The Filibuster That Killed SB5

by jmachie on July 2, 2013

Were you watching? At one point, almost 200,000 people were.

Senator Wendy Davis, a member of the Democratic party, began what was meant to be a 13 hour long filibuster in order to stop Senate Bill 5; and, in the end she succeeded, but not without both trial and tribulation.


Defined by the United States Senate, a filibuster is an:

“Informal term for any attempt to block or delay Senate action on a bill or other matter by debating it at length, by offering numerous procedural motions, or by any other delaying or obstructive actions.”

However, a filibuster in Texas is different from one that might take place in another state and even from one that might take place at the federal level. In Texas, as we witnessed last, during the filibuster in front of the Texas Senate, Senator Wendy Davis was not allowed to do any of the following:

  • Lean

  • Sit down

  • Take a break

  • Go to the bathroom

  • Talk about any topics that are irrelevant to the issue at hand

While watching, I wondered to myself, “How can she talk and stand for 13 hours without moving or, you know, going to the bathroom?” Well, as a result of a wrongful claim that Senator Wendy Davis had raised three points that were irrelevant, or not germane, to the issue at hand, her filibuster was stopped– after 11 long hours. However, footage showed that Senator Wendy Davis remained standing until the end, and her colleagues stepped in to complete the filibuster for her.

But, why all this fuss over one measly senate bill?

Senate Bill 5

Senate Bill 5 promises to raise the standards for abortion clinics to ones similar to those found in surgical clinics; and, it bans abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, which is exactly when most women discover their pregnancy for the first time. Senate Bill 5 (SB5) would also eliminate 37 of the 42 abortion clinics in Texas, making it almost impossible for the women who need abortions to get them.

Therefore, its NOT a measly senate bill.

Its also hard to believe the intentions behind this bill, and Senator Wendy Davis stated, “Women realize that these bills will not protect their health. They will only reduce their access to abortion providers and limit their ability to make their own family-planning decisions.”

The Drama

Along the way, there were dramatic moments.

When Senator Wendy Davis was stopped from completing her filibuster after reaching the 11 hour mark, the crowd screamed, “Let her speak.” Order took more than a few minutes to be restored. Then, her colleagues took the mike on her behalf, doing the best to stall the vote on SB5.

At one point, it seemed as if things were not going to end well. It had come down to parliamentary inquiries, motions, and a myriad of other political maneuvers. I’m sure many of us were clenching our teeth and wringing our hands as we at times prayed with hope and at times moaned with frustration. But, just what was going on? Rules were being shoved down the throats of the people in the room, but no one wanted to swallow them– or even seemed to know them.

Suddenly, amidst the confusion, the bold voice of Senator Leticia Van de Putte, who had been ignored by the President and Chairman, dared to cry out:

“At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over the male colleagues in the room?”

At that point, it was game over– seemingly. The crowd erupted into cheers that lasted for minutes. Time was almost up, but it wasn’t over yet.

Just minutes before midnight, the Republicans made their last scramble. A vote was taken, and the bill was passed.

However, when was the vote taken? News and media didn’t know, and neither did many of the people– even the senators, present in the room.

The chaos continued.


In the end, the vote came in at 12:03– just three minutes too late for SB5 to survive.

2013 is about change, change that began in 2008 when President Barack Obama first said, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.

Jennifer Machie writes for Jason McMinn of the McMinn Law Firm in Austin, Texas.


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