The Conversation

Sen. Wendy Davis and Karnamaya Mongar

A twelve hour filibuster by state legislator Wendy Davis led to the defeat of a bill which would require abortion clinics in Texas to be more strictly regulated. The bill would specifically address some issues which were raised by the grand jury in the Gosnell case regarding Karnamaya Mongar, the woman who died in 2009 after a botched abortion.

The bill known as SB5 would have banned abortion after 20 weeks and required clinics in the state to meet the standards set for ambulatory surgical centers. A handful of clinics in the state already meet those requirement but the majority of the 42 clinics do not. Had the bill passed, those clinics would be forced to shut down until renovations could be made to bring them into complicance.

Surgical centers are required, for instance, to have wider hallways and doors to allow for the passage of gurneys. The abortion industry refers to such regulations as TRAP laws, arguing that they are an unnecessary burden on their business. However the grand jury report in the Gosnell case noted that Karnamaya Mongar could not be quickly removed from Gosnell's clinic because there was no space for a gurney to pass:

[T]here might have been some slim hope of reviving Mrs. Mongar. The paramedics were able to generate a weak pulse. But, because of the cluttered hallways and the padlocked emergency door, it took them over twenty minutes just to find a way to get her out of the building.

In 2012, Pennsylvania also began regulating abortion clinics as ambulatory surgical centers. Several clinics in the state shut down permanently and others had to cease offering surgical abortions. Overall, the number of clinics went from 22 to 17.

Senator Davis successfully filibustered SB5 by running out the clock on the legislative special session, which ended at midnight. At first Republicans claimed the vote had taken place before the deadline but by 3 a.m. the Lt. Gov. admitted the bill had not been passed.

Davis' filibuster was cheered on by hundreds of protesters. The scene in the Austin Capitol was reminiscent of similar moments in Madison, Wisconsin and in Lansing, Michigan.

Despite the raucous crowd, polling consistently shows that 80 percent of Americans support a ban on 3rd trimester abortions (64 percent in the 2nd trimester). As events in Wisconsin and Michigan demonstrate, a noisy crowd does not guarantee a win.

Sen. Davis' filibuster maneuver may need to be repeated soon. Governor Rick Perry can call a 2nd special session and give Republicans another chance to pass it.


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