Posted on June 26, 2013 at 5:21 PM
Wednesday, Jun 26 at 5:22 PM
AUSTIN -- Their shouts still filling the Texas Capitol well after 3 a.m. Wednesday morning, hundreds of abortion rights supporters cheered state Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) after final word a controversial abortion bill failed to pass the Texas Senate.
"That's because of you!" Davis told the energetic crowd that had remained inside the Capitol building for hours awaiting the resolution of Senate Bill 5. Davis stood for more than 12 hours in an effort to filibuster sweeping new regulations that threatened to shutter all but five abortion clinics in a state of more than 26 million people.
After Republican senators voted to end the filibuster over a third and final rules infraction within 15 minutes of the special session's 12 a.m. deadline, the overflow crowd in the gallery exploded into chaos. Shouts at Republican lawmakers and applause for Davis became so deafening, the noise drowned out attempts to vote on the bill. As the clock struck midnight, both sides claimed victory.
Internal Senate records provided to media by state Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa (D-McAllen) initially showed the vote taking place Wednesday, but were later altered to show the vote as being taken on time. Republicans contended that the vote began before midnight, just in time to pass the legislation before the first special session expired.
"That vote started at midnight, and we were out of session," state Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) insisted to media amid the confusion. After three hours of deliberations behind closed doors, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R-Texas) returned to the Senate floor to acknowledge time had run out before the bill could be signed.
"Regrettably the constitutional time for the first called session of the 83rd Texas Legislature has expired," said Dewhurst. "It's been fun, but see you soon."
"My back hurts, and I don't have a whole lot of words left in my vocabulary after all that talking," Davis told reporters. "But I am overwhelmed, honestly, by the thousands of people who participated in what happened today."
"They wanted the bill to be killed, so they did everything they could including getting the crowd to chant," said state Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston), author of the bill's provision placing additional regulations on abortion drug RU-486.
In a post to social media site Facebook Wednesday morning, Dewhurst placed the blame for the bill's failure on Tuesday's audience:
"I am furious about the outcome of the final day of this Special Session, when an unruly, screaming mob using “Occupy Wall Street” tactics derailed legislation intended to protect the health of Texas women and their babies. An unconscionable series of delaying actions by the minority party and their allies placed SB 5 in direct jeopardy of death-by-filibuster upon its arrival in the Senate. Pushing every parliamentary procedure to its limit, we passed SB 5 19-10, but the deafening roar from the gallery drowned out any possibility of adjourning with a signed bill. I pledge to Texas one thing: this fight is far from over."
"It wouldn't have happened without that gallery," Davis said in an interview with KVUE Wednesday afternoon. "The people who were there who inspired strength in all of us throughout the day, at about 11:45 p.m. rose to protest what they saw as being an abuse of the parliamentary procedures in the Senate. Even novices to our Senate rules understood that they were not being applied correctly, and because of their voices, literally their voices and the outcry that they made, it was simply impossible for a vote to be taken on a timely basis."
Supporters argue the bill would have led to fewer and safer abortions, hoping for another special session to bring it back. On Wednesday, that request was granted by Gov. Rick Perry's (R-Texas) decision to call a second 30-day special session
beginning July 1 to include the topic of abortion.
“I am calling the Legislature back into session because too much important work remains undone for the people of Texas," Perry said in a statement. "Through their duly elected representatives, the citizens of our state have made crystal clear their priorities for our great state. Texans value life and want to protect women and the unborn. Texans want a transportation system that keeps them moving. Texans want a court system that is fair and just. We will not allow the breakdown of decorum and decency to prevent us from doing what the people of this state hired us to do."
"If he adds this item again, I think we can expect the same kind of public response that we saw this time," Davis told KVUE. "Who knows if the calendar will play to our advantage as it did in this special session, but time will tell. I would be willing to do it all over again, absolutely."