Texas Filibuster of Abortion Bill Mesmerizes Twitter, Stops Passage of Bill

Yesterday, Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Ft. Worth) pulled off an 11-hour filibuster against a bill restricting abortion in the Lone Star State. The filibuster apparently lasted long enough to push the vote on the measure past the time when the Senate was in session.

SB5 would have banned most abortions after 20 weeks and would have required that abortion clinics be upgraded to surgical centers, and abortionists have admitting privileges to hospitals, restrictions that opponents say would effectively shut down all clinics in the state.

Under Texas Senate rules, Davis could not be assisted in the filibuster, was not allowed to sit or even lean (she wore a back brace to keep her posture), and couldn't go off-topic. By the time the Senate voted 19-10 to pass SB5, the session had technically ended.

Though Texas' legislature only meets every other year, Gov. Rick Perry can always call a special session and there are suggestions he will do so.

Regardless of your views on abortion, the filibuster has a large new-media component that underscores changes in how news gets made. CNN reports that as with Sen. Rand Paul's filibuster against the Obama administration's drone policy, the spectacle found a massive audience on Twitter:

At different points during the evening, #standwithwendy, #SB5, #texlege "Wendy Davis," "Texas," "Robert's Rules of Order" and "Midnight in Texas" were all trending on the social network. The #standwithwendyhashtag had 400,000 mentions on Tuesday, according to Twitter.

The YouTube channel that was streaming the filibuster live pulled over 100,000 viewers.

As many states move to restrict access to abortion - either by changing the medical standards under which clinics operate or reducing the number of weeks during which abortion is legal - Pew Research finds that a majority of Americans think abortion should remain legal in all or most cases and two-thirds say they don't want Roe v. Wade overturned. At the same time, Gallup shows that people ages 18 to 29 - once the age group most in favor of keeping "abortion legal under any circumstances" - are now less in favor of that position than people ages 30 to 64. 

In our DC office, Reason recently debated libertarian perspectives on abortion with Reason's Ronald Bailey and Katherine Mangu-Ward and Get Religion's Mollie Hemingway. I moderated the discussion, which got high marks both for civility and range of POVs covered. Take a look/listen:

 

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    The filibuster wasn't fair. If there's one thing women can do well, it's drone on forever.

  • Binjelli||

    Drone? Filibuster? Wait a sec...

  • Apple||

    It'd be nice if marital filibusters would get shut down once the speaker goes off topic.

  • mr lizard||

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.... Arguing with a woman requires a swivel head and the ability to counter threats from any direction or dimension.

  • creech||

    But I thought filibusters were engaged in by idea-bankrupt parties that just want to thwart democracy and gridlock the legislative process?

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    All is fair when you are defending a liberal sacrament. Abortion ueber alles.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    So Dems love the filibuster again?

  • Tim||

    We're talking future governor here, maybe VP.

  • ||

    Texas Dems have always loved the filibuster. Hell they even fled the state once to avoid quorum.

  • Jordan||

    Suddenly, progtards discover that Rand Paul's view on democracy is not so crazy after all, after having spent days denouncing him.

  • WTF||

    Never underestimate their capacity for "doublethink".

  • Anders||

    #StandWithKermitGosnell didn't trend in parallel with this?

  • Don Mynack||

    Skanks can always head to Louisiana for their baby-killing needs.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    Keep it classy there Don.

    Of course only 'skanks' benefit from the right to control one's body!

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    I don't think there is anything morally worthwhile about abortion. I generally want it to be legal, but you aren't controlling your body - you're terminating a potential human life. Abortions for the sake of convenience are abhorrent.

  • Duke||

    Four weeks after conception, the baby's heart is beating and pumping blood. So, I simply cannot see how this is solely a "my body, my control" thing. I have a 10 month old son and it has given me a whole new appreciation for human life. Human life is special and it is sacred. So I guess this is one of the few areas where I diverge from the libertarian sacrement of anything goes when we're talking abortions, so long as you're not a dreadful pro-lifer.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    Literally everybody I know is uncomfortable with abortion-as-fact. They're comfortable with it in theory, but as soon as you point out a clinic where it happens, you can see the look on their face. "Ew, WHAT happens there exactly?"

    Yes, they are terminating potential human life. That isn't a noble endeavor.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    It's not "potential". It already is an entire human life. It's not a fully developed adult human, but it's an entire living human being.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    I don't want to quibble over the words, because that's what we do in the law.

    On the ethics, abortion for convenience purposes is clearly wrong, in my book. Abortion because you live in legitimately terrible (and I mean, they better be objectively terrible) circumstances might be something else altogether.

    Societally speaking, though, we should be, from an ethics standpoint, discouraging abortion whenever possible.

  • Jordan||

    There is no libertarian position on abortion, since it's a question of when human life begins. Libertarian philosophy does not answer that question.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Beat me to it.

  • ||

    Well what you said is better, human life beginning is not debatable anymore. Whether it is a person with rights is the question that Libertarian philosophy can't answer.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Even better.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    I think Objectivism can. But that's neither here nor there. I guess I don't much care whether it has rights as it relates to the State or the government or whatever. I care about ethically shaming people - and yes, I mean that: these people deserve shame.

  • Jordan||

    I care about ethically shaming people - and yes, I mean that: these people deserve shame.

    I agree.

  • Jordan||

    Yes, I meant to say "personhood" instead of "life".

  • Duke||

    There is no libertarian position on abortion, since it's a question of when human life begins. Libertarian philosophy does not answer that question.

    But KMW says she thinks abortion services should be available to all provided they're safe (might be paraphrasing a bit).

    I also don't know of official Libertarian tenets on most things except that people should be left alone by their government -- for the most part. But I've read many articles on Reason that argue for allowing the people to set their own abortion policies. My problem with that, is that abortion is different than every other issue because it involves the life of another person who cannot speak form him/herself. Even a 10 month old can't speak for himself. Yet we value and protect his life as a society.

    Call me an old Jeffersonian fuddy duddy I guess.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    But I've read many articles on Reason that argue for allowing the people to set their own abortion policies.

    Right, because there isn't a libertarian position, it allows for both possibilities. Many of the Reason writers hold that human "personhood" begins at birth, or close to it (life obviously starts before that).

  • A Mathematician||

    "Potential human life" can apply to a lot of things.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    Bullshit.

  • some guy||

    Any human egg cell is a potential human life. All it needs is a sperm cell and a bunch of nutrients. Fertilization is just one small step in the process.

  • Xenocles||

    There are still plenty of thresholds you could apply that occur before birth. Brain development, for instance: once it develops its own brain it would seem to me that you'd be justified in protecting it without recourse to "potential" or "souls" or anything metaphysical.

  • ||

    Zygote =/= gamete

  • Azathoth!!||

    No human egg is a potential human life. Not one. By itself it is nothing. It cannot develop into anything but the egg that it is.

    When it combines with sperm, and only then, is there a potential human life.

  • ||

    Shit, we should really look into criminalizing miscarriages.

  • SeaCaptain(Yokeltarian)||

    Bull-fucking-shit. Miscarriages are natural, non-forceful occurrences. Abortion is the complete opposite, forcing death onto another human.

    Nice try with the straw man cop-out.

  • John||

    At the same time, Gallup shows that people ages 18 to 29 - once the age group most in favor of keeping "abortion legal under any circumstances" - are now less in favor of that position than people ages 30 to 64.

    Younger people are more comfortable with and more familiar with technology and science. A young person is much more likely to have seen their own or their friend's children on a sonogram. The radical pro choice position is increasingly one of old bitties living in the 1970s.

  • ||

    Its not even a relevant question here, I'm guessing a poll of whether abortion should be legal after 20 weeks would be a bit different.

  • John||

    Yes. When pro choice people talk about "abortion" it is always involves some theoretical microscopic collection of cells. When abortion occurs in reality, it is nothing like that usually.

  • Floridian||

    Abortions for all, tiny American flags for others!

  • Xenocles||

    What others?

  • feudalserf||

    great reference

  • VG Zaytsev||

    Attractive white women filibusters in support of murdering brown babies.

    Proglodytes applaud.

  • Killazontherun||

    I've seen attractive Democrats before but none like this. They tend to be mousy and subservient whereas this lady looks like a hellcat on the prowl.

  • ||

    One thing that I thought was odd was that I read somewhere that she was chosen to deliver the filibuster because she had a baby as a teenager and then still managed to go on and get a degree from Harvard and succeed. And that was somehow supposed to portray her as an example of the necessity of abortion? Her profile sounds like it would fit better on the other side of the issue. I didn't follow this very closely, did she inject her personal experience into it at all? If so, from what angle? Wishing that she'd never had her child cause then she'd be Governor now instead of Perry?

  • Tonio||

    You have that exactly bass ackwards, Gregory. If she had had an abortion, people like you would frame this as her continuing to justify that decision: "of course she would think that; she couldn't sleep at night otherwise..."

    This is a woman who could have had a financially easier path in life had she aborted, but chose the hard path. Yet she still supports abortion. That's called being morally unassailable.

  • ||

    "If she had had an abortion, people like you would frame this as her continuing to justify that decision"

    People like me? What the fuck do you even know about my thoughts on this issue?

  • ||

    I mean, am I really so off in thinking that the other side would seek to portray it as "well she's living proof that 'the hard way' isn't too hard to do?"
    And that that argument might register with some people out there, whether it registers with you or not? If I were trying to think like a politician I'd have avoided it entirely and picked someone else who's never had a dog in the hunt.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    This is a woman who could have had a financially easier path in life had she aborted, but chose the hard path. Yet she still supports abortion. That's called being morally unassailable.

    Or it proves that she hates brown babies.

  • ||

    Literally everybody I know is uncomfortable with abortion-as-fact. They're comfortable with it in theory, but as soon as you point out a clinic where it happens, you can see the look on their face. "Ew, WHAT happens there exactly?"

    Yes, they are terminating potential human life. That isn't a noble endeavor.

    Literally everybody I know is uncomfortable with freedom of speech-as-fact. They're comfortable with it in theory, but as soon as you point out a Westboro Baptist Church protest where it happens, you can see the look on their face. "Ew, WHAT happens there exactly?"

    Yes, they are being hateful bigots. That isn't a noble endeavor.

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