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: