As regular readers know, I’m not a fan of the filibuster as a parliamentary tactic. But if ever there was a moment for its appropriate exercise in an appropriate manner, it occurred yesterday, when Texas Sen. Wendy Davis held the floor of her chamber all day and until nearly midnight to stop the enactment of a bill that would have for many women in the state eliminated any practical access to entirely legal abortion services.
Nearly everything about the bill was a lie. It was advertised as being aimed at protecting the health and safety of the women visiting abortion clinics, when it was actually designed to shut clinics down. It was being considered under special session procedures as “emergency” legislation, which it wasn’t, of course; it was added to the special session’s agenda by Gov. Rick Perry long after it had begun. When it became obvious an awful lot of Texans wanted to protest this legislation, Republican legislators sought to restrict hearing opportunities.
So Wendy Davis and Texas Senate Democrats took advantage of the available rules and met a legislative coup with a counter-coup. If, as is rumored, Rick Perry calls a second special session, this time entirely devoted to the abortion issue, then we will see a complete breakdown of regular political order in the Lone Star State. But having orchestrated this situation in pursuance of the anti-choice movement’s systematic mendacity about their motives and goals, Texas Republicans have no standing to complain if they are called on their stealth tactics and made to justify their legislation. Lord knows Wendy Davis is ready to debate them as long as they like.