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Judge Rules on Texas Abortion Bans That Made Wendy Stand

(UPDATED) Does today's decision vindicate pro-choice Texas senator's half-day filibuster?
Judge Rules on Texas Abortion Bans That Made Wendy Stand
Image: thetexastribune/Flickr
State Sen. Wendy Davis at The Texas Tribune Festival in September.

Update (Oct 28): New restrictions that could have closed one-third of Texas's abortion providers will no longer take effect Tuesday, after a federal judge ruled the bulk of the laws unconstitutional. But the news "isn't a big victory" for Sen. Wendy Davis, who famously filibustered against the laws (see below), notes Atlantic Media's National Journal.

For one, the judge allowed a "fetal pain" ban on abortions after 20 weeks to stand. Also, Texas's attorney general has already appealed the ruling.

USA Todayexplains how the judge struck down many of the new limits, including requiring doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, but "upheld most provisions governing use of pregnancy-ending drugs."

More than 200 abortion restrictions have been enacted in 30 states since 2011, compared with 212 between 2001 and 2010, said Elizabeth Nash, policy analyst with the Guttmacher Institute, to USA Today.


Update (July 13): Three weeks after Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis's filibuster, the Texas State Legislature has approved its abortion-restriction measure. "The bill requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, allows abortions only in surgical centers and bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy," The Associated Press reports.

According to the Texas Tribune, "The measure restricting abortions in Texas is now headed to Gov. Rick Perry's desk, having passed as thousands of protesters who opposed the measure chanted in and around the Capitol."

Even though Davis skyrocketed to household-name status as a result of her attempt to block the bill, a United Technologies-National Journal poll indicated that Americans actually support measures that prohibit abortions after 20 weeks. According to National Journal, "Americans favor such a bill by 48 percent to 44 percent."


Editor's note: This story originally appeared on June 27, 2013, under the headline: Was Wendy's Celebrity-Making Stand against Fetal Pain Ban All for Naught?

Abortion-rights activists dubbed Tuesday as "the day Wendy stood." But even though the Democratic Texas senator's attempt at a 13-hour filibuster (she fell short of 11) prevented the state Senate from voting on a controversial abortion bill, anti-abortion activists are cheerful: Wednesday was the day Texas governor Rick Perry stood up, too.

Texas Sen. Wendy Davis
Image: Tracy Nanthavongsa / Flickr

Texas Sen. Wendy Davis

"It's another way of saying the governor, who got elected to statewide office when Democrats still ruled the state virtually unchecked, isn't about to let them decide what happens on a major policy matter now that the GOP is in charge—particularly a wedge issue like abortion," the Texas Tribunereports.

Perry has called for a second special session of the state legislature next month to address "on its agenda a Republican-backed plan that critics say would close nearly every abortion clinic across the state and impose other widespread limits on the procedure."

The Texas legislature concluded its first special session Tuesday after an attempt to vote on the abortion bill ended "in chaos."

Sen. Wendy Davis stood and spoke for a remarkable 10 hours straight in order to keep the Texas Senate from voting on a restrictive, fetal-pain abortion ban that the state House of Representatives passed earlier in the week. According to the Tribune, "The bill would have banned abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, required physicians to have hospital admitting privileges within 30 miles of an abortion facility, required abortions—even drug-induced ones—to be performed in ambulatory surgical centers and required doctors to administer drugs that induce abortion in person."

Davis's filibuster also was aided by protesters who staged a "people's filibuster" in the chamber, Politico reports. Nearly 400 protestors responded raucously after the GOP voted to end Davis's filibuster just before the midnight deadline, allowing just enough time for a last-minute, 19-10 vote in favor of the bill. Yet, "official computer records and printouts of the voting record showed the vote took place on Wednesday, and then were changed to read Tuesday," invalidating the vote.

CT has reported on the recent wave of fetal-pain abortion bans and how courts are now passing judgement on the state-level efforts.

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