In a stand reminiscent of the classic movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, a Texas state senator plans to stay on her feet for 13 hours in a filibuster aimed at blocking a bill that would severely restrict access to abortion in the Lone Star State.
Wearing pink tennis shoes for comfort, Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth began her Ms. Davis Goes to Austin filibuster at 11:18 a.m. Central time Tuesday. “Rules stipulate she remain standing, not lean on her desk or take any breaks — even for meals or to use the bathroom,” the Associated Press reports. “Colleagues removed her chair so she wouldn't sit down by mistake.” As part of her effort to keep the bill from coming to a Senate vote before the legislative session ends at midnight tonight, she has been reading aloud from testimonies by women and doctors about the impact it would have.
The Republican-backed legislation, which has already passed the Texas House of Representatives, would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and require the procedure to be performed at facilities classified as surgical centers, which means almost every clinic that currently provide abortions in the state would have to undergo extensive modifications or close. Also, any doctor performing abortions would have to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles, a standard difficult to meet in rural parts of Texas. “A woman living along the Mexico border or in West Texas would have to drive hundreds of miles to obtain an abortion if the law passes,” the AP notes.
Davis, a Democrat who obtained a Harvard law degree after having become a mother while still in her teens, said she was “rising on the floor today to humbly give voice to thousands of Texans,” the AP reports. She called the bill a “raw abuse of power” and wondered why its supporters would require abortions to be done in surgical centers, but not vasectomies or colonoscopies.
“Because I’ve been unable to have a simple question answered to help me understand how this would lead to better care for women, I must question the underlying motive for doing so,” Davis said.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jodie Lautenberg, made headlines with a remark Sunday that the measure needed no exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest, as women who are raped “can get cleaned out” with a rape kit in hospital emergency rooms — confusing the tools used to gather evidence of rape with a procedure to prevent pregnancy.
Watch the filibuster livestream below.