After Texas Republican lawmakers ran out of time last week and failed to pass their anti-abortion bill in the first special session of the legislature, they're taking no chances the second time around.
Within an hour of convening a 30-day special legislative session on Monday, called by Gov. Rick Perry (R) last week, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R) suspended the Texas Senate rule that requires two-thirds of senators to approve a bill before it can be considered in a floor vote. The suspension makes it easier for Republicans to avoid a potential filibuster and quickly bring the abortion bill to a vote.
The GOP-controlled House State Affairs Committee scheduled a hearing on the abortion bill for Tuesday afternoon and announced that testimony would end at midnight, no matter how many people sign up to testify. The bill, which would dramatically cut access to abortion in the state, must be heard in the House before moving to the Senate.
“The Texas Legislature is poised to finish its history-making work this year by passing legislation to protect the unborn and women’s health, invest in our transportation infrastructure and ensure our justice system is fair but firm," Perry said in a statement on Monday, referring to the three bills that lawmakers will consider in the special session. "As we open the second special session, we must remember the people of Texas hired us to do our job, and that’s what we must do.”
Dewhurst warned anyone who causes a disruption in the gallery while lawmakers consider the abortion bill would be removed and may face 48 hours in prison. During the first special session last week, state Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Ft. Worth) filibustered the bill for 11 straight hours. After Senate Republican leaders declared she had violated Senate rules and ended her crusade, a crowd of abortion rights supporters in the state capitol loudly shouted and chanted until after the session ended at midnight, delaying the abortion measure vote.
An even larger crowd of protesters, estimated by Planned Parenthood at 5,000, showed up at the capitol on Monday to protest the start of the new special session.
Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, addressed the crowd on Monday.
"Gov. Rick Perry -– known for being numerically challenged –- has now shown that he’s also vocabulary-challenged," Hogue said. "Trying to cover for his massive underestimation of the will of Texas women, he claimed that Wendy Davis’ historic filibuster was a 'hijacking of the democratic process.' But we know what democracy is. Democracy is 200,000 people watching a live stream of a floor debate after cable news has cut away. Democracy is 547,000 tweets with the hashtag 'Stand with Wendy' in a 12-hour period. And democracy is thousands of voices rising in a spontaneous chorus to prevent a vote and alter the course of history."