Texas lawmakers failed to pass a bill that would give the state one of the most restrictive abortion measures in the country after a day-long filibuster and hundreds of noisy protesters forced Senate Republicans to miss a midnight Tuesday deadline to pass the bill.
Sen. Wendy Davis, a Democrat from Fort Worth, set off late Tuesday morning in an attempt at a 13-hour filibuster intended to block a vote before midnight. Davis was stopped short when the GOP voted to end the filibuster minutes before midnight because she had gone off topic, sparking a raucous response from protesters, according to the Associated Press.
"Get them out!" Sen. Donna Campbell shouted to a security guard, pointing to the crowd in the gallery overhead that had already been screaming for more than 10 minutes, according to the AP.
"Time is running out," Campbell pleaded. "I want them out of here!"
If signed into law, the bill would place a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and due to other provisions, would have forced almost every abortion clinic in the state to close down or be rebuilt. Republicans and anti-abortion groups insisted their goal was to improve women's health care.
After a delay of several minutes, it appeared senators had voted to pass the bill, almost entirely along party lines, according to the Dallas Morning News. Democrats said the vote was too late, but Republicans insisted it was passed before midnight.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst addressed the press and chamber in the early morning hours Wednesday to announce he could not sign the bill "with all the ruckus and noise going on."
He denounced the hundreds of protesters who staged what they called a "people's filibuster" until well past midnight, the AP reported.
"This is the most incredible thing I've ever seen in my life," Dewhurst said. "An unruly mob using Occupy Wall Street tactics has tried all day to derail legislation that has been intended to protect the lives and the safety of women and babies. So I'm very frustrated."
The crowd of protesters erupted into applause as Davis made rounds after it was announced that the bill had not passed, according to the Dallas Morning News.
"Tonight, people who have been in this capitol for far longer than I, have said they've never experienced anything like what we saw at the capitol today and this evening," Davis said. "There were thousands of people here throughout the day, and what they were asking [was] that their voices would be heard."
Democrats chose Davis to lead the effort because of her background; she had her first child as a teenager and went on to graduate from Harvard Law School, according to the AP.
"Like never before, people in Texas are standing up to demand that politicians respect women's ability to make our own personal medical decisions, and the whole country is watching," Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement on the filibuster, according to CNN.