I am pleased that Charmaine and Kathryn had posts this morning about SB 5. As I mentioned yesterday, this piece of legislation would ban abortion after 20 weeks, require that abortion clinics meet the same standards as other health-care facilities, and mandate that abortion providers have admitting privileges at a local hospital. The legislation was under consideration during a special session of the Texas state legislature which was required to end at midnight. Senate Republicans succeeded in ending Senator Wendy Davis’s filibuster at around 10PM. However, various procedural moves delayed consideration of the full bill. As the clock neared midnight there was a concerted effort among spectators to disrupt the proceedings in the hopes of delaying and ultimately defeating SB 5. After extensive delay, it was decided that the vote on SB 5 took place after midnight and was therefore invalid.
The filibuster and its aftermath received substantial coverage from a number of media outlets both in Texas and across the country. However, not one mainstream-media outlet has even raised concerns about the conduct of the spectators, much less criticized their behavior. This is important because the actions of the crowd were in clear and blatant violation of Senate rules. Spectators are allowed to engage in polite applause, but little else. In the morning and early afternoon some supporters of legal abortion were encouraging gallery spectators to abide by the rules. However, by the late evening the tone had changed dramatically. Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards was encouraging gallery spectators to make noise via Twitter. One can only imagine the outrage if an unruly mob of pro-life activists — egged on by pro-life leaders — succeeded in blocking a pro-abortion bill by shouting down the legislature.
Regardless of one’s views on abortion, last night’s actions set a terrible precedent. Allowing an unruly crowd to effectively block a vote on a piece of legislation will only serve to encourage disruptive activity in the future. That having been said, pro-lifers should not give up hope. There is speculation that Governor Perry might call another special session of the legislature to reconsider this piece of legislation. Some are concerned that other bills dealing with juvenile justice and highway funding also failed to receive consideration due to the filibuster. More importantly, reconsidering SB 5 would send a clear message to all that the rule of law — and not mob rule — will prevail in Texas.