Perry renews Texas abortion battle with special session


Story highlights

NEW: "I underestimated how difficult it would be," Davis says

The filibuster of Texas Sen. Wendy Davis became a viral sensation

The White House took notice of her abortion rights stand

Critics say the bill would have shut most of the state's abortion clinics

CNN —  

A day after a filibuster and a raucous crowd in the state Capitol foiled passage of a bill that would have imposed strict new regulations on abortion in Texas, Gov. Rick Perry vowed Wednesday to try again.

Perry said the Legislature would convene July 1 in special session to take up the abortion bill, which was declared dead before dawn Wednesday. The bill failed after a night of drama in Austin during which a lone lawmaker talked for more than 10 hours in an attempt to run out the clock on a special session.

Chants of “shame! shame! shame!” from spectators who had filled the building drowned out the efforts of Republican lawmakers as they tried to pass it minutes before midnight.

“We will not allow the breakdown of decorum and decency to prevent us from doing what the people of this state hired us to do,” Perry said in a statement calling lawmakers back into another special session. Texans “value life and want to protect women and the unborn,” he said.

Perry’s announcement came a day before he was to address the National Right to Life convention in Dallas on Thursday.

Opinion: The truth about the Texas filibuster and abortion

And it came on a day when abortion rights advocates found a new hero in state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth.

Though Republicans control the state Senate, Davis tried to block the abortion bill by attempting a 13-hour filibuster Tuesday.

“I underestimated how difficult it would be – both physically and mentally,” Davis told CNN’s “AC360” on Wednesday. “About two hours in, I realized I was in for a long day. My back started hurting pretty early on and began to really hurt as the hours ticked by.”

But, she said, the energy from the packed gallery “kept me going throughout the day.”

Davis fell short of her goal by less than three hours when the chair ruled she had gone off topic. The gallery erupted in boos. Her fellow Democrats stalled for time with procedural tactics.

And as the clock wound down, opponents of the bill drowned out proceedings on the floor, preventing lawmakers from completing a vote in time to get it passed.

At 3 a.m., Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst stepped to the Senate floor to declare the bill dead and the special session over.

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“We empowered the voice of people in Texas and people who wanted to stand against this intrusion, this big government intrusion, into their personal lives,” Davis said Wednesday night.

Even if the bill winds up passing in the next special session, the reaction will not be split along partisan lines, she predicted. “It’s a reaction coming from Republicans, independents and Democrats alike, which is saying: Governor Perry, Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst, stay out of my private decision-making.”

The bill would have banned most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and tightened standards on abortion clinics and the doctors who work at them. Critics said the measure would have shut most of the abortion clinics in Texas.

“He (Perry) lost this fight in regular session, and even after they broke the rules he and his allies lost again in front of the entire country last night,” said Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, in a statement.

“They tried every trick in the book, blocking testimony from the very women whose lives would be affected, voting in the middle of the night, shutting down the debate — they couldn’t get this done because Texans would not let them.”

Wearing pink sneakers, Davis, 50, took to the floor of the chamber late Tuesday morning to criticize the bill. Rules called for her to stand, unaided, until midnight, for the filibuster to succeed.

She was not allowed to sit down, lean or take a bathroom break, and she was allowed three warnings before the Senate was to be allowed to vote on whether to stop the filibuster.