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Stand with Wendy: Texas senator's abortion bill filibuster captivates the internet

Stand with Wendy: Texas senator's abortion bill filibuster captivates the internet


Wendy Davis stars in livestream drama that major networks failed to cover

texas capitol (shutterstock)
texas capitol (shutterstock)

Texas state senator Wendy Davis led a filibuster on Tuesday that kept a controversial abortion law from passing in her state. And in the process, Davis corralled observers from across the world. The filibuster, which began at about 11AM CST and ran past midnight, was streamed on YouTube by the Texas Tribune with more than 180,000 viewers tuning in.

On Twitter, Davis' actions spawned the hashtags #StandWithWendy, #SB5, and #TXLege. The Texas Tribune liveblogged the filibuster as well, noting that hundreds of people stood both in and outside the state Capitol in support.

"At what point must a female senator raise her hand to be recognized over her male colleagues in the room?"

While hundreds of thousands of people were following the filibuster on both YouTube and Twitter, major TV networks weren't covering the scene in Austin on Tuesday night. And the scene was rowdy. With 15 minutes to go, Senator Leticia Van De Putte asked, "At what point must a female senator raise her hand to be recognized over her male colleagues in the room?"

De Putte's comments came as the Senate was taking a roll-call vote on a motion to table the filibuster on the principle of germaneness. After De Putte's statement, the vote was interrupted as the Capitol burst into applause and cheers. Chants of "Wendy! Wendy!" began with about six minutes to go.

The law Davis was standing in opposition to — known as Senate Bill 5 — would have banned abortions at 20 weeks, and required abortion clinics to "meet the same standards that hospital-style surgical centers do, and mandate that a doctor who performs abortions have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital," according to the New York Times.

Davis wore pink sneakers during the 13-hour filibuster, according to the Los Angeles Times, which reported that the senator is an avid marathon runner. According to her Senate website, Davis was a mother at the age of 19, while working two jobs. She first started working at the age of 14 to financially help her mother, who was raising four children. Before being elected to the Texas Senate in 2008, Davis was a graduate of the Harvard Law School and a lawyer in Fort Worth.

Tonight's filibuster isn't Davis' first

Tonight's filibuster isn't Davis' first; she staged one last year in opposition to $5 billion in budget cuts to Texas public schools. Afterward, she was removed from her seat on the state's education committee, according to a report from the Star-Telegram.

The Associated Press and CBS both reported that Republicans had managed to end the filibuster and bring the bill to a vote in time, which, according to state law, had to come to a close at the end of the day on Tuesday.

But other reports stated that senators left the Capitol not knowing whether the bill passed or not.

Further adding to the question of whether or not Davis' filibuster had been a success was the fact that the legislature's records showed conflicting times for when a vote on State Bill 5 took place. Originally, the record showed that a vote took place on Wednesday, just after midnight. But later the legislature's website and paper records at the Capitol stated that a vote took place on Tuesday and was headed to Governor Rick Perry's office to be signed into law.

At about 2:15AM local time, Cecile Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told hundreds of people in the Capitol that SB5 had been declared dead by the lieutenant governor. Richards said the Senate's official vote on the bill was recorded at 12:03AM and thus didn't count. After the announcement, the Capitol filled with chants of "Wendy! Wendy! Wendy!" The Texas Democratic Party soon confirmed the news in a tweet, and the Republicans followed with a concession just under an hour later.

Sam Byford contributed to this report.