Originally published on Thu November 14, 2013 9:42 am
By midnight Texas time, it was all over but the parliamentary inquiries. After a nearly 11-hour filibuster attempt by state Sen. Wendy Davis to block sweeping restrictions on abortion, the Republican-dominated Texas Senate successfully shut down the filibuster on points of order. (See update at the bottom of this post.)
"This is probably the worst night that I've experienced since I've been in the Senate, maybe since I've been in public life," said state Sen. Kirk Watson, a Democrat from Austin.
Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst is speaking out against lawmakers in the Texas House he says failed to get an abortion bill back to the Senate outside the range of a filibuster. However, some senators say it’s the Republican leadership that is to blame.
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House Democrats stalled a vote on a set of abortion bills as long as they could this past weekend, forcing House Republicans to sit through dozens of amendments that ranged from changing the language of the bill to tactics that would have killed the legislation.
At just after 3 a.m. on Saturday, the House took a second reading vote on all abortion measures, which passed.
Republican efforts to greatly restrict a woman’s right to an abortion in Texas failed in the regular legislative session. But in a special session, things move faster, and it’s more difficult for the minority party to derail legislation.
Despite efforts by Democrats to slow down the anti-abortion bills Thursday night by filling a house committee hearing, causing the session to run until almost four in the morning, the bills appear to be on their way to eventual passage and becoming law.
Some House Republicans feel that too much time is being spent debating abortion legislation during the special session and not enough time on roads.
The House first assigned a set of four abortion bills to a select committee on Monday, giving the bills a later start than their Senate companions, but despite that there are some who feel the bills have a fighting chance.
The special session has taken on some added weight this week with the addition of several bills splitting the legislature from its initial redistricting focus. Most controversially, the fetal pain abortion bill has been revitalized in Senate Bill 5.
Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, has one of about six bills that address some aspect of abortion in the special session. Patrick said his bill would hold institutions like Planned Parenthood to strict guidelines when dispensing the Plan B abortion pillthe abortion pill (mifeprestone), a set of pills that medically ends a pregnancy and can be used up to 9 weeks after the woman's last period.