The adage "Don't Mess with Texas" rises to a whole different scale when Texans start messing with each other. In anticipation of this afternoon's second special legislative session meant to enact new restrictions on the availability of abortion in the state, protestors have turned out at the state capitol in Austin in a demonstration of solidarity with Wendy Davis, whose filibuster on the issue last week turned her into an instant political star. Thousands of people dressed in orange appeared on the grounds of the Capitol, hoping to send a message to the legislators inside. The keynote speaker: Davis herself.
The rally's goal is an unlikely repeat of last week's unlikely block of Senate Bill 5. That measure that would have blocked abortions after 20 weeks and required upgrades to facilities that would have close many of them, at least temporarily, as reported by the Houston Chronicle. The measure has been reborn as House Bill 2 and Senate Bill 9 in the new special session. Both largely mirror the previous proposal.
"I believe in Texas more than ever," Davis told the cheering crowd during her speech. "I don't regret for one minute" her decisions to have a child as a teenager, she said, or the path that led her to the State House. "Let's remind Governor Perry that fairness is and always will be a fundamental Texas value," she said. "It shouldn't be unusual for a Texas elected official to stand and fight to for the people that elected them. It should be a job requirement." What was needed in Austin, she argued, were "people who want to build a better Texas, instead of a better political résumé."
Davis' filibuster last week resulted in the defeat of SB5 primarily because the legislature ran out of time. Slated to end at midnight Central Time, Davis ate up enough of the day to prevent a vote from being taken before the session ended. As the Washington Post report, that's unlikely to happen again. The special section that began Monday at 2 p.m. Central was originally expected to run until Thursday, providing a lot more time for a vote to happen. Shortly after the session began, it recessed until next Tuesday, after some quick logistical discussion.
Davis appeared on Face the Nation over the weekend, apparently expecting something like what happened today. Noting that her Republican opponents "mismanaged the clock terribly last time," she suggested they would "probably be a little bit smarter about how they try to move this bill in this next session." But, she continued, "what they now have to confront is that the eyes of Texas, the eyes of the country, are watching and they are going to be held accountable for the decisions that they make in this process."
In the minutes leading up to the rally — orchestrated in part by Planned Parenthood and NARAL — the crowd grew quickly, as seen in these photos taken by legislator Trey Martinez 20 minutes apart.
Plane flying above Texas capitol with banner "STAND WITH WENDY" pic.twitter.com/qLg4m94OUL— Scott Keyes (@smkeyes) July 1, 2013
Shortly after Davis concluded her remarks, the Capitol opened its doors to those wanting to attend the debate. As the Austin American-Stateman reported, security was tight and everyone got a copy of the rules.
This story has been updates as the special session evolved.