On Tuesday, many eyes were trained on the Supreme Court, grieving the savaging of a crucial section of the Voting Rights Act, and hoping for rulings on the Defense of Marriage Act—DOMA—and California’s Prop. 8, that would lean toward human rights and the future rather than maintainin the ethics of the past, when some people’s rights, dignity and happiness mattered more than those of others.
Then this morning, of course, two decisions came down from SCOTUS that our grandchildren, and their children will still be talking about.
But on Tuesday, there was another amazing drama taking place in the Texas Legislature, where the daughter of young teenage single mom, and herself once a once-teenage single mom, now a Harvard Law School grad and a Texas state senator, filibustered for more than ten hours—without a bathroom break, without sitting down, without changing the subject away from the retrograde legislation up for a vote that would shutter most clinics that offer abortions in the state, which she was attempting to block
Here’s Rolling Stone’s explanation of why Texas state senator Wendy Davis’s fillibuster was important. Jessica Mason Peiklo has the story. Here’s a clip:
On Monday, the Texas State House voted overwhelmingly to pass a draconian proposal that would ban all abortions after 20 weeks, as well as adding stringent new restrictions on how clinics get licensed. The intent was clear: Supporters of the bill, known as SB 5, openly acknowledged that the law would have closed 37 of the state’s 42 clinics, leaving hundreds of thousands of women in Texas and neighboring states like Oklahoma with no way to access abortion care. With a conservative majority in the State Senate and the support of Governor Rick Perry, the measure seemed certain to become law.
But on Tuesday, Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis, backed by an army of feminist supporters, launched an epic 13-hour filibuster and shut the whole thing down.
Davis began her filibuster just after 11 A.M. yesterday, reading aloud testimony from doctors and women who would be impacted by the restrictions. For the filibuster to work, Davis had to speak until midnight – the deadline for the end of a 30-day special session called by Gov. Perry to address left-over GOP priorities like closing nearly all the abortion clinics in the state and redistricting. This wasn’t the kind of symbolic filibuster in name only seen in the U.S. Senate: Under Texas’ parliamentary rules, Davis was required to speak continuously and only on the topic of the bill the entire time. She couldn’t take breaks to eat, take a sip of water or go to the bathroom. She could not lean against anything for support. If Davis broke any of these rules, the filibuster would die and SB 5 would become law.
Just before the midnight deadline, Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst sustained a third and final challenge to Davis’ filibuster – this one on the germaneness of discussing the 2011 law that forces Texas women to undergo invasive ultrasounds – and called for a vote. Hundreds of protesters who had gathered in the senate gallery erupted in outrage.
With the clock still running, Davis’ colleagues stepped up. State Senator Leticia Van De Putte, who arrived at the Capitol in the afternoon after spending the morning at her father’s funeral, challenged Republican leaders at the podium who did not recognize one of her attempts to speak: “At what point does a female senator need to raise her voice to be heard over the male colleagues in the room?” Van De Putte’s procedural mic drop prompted even louder, sustained cheering from the crowd; Republicans pounced on the chaos, trying to force through a vote…..
(Read the rest for the outcome of this consequential legislative drama.)