Texas legislature gavels in as protesters rally against abortion bill

Updated
Reproductive rights advocates fill the Texas capitol celebrating the defeat of the controversial anti-abortion bill SB5, which was up for a vote on the last...
Reproductive rights advocates fill the Texas capitol celebrating the defeat of the controversial anti-abortion bill SB5, which was up for a vote on the last...
Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

Updated: 4:30 p.m. ET

Texas Democrats are girding for a fight over abortion rights, which could last as long as two weeks. The Texas-size fight for women’s right to choose reflects the GOP’s nationwide attempt to roll back Roe v. Wade.

Despite State Senator Wendy Davis’ successful all-day filibuster, which killed a bill that would have outlawed abortions after 20-weeks, outspoken abortion foe Republican Gov. Rick Perry insisted lawmakers try again, despite criticism from the left.

“We heard those bills during the regular session,” Democratic state Sen. John Whitmire said by phone after Monday’s meeting of the Senate. “During the regular session, this abortion bill—which is a combination of three bills that were not passed—were blocked for lack of support.” Whitmire noted the rules were changed by Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst: the Texas Constitution requires a two-thirds vote in order to conduct business, but the rule was suspended during the last special session, and a majority vote was put in.

The bill, which mirrors Congress’ effort to pass a 20-week abortion ban into law, has shined a national spotlight on Republicans at a state level going after women’s rights. Ohio’s Republican Gov. John Kasich—a possible presidential contender in 2016—signed into law Monday a budget with anti-choice amendments defining a fetus as “developing from moment of conception.”  As in Texas, Ohio’s abortion law was not brought up to vote in the legislative session but rather added to the state budget after 52% of the state’s voters indicated they did not support the bill in a Public Policy Polling poll.

As state legislators met Monday for the start of another special session, thousands of protesters rallied outside the Capitol in opposition of the abortion bill.

“As promised, the Texas legislature is back in the Capitol today,” said Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards to the crowd, “but so are we.”

Lawmakers and advocates spoke for nearly an hour, including Davis, who fought back against Perry’s public attack on her own life. “I was lucky enough to make the choices in my life that I knew would work for me,” Davis said. “That’s what we are fighting for now: a Texas where every woman is able to overcome her unique challenges because she had the same choices and the same chances I had.”

Perry announced Monday’s 30-day special session less than 24 hours after Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis staged an all-day filibuster Tuesday. Though Davis’ filibuster did not last until the official end of the previous special session, the Senate was still unable to vote before midnight on the bill that the House had passed earlier in the week.

Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Amanda Harrington told msnbc by phone that the Texas bill would virtually ban abortions in the state, while also shutting down nearly all of the clinics that provide abortion services.

“They’re moving fast on this,” Harrington said.

Republicans have stated they won’t be taking any chances the second time around with this bill. ”We’re not going to get it back from the House within filibuster range,” Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst told the Dallas Morning News. ”We’re going to make sure that we’ve got plenty of time, and no human being can talk for two weeks.”

Republican State Senator Dan Patrick, who announced his campaign for lieutenant governor last week, issued a statement Monday morning promising to end any attempts at filibustering the bill. “Senator Davis and the mob had their say last week, it’s time to pass this bill and I intend to do all I can to do s. It’s time the pro-life community had their voice heard,” Patrick said.

Texas Republicans are expected to secure a large victory by the end of the session with majorities in both the House and the Senate, and a governor who promised at last week’s National Right to Life Conference that he intended to sign the bill into law. Perry also made massive cuts in state funding for women’s health back in 2011, sending a message across the nation that the GOP’s “war on women” was alive and well in Texas.

Although the GOP has a majority in Texas, Democrats are not without options. In  2003, Democratic representatives in both the House and the Senate fled to neighboring states in order to break quorum on a vote in a special session on redistricting. Similar tactics have been used in Wisconsin and Indiana.

A Texas House Committee will begin hearing public testimony on the abortion bill Tuesday afternoon until midnight.

Texas legislature gavels in as protesters rally against abortion bill

Updated