Texas State Senator Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth. (Credit Wendy Davis via Facebook)
An omnibus abortion bill that would effectively shut down most abortion clinics across Texas is stalled in the state Senate after majority Republicans pushed the measure through the House early Monday. Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, is set to filibuster for 13 hours on Tuesday.
Hundreds of protesters came to the Capitol to register public comments in the debate that went on all night Sunday. Republicans voted to cut off debate and pass the measure shortly after 4 a.m. with final passage later Monday morning.
Democratic lawmaker Jessica Farrar, chairwoman of the House women’s health caucus, told protesters after the vote, "It really mattered what you did," making a filibuster possible.
Legislature rules prohibit the Senate from taking up a bill for 24 hours after it leaves the House. Davis will have to speak until the 30-day special legislative session ends at midnight Tuesday.
Texas is just one of the conservative states to recently restrict access to abortions, but the combination of bills in the Texas package will impact more women than any such laws yet. The second most populous state also has large swaths of rural areas where clinics would be unavailable for hundreds of miles.
The bill would force clinics to be classified as ambulatory surgical centers -- an upgrade many can't afford. Doctors would additionally be required to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles -- impossible in some rural communities.
During debate Sunday night, Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, who sponsored the 20-week abortion ban, opposed an amendment that would add an exemption in the case of rape or incest, erroneously stating that emergency room rape kits can "basically clean her out," and terminate or prevent pregnancy.
Rape kits do not prevent pregnancy, or cause abortion. A rape kit is used by medical personnel to collect potential DNA evidence from a rape victim.
Laubenberg's astonishing comments came in response to a lawmaker who said rape victims in El Paso would have to travel more than 500 miles to San Antonio, where the nearest clinic would be if the bill passes.
Laubenberg sits on the Texas House Public Health Committee and chairs the state’s chapter of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which promotes model legislation to conservative lawmakers nationwide.
To block the bill's passage, Davis will have remain standing and speak nonstop, without bathroom breaks, though other Democrats can ask questions to give her voice a rest. Davis previously gave a filibuster to temporarily block $5.4 billion in education cuts at the end of the 2011 session.