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The Amazing Wendy Davis & the Texas Fillibuster

June 26th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon

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.)

Posted in Human rights | 12 Comments »

12 Responses

  1. interested party Says:

    So apparently this site is ok with killing babies, Spit.

  2. interested party Says:

    So my comments are now not posted? Just because I don’t believe in killing babies you are going to sensor me?

  3. Celeste Fremon Says:


    Dear Interested Party: You’re quite right, of course. Your comment about killing babies and spitting was posted at 4:43 pm yet, by 4:49 pm when you posted your second comment in what appears to be a state of 1st Amendment pique, I had yet to approve comment number one, as I was still in the car driving from my home office to a meeting. Thus I did not approve the thing—or any other comments for that matter— until I was stationary again a few minutes after 5 pm.

    My bad.

    Censorship is a terrible thing. Especially when one is slowing the pace of such enlightened and mutually respectful discourse.

  4. interested party Says:

    This just helps me understand the writer I’m dealing with. Never would I help a person that condones killing babies.

  5. J.London Says:

    C: Why is it when he comes to a woman’s right to chose the man who got her pregnant is usually left out of the debate? Isn’t the baby part of the man? And why should the taxpayer pay for someone else’s sex? Why don’t we make the man; man up? Why is it, Liberal Progressives (so-called) are so against Capital Punishment of those who done nothing but slaughter our fellow human beings BUT, have no problem with destroying our innocence even if born alive? We all know Dr, Gosnell who got very little press nationwide! According to the economist of ‘Freakonomics’ crime dropped primarily because of all the African-American abortions. Very sad commentary of our society. We have killed more babies than ALL the American military killed in all our wars, according to a book by Steven Pinker. I understand a need for birth control but killing of babies should not be part of birth control. Maybe if we taught adults to love their children more we would have less inhumanity and fewer Liberals!

  6. interested party Says:

    Celeste I have to apologize as I let my heart speak for my fat mouth.

    I would like to ask 2 questions of you…

    Do you support abortion?

    Do you support the 11+ million illegals becoming legal citizens?

  7. Cognistator Says:

    #6: “Do you support the 11+ million illegals becoming legal citizens?”

    The Immigration Bill goes now to the House, and an inkling of its fate there can be adduced here:

    Also, the controversy roiling the Republican Party about Immigration & other issues seems to be between unelected Republicans, like Karl Rove, and elected Republicans. It’ll be interesting to see how THAT turns out.

  8. freakanomics revisited Says:

    Christopher Foote and Christopher Goetz have already demonstrated that a computer error in Levitt and Donahue’s statistical analysis lead to an artificially inflated relationship between legalized abortion and crime reduction. Once other crime-associated factors were properly controlled for, the effect of abortion on arrests was reduced by about half. Foote and Goetz also criticize Levitt and Donahue’s use of arrest totals rather than arrests per capita, which takes population size into account. Using Census Bureau population estimates, Foote and Goetz repeated the analysis using arrest rates in place of simple arrest totals, and found that the effect of abortion disappeared entirely. Meanwhile, lest we be misled by those enamored of pre-emptive execution, eugenics, or the lust for genocide — crime dropped because of more and better policing. African American babies and immigrants make for a nice diversion. More NSA surveillance and a gander at the following may be of interest to those longing for the Fourth Reich:

  9. interested party Says:

    @ Cognistator, no I don’t support 11+ million illegal invaders.

  10. J. London Says:

    Freak Rev: Thanks for the update.

  11. J. London Says:

    Freak: I forgot to add that Donahue and Levitt admit the error but still maintain that their argument about abortion and crime, in their 2004 paper, is stronger today! I agree that unwanted children commit crimes. I want to believe that better policing methods has brought down crime. However, if true that the killing of minority children,especially African American children, has brought crime down then again I assert what a sad commentary on our society. Add, that Ms. Davis should be removed from office!!!

  12. Cognistator Says:

    #9: I knew that; that’s why the statement is in quotes.

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