HOUSTON — It was quite the drama over the Senate Bill 5 Filibuster starring Fort Worth Senator Wendy Davis.
She came dressed for the 13-hour long part, sporting hot pink sneakers and carrying a binder full of letters from supporters who often shared emotional stories.
Davis read aloud from several.
One woman wrote, “I have a friend who is 60 now. She got pregnant at 15, her father brought home a fireman to perform an abortion in her room. She never had children.”
Davis, age 50, was herself a single mother at 19. She became the first person in her family to graduate from college and went onto graduate from Harvard Law School. She is no stranger to filibusters, staging one in 2011 against cuts to school funding.
Davis knows the rules: Stay on topic. No sitting. No stopping. No bathroom breaks. She can’t even lean. But she can take longwinded questions to burn time from political friends like Houston Senator Rodney Ellis who jokingly addressed the chamber.
“Am I able to ask Senator Davis to read me sections of the bill to me slowly,” he said.
The controversial bill bans abortions after 20 weeks, requires them to be performed at licensed surgical centers and that doctors doing the procedure be 30 minutes from a hospital.
Political opponents looked for violations of the rules, such as straying from the topic.
“Please consider this as warning,” Lt. Governor David Dewhurst cautioned Davis. Her second warning came seven hours in when she put on a back brace. Woodlands Senator Tommy Williams raised an objection.
“Senator Davis violated rule 4.01 when she had Senator Ellis assist her by putting a back brace on during a pause” he said.
A third warning means the speaker must yield the floor to someone else who could call for a vote on the bill in question.
By the way, the longest filibuster ever in America was in 1977 for 43 hours. It was set in the Texas Senate by Bill Meier.
Dewhurst suspended the filibuster Tuesday night after determining that Davis strayed off the topic. Democrats immediately appealed the decision and set off a heated debate about the rules and whether they could vote on the bill.