Reliably Austin
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Listen: When Wendy Davis and a Deafening Roar Slowed Texas' New Abortion Law

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT
Sen. Wendy Davis suring her 11-hour filibuster last June 25.

June 25 marks the one-year anniversary of Sen. Wendy Davis' historic filibuster on the Texas Senate floor.

It was one year ago that Democratic Sen. Davis began an 11-hour filibuster intended to derail Senate Bill 5, a bill containing several new restrictions on abortion. While Davis' filibuster ended before the legislature adjourned, a supportive crowd in the Senate gallery erupted in cheers and screams minutes before the midnight deadline to pass SB 5 – squashing Republican efforts to pass it that night.

Listen to that dramatic moment, prompted by a parliamentary question from Sen. Leticia Van de Putte. (The cheering went on several minutes longer) : 

SB 5 called to restrict abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, require all clinics to be certified as ambulatory surgical centers and ensure abortion doctors have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. 

Prior to Davis' filibuster, large crowds had been gathering at the Capitol as SB 5 wound its way to the Senate floor. The crowds returned by the time Davis began her filibuster. As the bill was being heard on the last day of a special legislative session, Davis's filibuster needed to reach midnight to derail SB 5.

The filibuster ended about three hours shy of midnight. Republican senators had filed several procedural complaints against Davis; her Democratic supporters delayed a vote on the bill by repeatedly raising procedural questions.

With about 10 minutes left until midnight, Sen. Van de Putte asked Sen. Duncan (presiding over the Senate for Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst) the following question: "At what point must a female senator, raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over the male colleges in the room?"

Watch the final moments of filibuster, via the Texas Tribune:

Van de Putte's question made the crowd in the Senate gallery erupt. They cheered for over 10 minutes, going past the midnight deadline to pass the bill. After initial confusion over whether a vote had taken place amid the ruckus, by the morning it was clear SB 5 had not passed.

Abortion rights advocates' victory was shortlived, however: Gov. Rick Perry immediately called another special session.  New legislation containing the same provisions, House Bill 2, made it through both chambers; while crowds continued to fill the Capitol, the legislation was approved and signed into law by Gov. Perry.

The reverberations of the fight are still felt: several abortion clinics have closed as a result of the new law, which has been subject to several legal challenges.

Political shockwaves have also ensued: Lt. Gov. Dewhurst was defeated in the Republican primary by Sen. Dan Patrick, who upbraided Dewhurst for losing control of the Senate the night of Davis' filibuster. And Davis and Van de Putte are the Democratic candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor this fall. 

Wells has been a part of KUT News since 2012, when he was hired as the station's first online reporter. He's currently the social media host and producer for Texas Standard, KUT's flagship news program. In between those gigs, he served as online editor for KUT, covering news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond.
Related Content