Texas state senators were able to stall Sen. Wendy Davis's filibuster from being called off after one attentive Twitter user brought an overlooked rule to the attention of Sen. Kirk Watson and Sen. Judith Zaffirini.
The filibuster, which Davis started around 11am CT on Tuesday to prevent one of the strictest abortion bills from passing the Texas Senate (having already passed the House), came to a halt around 10pm after a fellow senator claimed that she had violated the rules of the filibuster by going off-topic with a mention of a Texas ultrasound-before-abortion law passed during the previous session.
During a filibuster, a senator is not allowed to speak off-topic, eat, drink, leave to go to the bathroom, or lean on anything. A senator is given three warnings before the Senate can vote to allow the speaker to continue or end the filibuster.
Davis had previously gotten violations for—first—the germaneness (or relevancy to the law being debated) of discussing Planned Parenthood and the state's women's health budget and—second—receiving assistance from Sen. Rodney Ellis when putting on a back brace.
Later in the process, Sen. Leticia van de Putte, who had been at her father's funeral earlier in the day, asked for Davis's violations to be restated. However, according to women's rights activist and "sometimes attorney" Heather Parker, the Senate had it wrong.
Parker easily found the rules as to what constituted "germaneness" and determined that the second violation—where Davis was helped into a back brace—didn't count as a warning rule against germaneness.
The three warnings rule in re: removing someone filibustering does NOT apply to decorum (i.e. the backbrace) but ONLY to germaneness). #SB5— Heather Parker (@heatherr_parker) June 26, 2013
She quickly got in touch with Sen. Watson's office after tweeting about the rule, and Sen. Zaffirini brought up Parker's point about 30 minutes later. The debate stalled the proceedings, which then led to crowd drowning the Senate out so they wouldn't be able to call roll to vote on the bill.
As of press time, reports are conflicted regarding whether SB 5 passed the Texas Senate, since the special session was slated to end at midnight.
Illustration by Fernando Alfonso III