News / USA

Marathon Speech Helps Democrats Block Texas Abortion Bill

Democratic members cheer as the Texas Senate tries to bring an abortion bill to a vote as time expires, in Austin, Texas, June 26, 2013.Democratic members cheer as the Texas Senate tries to bring an abortion bill to a vote as time expires, in Austin, Texas, June 26, 2013.
Democratic members cheer as the Texas Senate tries to bring an abortion bill to a vote as time expires, in Austin, Texas, June 26, 2013.
Democratic members cheer as the Texas Senate tries to bring an abortion bill to a vote as time expires, in Austin, Texas, June 26, 2013.
Texas Democrats blocked a drive for new state abortion restrictions on Wednesday, after a marathon speech in the capitol caused some Republican supporters of the bill to cast votes past a midnight deadline.

Democratic Senator Wendy Davis spoke for more than 10 hours on Tuesday in a bid to run out the voting window on a measure that would place a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Republican Governor Rick Perry, a strong opponent of abortion, could still revive the proposal by calling the legislature into a new special session.

Davis's filibuster attempt stalled about two hours ahead of the deadline over a complaint that she had violated rules. The Republican-controlled Senate then began voting on the bill, amid protests from spectators.

Republican Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, after meeting with lawmakers, said some of their votes came in after midnight local time, the effective end of the 30-day special session.

Dewhurst bemoaned the “unruly mob” at the capitol, according to the Dallas Morning News.

The bill called for stricter standards for abortion clinics.

Republican backers said it would protect women's health and that the ban on late-term abortions would protect fetuses, based on disputed research that suggests fetuses feel pain by 20 weeks of development.

Opponents said it would force nearly all Texas abortion clinics to close or be rebuilt.

“This fight showed once again that we are all better off when women and their doctors - not politicians - are the ones making medical decisions,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund. “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, who began speaking at 11:15 a.m. local time, was prevented by procedural rules from deviating off-topic or taking a break by eating, leaning against her desk, sitting down or using the rest room.

Republicans tried to disrupt her by charging that she had meandered off-topic; this included a protest when a colleague of Davis's helped her to adjust a back brace.

Davis whittled away chunks of time by reading testimony and  messages from women and others decrying the legislation, reciting previously suggested changes to the bill and tapping into her own past as a single mother at 19.

She said the bill would have choked off her own access to a local Planned Parenthood clinic.

“I was a poor, uninsured woman, whose only care was provided through that facility. It was my medical home,” said Davis, 50, several hours into her speech.

Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst, who is Senate president, suspended the filibuster after about 10 hours, to cries of “let her speak” from supporters.

Democrats appealed the ruling, sparking a disagreement over parliamentary rules.

After the session, Davis said on social media: “An incredible victory for Texas women and those who love them.”

Nationwide debate

The U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion nationwide in 1973, but conservative states have enacted laws in recent years that seek to place restrictions on the procedure, especially on abortions performed late in pregnancy.

Twelve states have passed 20-week bans, including two states where the bans take effect later this year, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights. Courts have blocked the bans in three of the 12 states - Arizona, Georgia and Idaho.

Earlier this month, the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill banning abortions 20 weeks after fertilization. The measure is extremely unlikely to become law because Democrats control the U.S. Senate and the White House.

The Texas proposal would allow exemptions for abortions to save a woman's life, and in cases of severe fetal abnormalities.

“In Texas, we value all life, and we've worked to cultivate a culture that supports the birth of every child,” said Perry.

The abortion debate simmers elsewhere in the United States.

North Dakota's only abortion clinic filed a federal challenge on Tuesday to a new state law, the most restrictive in the country, that would ban procedures to end pregnancy once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, as early as six weeks.

A Philadelphia jury last month convicted abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell of murdering three babies during abortions at a clinic in a high-profile case that focused national attention on late-term abortions.

You May Like

Multimedia Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

Americans Think About Strange Stuff at Thanksgiving

Millions of Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving, but they’re not necessarily thinking about turkey and stuffing

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs