In a stunning turn of events early Wednesday, Republican leaders
in the Texas Senate conceded that hotly contested abortion legislation was not
approved as they had earlier claimed.
The bill, expected to be debated all over again in another special legislative session, would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and require that all procedures take place in a surgical center. The bill that was a top priority for Republican legislative leaders, and experts estimate it could lead to the closing of 37 of the state's 42 abortion clinics.
In a chaotic scene that captivated national attention, a filibuster by Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, designed to derail the abortion bill was itself thwarted a couple hours short of her midnight goal late Tuesday. But she was able to claim victory early Wednesday after Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's after-hours acknowledgement that the bill was dead. Asked if the filibuster had succeeded, she responded: "Well, I guess the proof is in the pudding and the pudding tastes awfully good right now."
She told reporters that she was "tired but really happy."
However, Republicans had insisted that they began a vote on the abortion bill just before midnight and it had passed.
Democrats contended the vote was not final before midnight, and therefore should not be allowed to stand. They vowed a legal fight to overturn it.
Finally, around 3 a.m., senators emerged from a closed-door meeting to announce that Republican leaders had agreed the bill was not passed in accordance with Senate rules.
Dewhurst explained briefly in a prepared statement that the bill will not be forwarded to the governor, who was prepared to sign it. "It's been fun, but see you soon," Dewhurst said.
Confusion reigned in the Capitol at midnight with boisterous Davis supporters disrupting proceedings with cheers and catcalls from the public galleries above the Senate floor, which appeared to be mired in gridlock as lawmakers jousted over points of order.
As it became clear that Republicans were making their late push to ram the abortion bill through just after midnight, Davis supporters shouted "shame, shame, shame" at GOP leaders. State troopers were called in to clear the galleries, and at least one arrest was reported.
Even if the abortion bill had been settled, there is still significant unfinished business in the Legislature and one or more future specials sessions are possible, if not likely.
The next move in Texas' ongoing legislative battles is up to Gov. Rick Perry. Under state law, the governor gets to set his own timetable _ and the agenda _ for all special sessions.
Davis clearly was disappointed after her filibuster ended, but said it was "absolutely" worth it.
In the final hours of what amounted to a nearly 13-hour filibuster, Davis was buoyed by everything from a nod from President Barack Obama to moral support from thousands of well-wishers at the Capitol as well as online.
The target of Davis and her allies was a comprehensive abortion bill pushed by Republicans that she assailed as a "raw abuse of power" by Perry and the GOP.
Her filibuster _ watched by thousands nationwide on the internet _ became a social media sensation.
It also drew people in person in droves. Long lines snaked from outside the
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