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Perry calls another special legislative session to take up abortion

June 26, 2013 at 6:09 PM   |   Comments

AUSTIN, Texas, June 26 (UPI) -- Gov. Rick Perry Wednesday called a special session of the Legislature after a special session ended without passage of a bill restricting abortion in Texas.

The state Senate, dominated by Republicans, ended a special session early Wednesday too late to meet a midnight deadline for approving the bill and sending it to Perry to sign into law. The session ended after a filibuster by Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis, amid confusion over whether any action on the bill occurred before the session-ending deadline, CNN reported.

In a proclamation Wednesday, Perry said the new special session -- which was to begin immediately -- would also take up transportation funding and sentencing guidelines for 17-year-olds convicted of capital crimes, the Dallas Morning News reported.

"Through their duly elected representatives, the citizens of our state have made crystal clear their priorities for our great state," the proclamation said.

"Texans value life and want to protect women and the unborn," Perry said.

The governor blamed the outcome of Tuesday night's filibuster on "the breakdown of decorum and decency."

Under provisions of the bill, most abortions would be banned after 20 weeks of pregnancy and tighter standards would be imposed on abortion clinics and doctors working at them. Critics said most of the abortion clinics in Texas would have to close under the bill.

The bill passed the House of Representatives, and Perry, a 2012 Republican presidential hopeful, said he'd sign it.

Republicans voted to approve the bill but Democrats said the vote was not completed until after the midnight deadline, the Morning News reported, which could make it invalid. There was even confusion about the size of the vote, with one leader saying the bill passed 19-10 and another saying 17-12.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst declared the session over and the bill dead at 3 a.m.

Davis, who received a law degree from Harvard after becoming a single mother at 19, tried Tuesday to block the abortion bill by attempting a 13-hour filibuster, which lasted 10 hours before the chairman ruled she strayed from the topic, CNN said. The gallery booed as the clock ticked closer to midnight, and chants and shouts of "shame, shame, shame" overcame the proceedings.

Midnight came and went -- and confusion reigned for 3 hours about whether the bill passed before Dewhurst declared the session over.

"This is an unprecedented situation," said Jeremy Warren, spokesman for Democratic state Sen. Rodney Ellis. "I have been here 18 years and have never seen anything like this. We are still officially still in session because we never adjourned."

Planned Parenthood cheered the outcome.

"This fight showed once again that we are all better off when women and their doctors -- not politicians -- are the ones making medical decisions," Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said. "We made history tonight, but we know this isn't the end of the fight to protect women's access to health care in Texas."

Davis, 50, began her filibuster Tuesday morning when she stood to criticize the bill. Rules called for her to stand upright, unaided and without a bathroom break until midnight, for the filibuster to succeed. The filibuster would end after a third warning.

Early on she was warned remarks about the negative effects the bill would have on women were off topic, CNN said. The second warning came after she was helped into a back brace. The final warning, about 10 p.m., was issued when Davis talked about the abortion pill RU-486.

A member of the Senate moved that the ruling be appealed, and the status of the ruling was in doubt.

Davis' filibuster attempt went viral.

"Something special is happening in Austin tonight," said a post on U.S. President Barack Obama's official Twitter account, run by Organizing for Action, a non-profit group established to support the president's legislative agenda.

British comedian Ricky Gervais offered this observation: "Whatever the outcome, @WendyDavisTexas efforts entered her into the pantheon of American heroes tonight."

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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