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After Filibuster, TX Abortion Battle Lives On

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis' near 13-hour filibuster stopped the passage of a controversial abortion restriction bill this week. But the battle over the proposed law is sitll very much alive.

Davis, D-Fort Worth, delivered her filibuster from around noon Tuesday until past midnight Wednesday, using up the Texas Senate's time to vote on the bill that sought to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, reports The Washington Post. But hours later, Texas Gov. Rick Perry called another special session, ordering lawmakers to consider the bill again July 1.

What is a filibuster and what did Davis manage to do with her more than half-day filibuster of the Texas abortion bill?

What Is a Filibuster?

In general, a filibuster is a kind of political protest -- a way for legislators to "run out the clock" with constant speaking in order stop legislation that would otherwise pass.

Each legislature has its own particular rules on how to handle filibusters. According to the Houston Chronicle, in Texas a person seeking to filibuster must not:

  • Sit, lean, or use a desk or chair;
  • Go to the restroom;
  • Eat or drink; or
  • Speak about issues other than the one under consideration.

During Davis' filibuster, for example, Senate Republicans argued that she violated the rules by wearing "a back brace" and by speaking off-topic, reports the Post.

Texas Abortion Bill

Still, Davis successfully filibustered Texas' Senate Bill 5 -- at least for now.

Among SB 5's provisions, it would require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at hospitals less than 30 miles from the site of the procedure. That would effectively force all but a handful of abortion clinics in Texas to shut their doors, critics say.

SB 5 would also make it illegal for doctors to perform abortions once a pregnancy is beyond 20 weeks. That provision, however, seems to be in direct conflict with the standards set by Roe v. Wade.

Debate Over 20-Week Ban

While the issue of fetal viability is still white-hot in the abortion legislation debate, the U.S. Supreme Court's reasoning in Roe v. Wade and the cases that followed (namely, Carhart and Casey) determined that a state could not impose outright bans on abortion before the fetus is viable.

Other states like Arizona have also tried to ban abortions after 20 weeks. But federal courts have struck these laws down as unconstitutional, because even the lawmakers agreed that 20-week-old fetuses could not survive outside the womb, even with recent medical advances.

This is one of the issues in State Sen. Wendy Davis' favor as she and Texas Democrats continue their fight against Texas' SB 5. The bill returns to the floor of the Texas Senate for a vote on Monday.

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