Well, all eyes were on Texas last night. Regrettably, I missed the remainder of the session due to being locked out of my apartment for most of the night, but State Sen. Wendy Davis, who went from 1,200 followers on Twitter yesterday to over 20,000 by today, has become a feminist rockstar. What did she do? She filibustered a bill that would’ve placed restrictions on infanticide in the Lone State State.
The bill would’ve banned abortions 20 weeks into a pregnancy. And close virtually every clinic in the state except for five. At the same time, it would force clinics to upgrade their medical devices and become “classified as ambulatory surgical centers.” The Associated Press reported on June 26 that:
In her opening remarks, Davis said she was “rising on the floor today to humbly give voice to thousands of Texans” and called Republican efforts to pass the bill a “raw abuse of power.”
Democrats chose Davis, of Fort Worth, to lead the effort because of her background as a woman who had her first child as a teenager and went on to graduate from Harvard Law School.
In the hallway outside the Senate chamber, hundreds of women stood in line, waiting for someone to relinquish a gallery seat. Women’s rights supporters wore orange T-shirts to show their support for Davis.
Yet, she is no Rand Paul. She began her filibuster at 11:18am yesterday morning, but was cut short when she violated the parameters of the filibuster. The New York Times noted on June 26 that:
[Texas] Senate rules set strict requirements on how she could perform a filibuster – she was forbidden from straying off topic or sitting in her chair, for example – and if she was found to have violated the rules three times, her filibuster would effectively come to an end.
When Davis mentioned the sonogram bill in Texas, that was the last straw. A conference with the parliamentarian was called, and her filibuster was effectively over shortly thereafter. Nevertheless, it was too late. While the bill theoretically passed, the 19-10 vote in favor of the new law was taken after midnight. The session was set to expire by 12am, thus killing the bill for now.
Yet, AP wrote that the abortion restrictions weren’t the only things put to the axe.
The filibuster took down other measures. A proposal to fund major transportation projects as well as a bill to have Texas more closely conform with a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision banning mandatory sentences of life in prison without parole for offenders younger than 18 did not get votes. Current state law only allows a life sentence without parole for 17-year-olds convicted of capital murder.
Nevertheless, as zero hour approached, pro-abort protestors became unruly, drowning out procedural measures with chants, and delayed the vote. Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood noticed this was an effective tactic.
— Cecile Richards (@CecileRichards) June 26, 2013
Is this the rule of the mob? Many on the left were commenting on how this may become a national spectacle. They’re right. But they haven’t read any of the polls that show an overwhelming majority of Americans oppose late-term abortion. Additionally, if they think they can use something so unpopular to “turn Texas blue,” it only exists in their imaginations. On the other hand, killing this renewed “war on women” push is going to require perfection concerning messaging, which Republicans fail miserably at executing.
Even if this passes in another special session, what a way to help #turntexasblue
— Irin Carmon (@irincarmon) June 26, 2013
UPDATE: David Freddoso on how this isn’t a winning issue for social liberals.
According to Gallup, only 14 percent of Americans believe abortion should be legal in the third trimester. Only 27 percent believe it should be legal in the second trimester. (When you get into the weeds, it appears that most Americans support the Roe v. Wade decision because they don’t understand what its effects are.) In Texas, 62 percent of voters supported this law, and only 29 percent said they opposed it. The new Texas law, a friend points out, is considerably less stringent than the current abortion laws in France, which bar abortion after 12 weeks.
Among single-issue abortion voters (about 17 percent of Americans), pro-lifers win roughly three-to-two. Pro-life voters are also slightly more likely to consider it an important (though not necessarily decisive) issue. On aggregate, pro-choice voters on abortion just don’t put as much weight behind it — or at least that’s what they tell pollsters.
Texas Democrats just spent an evening throwing red meat to a base of social liberals — mostly wealthy white donors in big cities. There’s an upside for them in this act, but it’s not the kind of upside you showcase in a general election campaign. This is especially true at a moment when the abortion-rights Left has been working hard to shine the spotlight away from the bone-crunching reality of late-term abortions and toward contraception instead. This was a master-stroke, by the way, of the Obama 2012 campaign.
The abortion issue is not decisive in most voters’ calculations. Republicans shouldn’t expect some runaway political success because they passed this law. But on the other side, if Democrats think that preserving the possibility of abortion up until birth is a good issue to run on — well, good luck with that.