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Texas filibuster: Senator launches marathon bid to halt abortion bill

June 25, 2013|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske

HOUSTON -- The Texas state Senate is poised for passage of a sweeping new law that would ban abortions at 20 weeks and force the state’s abortion clinics to upgrade or close -- unless Sen. Wendy Davis and her pink sneakers can stand in the way.

The 50-year-old legislator from Fort Worth is midway through a marathon filibuster aimed at running out the clock on the current Legislature, which is scheduled to end its special session at midnight with or without passage of the controversial law.

If she makes it till then, the Republican majority will be unable to pass the legislation, which has drawn hundreds of women into the capital to support Davis’ talk-a-thon.

But can she do it?

The standards for filibusters in Texas are stricter than in Congress, experts say. To succeed, Davis would have to speak about the legislation until the special session adjourned. No talking off-topic. No sitting. No leaning on her desk. No food or water. No bathroom breaks.

Davis, a Democratic graduate of Harvard Law School who started adult life as a teenage mother, began speaking at 11:18 a.m. Central Time.

“Partisanship and ambition are not unusual in a state capitol. But here in Texas, right now, they have risen to a level of profound irresponsibility and raw abuse of power,” Davis said. “I will share with you what thousands of families have to say about this legislation … when the majority of Texans want us working on the pressing, genuine business of the people of Texas.”

As the hours passed, several Republican state senators remained glued to their seats, monitoring her compliance with filibuster protocol, some sending staffers out to find rulebooks.
 
People across Texas watched live feeds online.

Kyleen Wright, president of Texans for Life Coalition, was one of many spectators watching in the gallery, promising that critics would catch Davis if she violated the filibuster rules.

“It’s pretty easy since she’s on camera,” Wright said. “There's a big audience at home -- she has a lot more eyes on her.”

Jim Riddelsperger, a political science professor at Texas Christian University, said Davis' filibuster would be the longest, most high-profile in recent memory.

molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

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