Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, center, who tries to filibuster an abortion bill, hold up a no vote as time expires, Wednesday, June 26, 2013, in Austin, Texas. Amid the deafening roar of abortion rights supporters, Texas Republicans huddled around the Senate podium to pass new abortion restrictions, but whether the vote was cast before or after midnight is in dispute. If signed into law, the measures would close almost every abortion clinic in Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) (AP)

Wendy Davis' marathon filibuster kills Texas abortion bill (for now)

Despite a last-ditch effort to force a vote before the midnight deadline, Davis' filibuster prevailed

Katie McDonough
June 26, 2013 5:21PM (UTC)

A filibuster by state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth (and some "Occupy Wall Street tactics" from an "unruly mob" of reproductive rights advocates in the chamber, but more on that later), successfully blocked Texas' controversial antiabortion omnibus bill from passing before the special legislative session deadline of midnight Tuesday.

The measure would have banned abortion at 20 weeks and imposed restrictions on physicians and abortion facilities that would have shuttered 37 of the state's 42 abortion clinics, making access to the procedure virtually impossible, advocates say.


According to reports from the Austin-American Statesman and the Associated Press, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst prematurely halted Davis' filibuster after ruling that her discussion of mandatory ultrasound testing was "not germane" to the bill and in violation of Senate rules; Davis was removed from the floor and pandemonium erupted. Davis' Democratic colleagues who opposed the bill attempted to debate why forced ultrasounds were relevant to the bill under consideration, and a group of reproductive rights advocates observing the filibuster rushed the floor, chanting "Let her speak!" and "Shame! Shame! Shame!"

The outcry carried on until midnight, when a vote was taken but later declared void because it began at 12:03 a.m. -- three minutes after the session expired. After hours of political jostling over the legitimacy of the vote, Dewhurst returned to the chamber at 3:13 a.m. to announce the vote was invalid and that the bill had failed. He then said: "It's been fun, but, um, see ya soon," a cryptic sendoff that may indicate Gov. Rick Perry intends to call another special session to retake the vote.

Dewhurst went on to tell reporters that the bill had been thwarted by "an unruly mob using Occupy Wall Street tactics," referring to the thousands of reproductive rights advocates who had come to observe Davis' filibuster.


"I didn't lose control of what we were doing," he added. "We had an unruly mob."

Davis, after more than 11 hours on her feet, was considerably more upbeat talking to the press following the dramatic vote, as the Texas Tribune reports:

After returning to the Senate floor, Davis told reporters she was “tired, but really happy” with the outcome of the night’s filibuster. “People who have been in this Capitol for far longer than I have said they had never experienced anything like what we saw today,” she said. “What they were were asking was that their voices be heard,” she said. “We did our best as the Democratic caucus to make sure that happened.”


Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

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