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The Filibuster That's Fixating America

Photograph by AFP/Getty Images

Update: Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has declared that the vote happened after midnight, and thus, is invalid—therefore, the bill was struck down and Wendy Davis's filibuster was successful.

Texas is on the verge of enacting a restrictive abortion law—but not if Senator Wendy Davis (D) has anything to say about it. And does she ever, The Christian Science Monitor and Huffington Post report. Yesterday she attempted a 13-hour filibuster, without taking a ladies’ room break or leaning on anything for support, in an attempt to halt the controversial bill, which was waved through the Texas House on Monday.

Among its terms: Abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy would be banned, and doctors who perform the procedure would be required to maintain professional access at nearby hospitals. In effect, its critics say, the bill’s tightened restrictions would close all but five of Texas’s existing abortion clinics.

That’s where Davis’s filibuster came in—if she could last till Tuesday at midnight, she and the Democrats reasoned, the state Senate’s current special legislative session would end, and with it, the chance to pass any new laws. Davis wore a back brace to help keep her upright during her marathon talk.

"We want to do whatever we can for women in this state," said state Senator Kirk Watson, leader of the Senate Democrats, said on Monday.

Though other states have either suggested or imposed restrictions on abortion--including Alabama, Arkansas, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Virginia—Texas’s initiative is especially controversial, since it would be the strictest set of abortion laws to affect the largest number of people in America.

Other restrictions the bill would bring about would include limiting abortions to surgical centers and mandating that doctors monitor nonsurgical abortion procedures. Doctors would also be required to have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of a procedure. Yet most hospitals in Texas won’t give abortion doctors admitting privileges (either due to fear of protestors or because of religious objections), creating a Catch-22.

Will Davis and the Democrats succeed in turning back the bill? It remains to be seen who will have the final word. Republicans shut down her filibuster with 90 minutes to go on a technicality and tried to vote on the bill 12 minutes before the legislative session expired. Pandemonium broke out as a crowd of protesting spectators started to scream. Both sides are claiming victory … stay tuned.

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