AUSTIN, Texas — Governor Rick Perry called a second 30-day special session of the Texas Legislature on Wednesday to pass widespread abortion restrictions across the nation’s second-largest state, after the first attempt by Republicans died following a marathon one-woman filibuster.
Perry ordered lawmakers to meet July 1 to act on the abortion proposals and two other issues. The abortion rules would close nearly all the state’s abortion clinics and ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
The debate about abortion restrictions led to the most chaotic day in the Texas Legislature in modern history, starting with a marathon filibuster and ending with a down-to-the wire, frenetic vote marked by questions on whether Republicans tried to break chamber rules and jam the measure through.
Senator Wendy Davis, a Democrat, made a daylong attempt to talk the bill to death. During the speech, Davis became a social media star.
But just before midnight, when the session was to end, Republicans said she strayed off topic and got help with a back brace — breaking filibuster rules — and cut her off. That cleared the way for a vote.
But when Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, a Republican, tried to call the final votes, nobody seemed to hear. Some 400 supporters in the gallery took to their feet with a roar, drowning out his voice.
Dewhurst gathered GOP lawmakers to register votes. Democrats held up cellphones, which showed it was past midnight. But Dewhurst and other Republicans insisted the first vote was cast before midnight by the Legislature’s clock and that the bill had passed.
By the time decorum was restored and the 19-10 vote in favor of the measure was recorded, the clock read 12:03 a.m. The bill had passed, but did it count? Were votes tallied in time? After protests from angry Democrats, senators met privately with Dewhurst for more than an hour. Eventually, he declared that while the bill had passed, he did not have time to sign it, so it was not approved. In return for declaring the measure dead, Democrats promised not to question the date of the vote any further.