell, R-San Antonio, jumped to her feet to call a point of order on Davis when she began discussing the impact of the 2011 abortion sonogram law in Texas.
Davis tried to argue that her discussion of the impact of that law was germane, because the abortion restrictions in SB 5 would be coupled with the sonogram requirements. But that argument didn’t stick.
“After going over what people heard as far as discussion, Sen. Campbell your point of order iswell taken and is sustained,” said Dewhurst.
Davis’ third violation of the Senate’s filibuster rules came just before the filibuster countdown hit the two-hour mark. Now, the Senate can vote to end the filibuster and likely a vote on SB 5.
“Let her speak,” the audience in the gallery chanted. Despite multiple attempts, Dewhurst struggled to bring the chamber to order. State troopers have begun forcing everyone in the Senate gallery to exit the chamber. Correction: This post has been updated to reflect that the filibuster is not yet over. The motion to sustain the point of order is being debated.
9:52 p.m. BY SHEFALI LUTHRA
As the hours of the special session wind down, hundreds of activists have arrived at the Capitol to watch Sen. Wendy Davis in her final push to try to filibuster Senate Bill 5.
Protesters formed a line that filled three floors of the Capitol. Danielle Wells, a spokeswoman from Planned Parenthood, estimated about 700 people in line had come to oppose the legislation, making, she said, for a total of about 1,500 reproductive rights activists coming to the Capitol.
That count did not include activists who had arrived to voice their support for the bill. Though they were fewer in number, they made their presence noticed, with many brandishing posters that criticized abortion on moral grounds.
David Loewenberg, a student from the University of Texas at Austin, said he was inspired to come after seeing the number of people who had been mobilized to protest the bill. He said he was at work during the day but came after finishing.
Loewenberg, who said he opposed SB 5, said there was “a lot of energy and buzz around the Capitol,” though he said he did not know if that energy could be sustained if there were a second special session.
Sisters Alex and Eliza Adams — who both said they support SB 5 — said they had been following the Senate on Facebook in the day but wanted to come witness the end of the debate.
“This is kind of the final push,” Alex Adams said.
Many had come for their first taste of the debates around SB 5. Loriene Roy, who said she opposed the bill, said she had not come to any previous proceedings but was inspired to come after listening to Davis on the radio.
“I thought, I need to be here to witness history,” she said.
Some activists walked around the Capitol, distributing apples and peanuts to those who waited in line. A Planned Parenthood organizer informed reproductive rights activists who were waiting that there were doughnuts in one of their two overflow rooms downstairs.
9:02 p.m. BY BECCA AARONSON
President Barack Obama has given a shout out on Twitter to state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, and her effort to filibuster Senate Bill 5.
9 p.m. BY BECCA AARONSON
With little more than three hours remaining in the special session, state Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, interrupted the Senate Bill 5 filibuster to inquire as to whether senators could object to the documents being read by state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst clarified that if a senator objects to the documents being read, the Senate can vote on whether to allow the document to continue to be read.
“Fair to say these rules have become very flexible in this body?” asked state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston after Dewhurst added further clarification that the rule also applied to documents read from an iPad or other electronic device.
“I don’t think that’s a proper inquiry,” responded Dewhurst.
State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio has also arrived in the Senate, but has not made an appearance on the floor. She has been absent for the majority of the debate on SB 5, because she was attending her father’s funeral. Without her presence, Republicans would have had enough votes to suspend the rules and approve SB 5 on Monday if state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., who supports SB 5, had agreed to vote with them. He refrained from voting to suspend the rules out of respect for Van de Putte.
7:27 p.m. BY BECCA AARONSON
If state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, is charged with one more violation of the filibuster rules, her attempt to talk Senate Bill 5 to death could be over.
Davis received her second warning when the Senate voted 17 to 11 to sustain a point of order called by state Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, on Davis for receiving assistance to put on a back brace.
Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, help Davis to put on a back brace, violating a rule that prevents the filibusterer from receiving outside assistance.
“A filibuster is an endurance contest and it’s to be made unaided and unassisted,” Williams said in defense of the point of order.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst clarified after the point of order was sustained that if three points of order are sustained, a simple majority in the Senate could vote to end the filibuster. With a majority of Republicans in the chamber, that vote would surely succeed, and a vote on SB 5 would follow.
7:11 p.m. BY BECCA AARONSON
State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, could receive a second warning.
State Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, called a point of order on Davis for receiving assistance from another senator to put on a back brace. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst was asked to decide whether receiving assistance to put on a back brace violated a rule that senators cannot lean on anything or receive assistance from another person to remain standing during a filibuster. While existing precedents on that rule dealt with the comfort of the senator filibustering, Dewhurst said there was no clear comparison for an incident like this. Rather than rule on the incident, he turned the decision over to the Senate body for a vote.
“I want to plead with you, don’t destroy the few traditions that we’ve left in place in this body. Winning that one issue is not everything,” state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, said in her defense. He recalled a story of members of both parties gathering around a male senator during a filibuster to provide cover so he could empty the “astronaut bag” he had put on to relieve himself in.
5:59 p.m. BY BECCA AARONSON
As state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth passed the potential halfway mark of her 13-hour filibuster of Senate Bill 5, state Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, rose and made multiple attempts to call point of orders that her speech was not germane to the bill.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst ruled that discussion of Planned Parenthood’s budget was not germane to SB 5 and issued a warning.
There’s a three strikes, you’re out precedent in the Senate that allows senators two warnings about staying germane to the bill topic. On the third strike, a simple majority of the Senate can vote to end debate and the senator must yield the floor.
After the first warning was given to Davis, Nichols asked for a second point of order on something said by state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin. Dewhurst also ruled that speech, which was regarding the U.S. Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, was not germane. But the warning did not apply to Davis — it applied to Watson.
Dewhurst overruled a second point of order Nichols attempted to call on Watson. But it is clear Republicans will continue their efforts to call out Democrats on speech that is not germane.
4:34 p.m. BY AMAN BATHEJA
While various lawmakers are discussing the possibility of a second special session if state Sen. Wendy Davis’ filibuster is successful, Perry is not showing his cards.
A spokeswoman for the governor’s office said it is too early to tell whether Perry will call a second special session if key legislation fails to pass today.
Along with Senate Bill 5, the abortion bill Davis is trying to kill, a transportation funding measure and a criminal justice bill are also waiting for final passage from the Senate.
As Davis’ filibuster has continued, lawmakers have discussed the possibility of Perry adding one or more of those issues to the agenda of a second special session.
4:33 p.m. BY SHEFALI LUTHRA
In a response to Sen. Wendy Davis’ filibuster Tuesday afternoon, several Republican members of the House from Tarrant County said they intended to deliver 84,601 blank sheets of paper to Davis’ office. Each sheet, they said, symbolizes an abortion they said took place in Texas in 2011.
“Senator Davis does not represent the views of the people in our area on this issue,” said Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington. “She’s playing political games with the lives of Texans that deserve protection.”
Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, said that though House Republicans want the bill to pass today, it is their “hope and prayer” that Gov. Rick Perry will call a second special session if SB 5 fails to pass by midnight.
State Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, said Republicans have begun working on a letter to Perry asking him to call the Legislature back into session. Hughes is not from Tarrant County but has ardently supported SB 5 in the House.
Earlier this afternoon, Perry’s office said it was too soon to say whether there would be a second special session.
The GOP demonstration prompted questions from reporters about whether SB 5 is meant to promote women’s health. Critics of the bill have argued that it is meant to restrict access to abortion without regard for women’s safety.
Stickland said he hoped that more abortion clinics would have to shut down if SB 5 were to pass.
The bill would require abortion providers to meet the same standards as state ambulatory surgical centers, which are stricter than standards that providers currently must meet. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst drew criticism last week when he tweeted suggesting that SB 5 was intended to shut down all but five abortion providers in the state.
But Hughes said SB 5 is intended to protect women if they do choose to have an abortion. “For the remaining abortions that do take places, safety will be there,” he said. “We’re talking in that case about the safety of the woman.”
Rep. Chris Turner, a Democrat from Grand Prairie, called the demonstration and conference “a cheap political stunt” that he said indicated Republicans’ fear that Davis would succeed in her filibuster.
Turner, who is also from Tarrant County, said SB 5 represents “big government at its worst,” and he praised Davis for her attempt to run out the clock before it can pass. “Senator Davis is fighting for her constituents in Tarrant County,” he said, adding that “women need basic access to health care.”
4:29 p.m. BY BECCA AARONSON
When given the opportunity to ask questions, state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-McAllen, explained his decision not to vote with Republicans to suspend the 24-hour layout rule so that the Senate could consider Senate Bill 5 on Monday.
“I did it because it was the right thing to do, it was the Christian thing to do,” he said, “because our colleague had lost her grandchild and her father and was tied up with family.”
If Lucio, a Roman Catholic who identifies as “pro-life,” had voted with Republicans to suspend the rules when state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, was attending a memorial for her father, they would have had enough votes to approve SB 5 on Monday — or force another senator to filibuster it for more than 24 hours.
“The majority of abortions that are being conducted are in this state and country as a result of unwanted pregnancies and that is hard for me to understand,” said Lucio. He later added, “if the governor doesn’t call for another special and we won’t have an opportunity to address this issue, then more will die.”
3:42 p.m. BY BECCA AARONSON
State Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, the author of the portion of Senate Bill 5 that would require abortions to be performed in ambulatory surgical centers, broke the flow of the filibuster to ask a few questions.
Davis made clear that she would not yield the floor — which would give Deuell an opportunity to end her filibuster — but she agreed to answer questions.
“Do you think some of these vulnerable women should not have the state of Texas protect them by setting standards of care?” asked Deuell, a family physician who has consistently argued that raising the standards of medical facilities that perform abortion would increase women’s safety.
“Do you think the traditions of the Texas Senate are more important than women’s safety?” asked Deuell, hinting that Republican senators are debating whether an attempt to cut off the filibuster would set a bad precedent and end future filibusters in the Senate.
“There are people that want to protect their tradition and believe that if this filibuster is stopped, it will be the end of filibusters,” said state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston. He said the bill’s potential to protect women’s health and the unborn outweighs Senate tradition.
“So, we’re going to stand on a rule book and protect our 35-year rule and let a baby die a horrific death in the womb?” he asked.
Patrick said he submitted a “green sheet” to Senate leadership this morning officially requesting a procedure known as “calling the previous question” that could potentially cut off the filibuster. The rules require that five other Senators sign on to end the debate, which Patrick said he has.
Pointing to a 1957 precedent, Rick Svatora, a spokesman for Davis, said that calling the question would not end the filibuster, but it would end debate among other senators if Davis yielded the floor.
“It appears that historically, the rule has been read to mean that the passage of the motion does not end a senator’s filibuster once it is underway,” he said in an email. “It instead stops any further debate after that senator is finished speaking.”
3:04 p.m. BY ALANA ROCHA
A couple of hours into state the filibuster of state Sen.Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, SB 5, Mike Bradford, an abortion opponent took his lunch break from work to speak against abortion from his seat in the Senate gallery. He shouted, “History will show that we’re on the wrong side of this debate,” and was escorted out of the gallery.
Bradford called SB 5 “bandage legislation.” He said abortions should be banned “because that’s the only way you’re going to solve the problem of killing innocent lives.” He explains in this clip why he believes abortion is genocide.
2:37 p.m. BY SHEFALI LUTHRA
Activists on both sides of the Senate Bill 5 debate continued lining up outside the Senate gallery, filling seats as others left them while state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, passed the three-hour mark of her filibuster.
Both sides are trying to fill more seats with their respective colors — blue for abortion opponents and orange for reproductive rights advocates — to make their presence felt.
“We’ll stay and support SB 5 until there isn’t an SB 5 to support,” said Rich Deotte, who had come with his wife to see the proceedings. Deotte, who was also at the Capitol on Sunday during the House debate of the bill, said he did not believe Davis’ filibuster was about promoting women’s health. Rather, he said, it was part of a campaign to make her a strong gubernatorial candidate in 2014.
Reproductive rights advocates, who oppose the legislation, watched a livestream of the filibuster from an overflow room in the Capitol auditorium. Those protesters have also set up a base in the office of state Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, where organizers kept coolers of drinks and snacks.
SB 5 supporters remained fewer in number than the bill’s opponents, but several said they intended to remain until the end of the Senate session Tuesday.
Tonya Young, who came from Beaumont with three of her daughters to support SB 5, called the filibuster “part of the process.”
Young said she had an abortion almost 20 years ago and found the facilities were unsafe for women. Although she said she opposes abortions on principle, she added that if they are legal, she believes the facilities should be held to higher standards that would be required under SB 5.
Though she said she does not believe Davis will be able to speak until midnight, she and her daughters will stay if she does.
“This is what we came for,” she said
Planned Parenthood organizer Brittany Yelverton said reproductive rights groups expect many protesters who oppose the bill to stay through the end of the filibuster. Carolee Moore, who came from San Antonio, said she would stay for as long as she could but “probably can’t” watch all night. Her husband, David Plylar, said they would stay for longer if doing so would help keep a high ratio of orange T-shirts in the gallery.
2:19 p.m. BY BECCA AARONSON
State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, broke into tears while reading the testimony of a woman opposed to Senate Bill 5 who was forced to abort her pregnancy because of medical complications.
“Instead of choosing an outfit for her to move home, I was picking out her burial gown,” she read as she cried. She had to pause multiple times between words to keep going. “I held her — kissed her — watched her get baptized — told her that I loved her and I said, ‘Goodbye.’”
By reading the stories and testimony of women that came to the Capitol to oppose Senate Bill 5, Davis is acting as the “voice of those people that basically were cut off,” said Rick Svatora, her communications director.
When a House committee considered the measures in SB 5 and HB 60, the chairman ended testimony near 4 a.m. with more than a hundred of reproductive rights still registered to testify.
State Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie sent an email to constituents asking for them tosend more stories for Davis to read during the filibuster.
“Once she starts, Senator Davis cannot stop until the clock strikes midnight,” Turner said in the email. “It is critical that we help Senator Davis stop SB 5 in its tracks,” he said.
On the question of whether Davis is equipped for the long haul with a catheter, Svatora said that before the filibuster began Davis told another reporter, “I’ve taken care of it, that’s all you need to know.”
1:22 p.m. BY BECCA AARONSON
With 11 hours to go for her to successfully filibuster SB 5, speculation is growing about whether Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, is equipped to stay the course.
“She can’t eat or drink while she’s filibustering,” Rick Svatora, the senator’s communications director said in an email. She also cannot leave the floor to use the restroom, but Svatora did not respond to the question of whether she was catheterized.
She continued reading aloud the testimony of SB5 opponents.
12:41 p.m. BY BECCA AARONSON
State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, was briefly interrupted when a man screamed from the Senate gallery overhead, “abortion is genocide, if you really cared about women…you would ban abortion completely.”
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst banged the gavel to call the Senate to order as a state trooper removed the man from the gallery. Dewhurst asked for silence, so that senators could hear Davis as she continued.
11:59 a.m. BY BECCA AARONSON
State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, must continue talking for 12 more hours to filibuster Senate Bill 5.
After describing how each bill filed during the regular session failed — many because a group of Democratic senators blocked the bills from coming up for consideration in the upper chamber — she launched into criticism of specific measures in Senate Bill 5.
“The real aim of this bill is not to make women safer, but to force the closure of multiple facilities across the state of Texas,” said Davis, “without a single care or concern for the women whose lives will be impacted by that decision. Not a single care or concern.”
She is currently reading letters from physicians describing why they are opposed to the measures in the bill.
11:34 a.m. BY BECCA AARONSON
At 11:18 a.m. state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, began her filibuster of Senate Bill 5.
“Partisanship and ambition are not unusual in a state capitol, but here in Texas, right now,” said Davis, “it has risen to a level of profound irresponsibility and the raw abuse of power.”
She chastised Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst for undermining the Senate’s traditional two-thirds rule that had blocked the provisions in Senate Bill 5 from coming up for debate in the Senate during the regular session.
Before Davis began the filibuster, Dewhurst reminded the packed gallery in the Senate that the chamber has strict rules of decorum, and asked, “any applause, make it polite.”
State Sen. Glen Hegar, R-Katy, briefly described the legislation before the filibuster began. He said it includes the 20-week ban and recognizes the state has a compelling interest to protect fetuses that can feel pain, requires facilities that perform abortions to meet surgical facility standards, strengthens rules for prescribing abortion-inducing drugs and requires doctors that perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges.
10:39 a.m. BY BECCA AARONSON
Despite the tick-tock of the special session clock, the Senate has not reconvened. They could have started as early as 10 a.m.
Republican senators are currently caucusing behind the chamber, likely brainstorming a game play to respond to state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth’s threat to filibuster SB 5.
Meanwhile, Democrats are milling about the chamber floor speaking to each other and a handful of House members that have wandered over.
10:24 a.m. BY SHEFALI LUTHRA
As lawmakers prepared for the final day of special session, protesters for and against Senate Bill 5 — the omnibus abortion bill the Senate will take up today — swarmed the Capitol.
“The whole world is watching Texas,” said Cecile Richards, president of the national Planned Parenthood organization and daughter of former Gov. Ann Richards. She later added that she hopes her presence will remind protesters that “we’re standing with the women and men of Texas.”
Activists had begun arriving about an hour before the Senate gallery opened its doors at 9:30 am. While several people dressed in blue said they had come in support of the bill, the majority were wearing orange, the color reproductive rights activists have been using to identify themselves.
Debi Wehmeier, who had come in support of SB 5, said she was one of the first anti-abortion activists to arrive. Although she expects more supporters of the bill to arrive later in the day, she said reproductive rights groups were “more organized” in terms of generating turnout.
By 9:45, about 350 activists had arrived to protest the bill, said Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Danielle Wells. Wells added that more protesters would be arriving throughout the day.
Lize Burr, president of the Capital Area Democratic Women and one of the protest’s organizers, said it “makes sense” that today’s turnout is smaller than Sunday’s, given that the Senate debate starts on a Tuesday morning. But she said given that timing, the turnout of hundreds was still significant.
Protesters opposed to the bill said they were excited to see state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, who plans to filibuster SB 5 on Tuesday.
Many protesters had taken time off work to come protest, she said, adding that one had texted her saying if she came today, she would be fired for taking too much time off.
Abortion rights activists — several of whom had come to protest the bill for the first time — said they appreciated Richards’ presence and said it underscored SB 5’s significance. Richards was originally supposed to address the protesters, but Planned Parenthood organizers said those plans were canceled to make sure protesters could stay in line and enter the Senate gallery as soon as it opened.
“It just makes a bold statement that this is a serious thing,” said Anu Kapadia, who said today marks her first time coming to protest SB 5. Leslie Larson, another protester standing with her, added that SB 5 is “a national issue, given how big the population is.” “It makes perfect sense a national representative is here,” she added.
9:43 a.m. BY BRANDI GRISSOM
As the Senate prepares to reconvene today and take up abortion legislation, set up your Twitter feed to follow all the action with @becca_aa, @shefalil and @brandigrissom.
This story is reprinted through a news partnership between the Tribune and the San Marcos Mercury.Email | Print