There is major drama in the Texas State legislature today. We are one hour into a 13 hour filibuster meant to block legislation that would reduce the number of abortion clinics in Texas from 42 to just FIVE! The State Senator from Ft Worth who is poised to hold the floor for the entire 13 hours is doing a fabulous job. Please follow me below the spermatozoa for more.
First, the legislation. It has already passed the house on party lines and is now up for a vote in the senate. It has the following components:
1 - all abortion clinics, even if they only do medical abortions, would be required to be licensed as ambulatory surgical centers. This involves a lot of building requirements like width of hallways and size of janitors closets, which have nothing to do with patient care. This requirement would not extend to other procedures of comparable complexity that are routinely done in doctor's offices. Currently only 5 of the 42 clinics in Texas are surgery centers, and they are all located in the biggest cities. The other 37 would immediately close.
2 - total ban on abortions after 20 weeks based on discredited assertion of fetal pain.
3 - requirement that doctors reforming abortions have local hospital privileges which is not necessary, and which hospitals are unlikely to grant.
4 - requirement that abortion drug be given as originally approved by the FDA instead of at the much lower dose used in common practice. 40% of all prescriptions written are for indications or doses that are different from the original FDA application. For the abortion drug, this requirement would mean triple the usual dose, increasing cost and side effects with no increase in effectiveness.
Texas legislative filibuster rules require that the filibustering senator hold the floor by themselves for the entire time. No breaks for food, drink, bathroom. No sitting, or even holding onto anything. The senator who has taken on this task is Wendy Davis from Ft Worth. I had never heard from her before hearing about the filibuster, but she is doing a terrific job. I have already sent her a contribution, and hope others will as well. Her website is here.
Edit - thanks to madmsf in the comments section for the link to a live feed HERE
I have made it into the viewing gallery. We have been told that the security officers are looking for reasons to throw people out, so everyone is very quiet and well behaved. Many of the bill's opponents are wearing orange, and here is a hodgepodge of shades in the gallery. Ms Davis is going a terrific job. She is clearly setting a pace for the long haul, so there is nothing particularly dramatic about her presentation. But the letters she is reading are just wonderful. Lots of them are stories from people who have had abortions. But she also has statements from professional organizations that oppose the bill, including the American Hospital Association and the American College of Physicians and Surgeons.
2pm - here is a COUNTDOWN CLOCK. https://www.wfaa.com/
She has 10 hours to go. Her voice is a little rough compared to when I arrived, but she is clearly going to make it all the way to the end.
Update - Sen Davis is reading a particularly heart wrenching letter from a woman who had a post 20 week termination of a much wanted pregnancy, because of severe fetal problems. She is on the verge of tears, and there are sniffles scattered through the gallery.
Send some love to Wendy Davis. But also to some of the organizations that provided some of the letters she is reading, or which are supporting the effort.
Also, the TEA Fund covering north Texas, in case people in Wendy Davis's district want to keep it local: http://teafund.org/...
Another one: Ibis Reproductive Health is an international nonprofit organization with a mission to improve women’s reproductive autonomy, choices, and health worldwide.
Please also go recommend the excellent diary about this from nomandates. That's here:
1:35 PM PT: A republican supporter of the bill is now using the guise of a "question" to cross examine Sen Davis. He is a family physician named Duoell.
A second republican senator just stood up to ask a question. It's like they waited for her to get tired and are now circling to attack.
2:15 PM PT: It's one Republican after another now. Looks like an organized effort by the bill's proponents to filibuster the filibuster. Sen Davis is holding her own, but responding for 7 hours will be much harder than reading statements.
I passed Cecille Richards in the gallery.
2:47 PM PT: I gave up my spot in the gallery. Now there is a long line to get in. There is also a large dedicated room for people who are taking breaks from the gallery. That's where food is being delivered. People all over the country (maybe some of you!) are ordering food to be delivered. There seem to be plenty of people here to keep the gallery filled until the very end, so lots of food is needed.
3:23 PM PT: Hundreds more people here than when I arrived. Folks must be coming after work. The break room is quite festive. Food keeps pouring in. I expect hunds of people are here until the very end. Sen Davis is still plugging away and is about at the half way point. No patriarchal republicans for the past hour or so.
3:48 PM PT: Republican senators are trying to force an end end to the filibuster by repeatedly objecting that she is getting off topic ((no reading the phone book in Texas). The "off topic" subject is birth control. If Republican can get three of these objections accepted and turned into "warnings", it will force a vote on ending the filibuster. Kirk Watson, good-guy Democrat from Austin, is speaking and trying to help her.
4:56 PM PT: Lots of stops for points of order, which involves much discussion by the senate leader and parliamentarian. A democrat just got up and read a rule that says senators are required to sit during points of order, and is arguing that Sen Davis should be "required" (allowed) to sit during those interludes. Lots of parliamentary maneuverings taking place.
4:59 PM PT: AACK! The Rs are arguing that because someone helped Sen Davis put on a lumbar belt, that represented a break in the filibuster and that stopping he filibuster should now be put to a vote.
5:03 PM PT: Sen Ellis, one of the older members of the body is now telling a story of a past filibuster where allies of the speaking senator made a circle around him while he peed in a trash can. Other filibustering senators have been passed ice chips and given other sorts of support. He is arguing that Sen Davis should not be silenced over the help with the belt. He is trying to get people who oppose the abortion bill to nonetheless vote in a way that would allow Sen Davis to keep going.
5:17 PM PT: Back brace gate - Ds are now pleading with Rs to not be jerks about the back brace help, but to respect the filibuster.
5:32 PM PT: Strike Two called - there have now been two official "strikes" against Sen Davis - one over veering too far from the bill, the second over getting help with a back brace. One more strike and the filibuster ends. Rs are watching like hawks for anything at all that would let them stop the filibuster. If Rs are able to ask questions that get Sen Davis off track, they can stop the filibuster.
6:12 PM PT: She just refused to take a question from a hostile senator. The overflow auditorium where I am watching this is packed, and everyone erupted in cheers.