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The War Of The Worlds On The Texas Senate Floor

Chris Eudaily
TPR News
State Senator Leticia Van De Putte in the KSTX studio.

Texas Matters: The battle over abortion hit a boiling point in Texas this week and it all started  with a 13-hour filibuster attempt by Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth, which was cut short, continued with Sen. Leticia Van De Putte of San Antonio challenging the Republican (male) dominance of the floor, which finally pushed the room into a frenzy with one ruckus crowd of supporters. This did not sit well with the governor.

Governor, Right-To-Life Activists, Take Aim At Those Who Killed Abortion Bill

Gov. Rick Perry had expected to address the National Right to Life convention in Dallas on Thursday with news of the passage of new abortion laws in Texas that would be some of the toughest and most restrictive in the nation.

Instead, Senator Wendy Davis succeeded in stalling with a filibuster on Tuesday night that helped prevent passage of Senate Bill 5, and Perry had to deliver a different speech.

KERA’s Shelly Kofler reports on what the governor had to say at the National Right to Life Convention in Dallas.

A Democratic star is born

Wendy Davis has become an overnight political sensation and there’s serious talk about her running for governor on the Democratic ticket in 2014.

On Tuesday, Davis filibustered SB5, a bill that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks in Texas and impose regulations that abortion providers say would shut down all but five clinics the state -- leaving none west of IH-35.

That bill did not pass due to the Davis filibuster and the reaction of the spectators in the Senate gallery and to top off the chaos, there are accusations of the Senate leadership playing fast and loose with the legislative time stamp to make it appear as if the abortion bills passed before the deadline.

Davis talks about that night, her possible plans to run for governor and how she prepared for the filibuster.

"If you talk to people who have been around Texas politics for a long time they'll tell you that no filibuster in the history of the Texas Senate has ever been subject to such scrutiny. It has always been an honored tradition if someone can withstand the endurance test, our Senate body typically is one that defers to that and understands that it's a valued tradition, but what we saw on Tuesday in that Senate chamber was that the rules were completely run over.
"The idea somehow that a germaneness point of order could be upheld saying that talking about a sonogram bill that affected abortion access in the last legislative session as I was building the point that this bill added on top of that, the cumulative impact of that would be so detrimental to women. The fact that that was found to be somehow not germane to the conversation is absolutely absurd, and when the president of the chamber, Lt. Gov Dewhurst, made that ruling, I think everyone was shocked -- including some of the Republican observers who were on the floor that evening."

Van De Putte sparks a dramatic finish

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, also played a major role in that filibuster. She was forced to directly leave her father’s burial to go to Austin and take a stand against the abortion bill.

Her comments are credited with sparking what’s being called "the people’s filibuster" -- a wild crowd reaction Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning that prevented the passage of new strict anti-abortion laws in Texas.

"Repeatedly, even though myself and other Democrats would hit their light...we were fast and we were ready, but we were not called upon and we were overlooked. Particularly, on many times, I kept trying to be called on and the people in the gallery heard my voice, the press box heard my voice, I knew I had pushed my button way before my Republican colleague Dan Patrick (Houston) because he sits right in front of me, and yet he was called upon. And in utter frustration, at about a quarter 'til midnight, when we thought that her filibuster would not be successful, I finally got screaming the attention of Senator (Robert) Duncan (R-Lubbock) who was at the dias at the time and that's when my frustration showed."

This is the point that Van De Putte said the words that have put an exclamation point on the whole event, words that have now been transmitted across the world with the help of social media.

"At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues in the room?"

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi