Planned Parenthood declares victory in Senate abortion filibuster

As the Texas Senate remains caucusing behind closed doors, Planned Parenthood is declaring victory in the fight to block an omnibus abortion bill on the floor, Tuesday.

Sen. Wendy Davis filibustered the proposed legislation for more than 10 hours, before Republican lawmakers used Senate rules in an attempt to stop the delay and move the bill forward. A vote took place sometime around midnight, amid loud protests and chants from hundreds of pro-choice supporters in Senate gallery. Confusion ensued over whether or not the vote actually took place before the 12:00 deadline.

While the official fate remains unknown, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards issued this statement, declaring SB5 dead, for now:

“What has happened here in Texas over the course of the last week is nothing short of remarkable.  Facing near-impossible odds, thousands of Texans descended on Austin to make their voices heard – telling their legislators that they would not stand for legislation that would hurt thousands of women and essentially end access to safe, legal abortion.  Tonight, Texans won.

“Governor Perry knew all along he couldn’t pass this bill by the books.  He and his allies resorted to shutting down the debate, blocking testimony from the very women whose lives would be affected, voting in the middle of the night, and employing cheap tricks to try shut down a heroic filibuster by Senator Wendy Davis.

“This fight showed once again that we are all better off when women and their doctors – not politicians – are the ones making medical decisions. We made history tonight, but we know this isn’t the end of the fight to protect women’s access to health care in Texas. We thank State Senator Wendy Davis and every other legislator who stood up for women, and we urge Governor Perry and his allies to focus on the issues that Texans want them to address, and leave the medical decision-making to women and their doctors.

“Tonight, we sent a message to Governor Perry and every politician who wants to interfere in women’s medical decisions: Enough is enough. With every attack, Governor Perry and his friends are creating a new generation of activists, and changing this state forever.”

Abortion bill filibuster ends in uncertainty, accusations of foul play

The clock appears to have run out on the special session, but the final vote on a piece of controversial abortion legislation is still in dispute.

Amid deafening shouts from the gallery, the Texas Senate attempted to vote on Senate Bill 5, which would would give Texas some of the strictest abortion regulations in the country if passed.

The vote came after an hours-long filibuster by Democrats. Sen. Wendy Davis talked for more than 10 hours Tuesday to block the bill. Senate rules required her to stay standing without any food, water or assistance from others. She also had to stay on topics related to the bill.

Republicans eventually ended the filibuster by pointing out technicalities in the procedure, but Democrats spent the next two hours challenging the rulings. Shortly before midnight, spectators in the Senate gallery started yelling so loudly that Senators couldn’t hear to conduct business.

While DPS officers cleared the gallery, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst called for a vote on the bill. Democrats say the vote came too late — after midnight — and therefore after the session had ended, but Republicans claim the bill passed.

The legislature’s online record-keeping system currently shows that the vote happened at some point before midnight. However, shortly before 1:30 a.m., Democratic Rep. Joe Deshotel Tweeted this photo, which appears to show that the vote happened after the midnight deadline and was later changed.


Senate filibuster enters 10th hour, Davis not yielding for questions

Sen. Wendy Davis’ filibuster has now entered its 10th hour. Davis took to the microphone at 11:18 a.m. to speak against Senate Bill 5. She is attempting to hold the floor until midnight — the official end of the special session — in an effort to kill the legislation for good.

Under Senate rules, Davis is prohibited from eating, drinking or taking a bathroom break. Davis is also required to stand at her desk without sitting or leaning and cannot have assistance from other senators. Other members have been allowed to ask questions and Democrats have been using parliamentary procedure to give Davis a few short breaks.

If Davis violates those rules three times, the Senate can vote to end the filibuster. So far, Davis is on strike two. The first point of order came when Republicans claimed Davis’ remarks about Planned Parenthood funding strayed too far off topic. The second was upheld when Sen. Tommy Williams raised a point of order after Sen. Rodney Ellis helped Davis put on a back brace to help ease her discomfort. Lawmakers voted that Davis had broken the rules by accepting help from a colleague. Davis has since ceased yielding for questions.

Davis’ filibuster has gained national media attention, even garnering a tweet from President Barack Obama’s Twitter account, saying “Something special is happening in Austin #StandWithWendy.”



Livestream: Senate abortion bill filibuster

Senate abortion bill filibuster underway

Senate Democrats are making a final stand in an attempt to kill abortion legislation. Sen. Wendy Davis began a floor filibuster around 11:17 a.m. and will attempt to talk until the special session ends at midnight.

Thus far, Davis has recapped all of the abortion bills filed during the regular session, explaining why each failed to pass. She spent time reading testimony from committee meetings during the regular session and said earlier she intends to read the testimony that was not heard during a committee hearing last week. Currently, Davis is reading medical research backing up her claim that the stricter rules do not improve women’s health care.

Under Senate rules, Davis is prohibited from eating, drinking or taking a bathroom break. Davis will also have to stand at her desk without sitting or leaning. Other members are allowed to interrupt to ask questions.

Davis’ attempt to kill the abortion bill may also effectively kill two other pieces of legislation on the special session call. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst placed SB 5 first on the floor calendar, meaning if Davis does speak until midnight, lawmakers will not have an opportunity to vote on transportation funding or new juvenile justice legislation. Before beginning her speech, Davis indicated the Democrats supported both pieces of legislation and were disappointed they would not be put up for a vote.


Capital Tonight: House Democrat discusses role in abortion debate

Battle over Abortion

With fewer than 32 Hours left in the special session, Texas Democrats held steady in their mission to block the legislature from passing a controversial list of abortion regulations.

Sen. Wendy Davis sent a letter to the lieutenant governor saying she’s ready to filibuster the bill when it comes up in the Senate. But it’s Rep. Jessica Farrar’s efforts on the House side that many believe will have given her that opportunity. We sat down with the State Affairs Committee member to get her perspective.


After months of deliberation, the Supreme Court revealed it would sidestep a sweeping ruling on affirmative action in the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin case.

Our Washington D-C bureau reporter looked at the wider implications.

On the Agenda

Plus, the Quorum Report‘s Harvey Kronberg says Texas Republicans are nationalizing the midterm elections. He joined us to explain why.

Texas House formally approves controversial abortion bill

A controversial abortion bill is now on its way back to the Senate. The Texas House formally passed the stricter regulations Monday morning, despite Democrats’ efforts to block them.

Debate lasted well into the early morning hours, as hundreds of abortion-rights supporters looked on from the gallery. Democrats had been hoping to stall the legislation long enough that the Senate would be able to kill it via filibuster ahead of Tuesday’s midnight deadline. Lawmakers spent 15 hours offering up amendments and using parliamentary tactics to delay the process until Republicans finally voted to suspend debate.

SB 5 is the omnibus abortion bill already passed by the Senate. It requires abortions to be performed in ambulatory surgical centers, requires doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and requires that the abortion drug RU 486 be administered in person by a doctor. The House version includes a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, which the Senate version does not.

Opponents have said the new rules would force all but five abortion clinics in the state to shut their doors. The bill’s supporters argued it will lead to improved women’s health care.

The Senate will now have to wait 24 hours before considering the changes made to its version. That means a Democrat in the Senate would have to speak on the floor for more than 24 hours to kill the legislation.


Democrats working to block abortion bills

Texas Republican lawmakers are working against the clock to push stiffer abortion regulations through the state legislature.  But Democrats are doing what they can to block it from happening.

Hundreds of abortion activists on both sides of the issue greeted House members Sunday afternoon. A sea of people in burnt orange shirts filled the Capitol rotunda speaking out against the bills.

“We’re paying attention as well,” said Shelby Alexander, an abortion rights activist. “I think that it shows that even in a Special Session, when our state leadership think they could sneak these bills by us, we know better.”

Others wore tape over their mouths in silent protest in support of the legislation.

“We have the tape over our mouths to show an example of all the silent voices that would cry out for their own lives if they were given a chance,” Cynthia Umstattd, an anti-abortion activist, said.

Debate on the issue continued into the late night Sunday as Democrats offered up amendments and used stall tactics to keep the bills from passing.

So what exactly will passing stricter abortion measures mean for Texans?

If the House versions are approved, the bills would ban abortions after 20 weeks, require abortions take place in surgical centers and restrict where and when women can take abortion-inducing pills. Part of the new law would also require doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles.

If passed, it could mean 90 percent of the abortion clinics in Texas would close.

The Special Session ends Tuesday at midnight.


Capital Tonight: Controversial committee hearings overshadow redistricting vote

Busy Thursday

Minutes after capping off a nearly six-hour debate on redistricting, many House lawmakers marched off to tackle even more contentious issues.

The House State Affairs Committee saw more than 400 people line up to testify on a list of abortion bills, including one that would ban abortion after 20 weeks. At the same time, the House Appropriations Committee considered Rep. Sylvester Turner’s plan to override the governor’s veto of Public Integrity Unit funding.

Regent Impeachment?

A high-ranking House member is making a move to impeach one of the UT regents, and it appears to have some support. Our Capital Commentators weighed in on that and more.

New Poll Numbers

Plus, James Henson of the Texas Politics Project joined us to talk about the latest poll numbers on abortion laws in Texas. Click the image below to hear more.

New UT / TT poll sheds light on voters’ abortion opinions

On the same day heated testimony is expected at a House committee meeting on abortion, a new University of Texas / Texas Tribune poll is shedding some light on Texans’ opinions on the issue. According to the Tribune, “voters remain split on the permissibility of abortion, but favor banning the procedure after 20 weeks of pregnancy.” The so-called fetal pain bill is among restrictions lawmakers are considering.

The poll shows 16 percent of voters said abortion should never be allowed and another 30 percent said it should only be allowed in “cases of rape, incest or danger to women’s life.” On the other side, 36 percent said abortion is a matter of personal choice.




The poll also asked if voters thought abortion laws should be stricter. Thirty-eight percent said yes, they should. That’s compared to 26 percent who said they should be less strict and 21 percent who said no change is needed.

On the question of the so called ‘fetal pain’ bill lawmakers will discuss today, the poll showed an overwhelming number of people support banning abortion after 20 weeks. The outcome of that poll was essentially the same whether the words ‘fetal pain’ were used, or not.