Health

Less Than 24 Hours After Abortion Bill Filibuster, Texas Governor Calls Another Special Session

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) has called for a second special legislative session that will begin on July 1, according to ABC News reporter Arlette Saenz. The news comes less than 24 hours after Texas’ first special session concluded with a 13-hour filibuster that effectively blocked an omnibus abortion bill from passing.

Perry convened the first special session to give lawmakers more time to consider abortion-related bills that failed to advance during the state’s regular legislative period. Since special sessions operate under different rules, they allow the Republican majority to more easily rush through legislation without as much room for debate. Nevertheless, a coalition of grassroots women’s health activists and state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) were able to block the stringent SB 5 measure by delaying a final vote. On Tuesday night, Davis successfully filibustered SB 5 by talking about the legislation for over 12 hours without sitting down, going to the bathroom, eating, drinking, or straying off-topic.

But despite Davis’ successful maneuver to defeat the legislation and the outpouring of support from activists across the country, there’s nothing to stop Perry from calling another special session. Some women’s health advocates speculated that Republican lawmakers were counting on it. There were two other pieces of legislation up for consideration during Tuesday’s debate, and in order to block SB 5, Davis was forced to filibuster all of them — so the governor may be able to use those bills as an excuse for giving lawmakers yet another extra lawmaking session this year.

It is unlikely that the same tactics that women’s health advocates used to delay SB 5 during the first special session will be effective during the second. The New York Times reported on Tuesday that, under a second special session, the legislation is likely to be approved.

If enacted into law, SB 5 would criminalize abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and shut down 90 percent of the abortion clinics in the state. Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards has pointed out that, due to the Lone Star State’s size and density, leaving Texas women with just five abortion clinics would be tantamount to banning the procedure altogether.