5 Things to Watch as Texas Lawmakers Debate Anti-Abortion Bill Again

PHOTO: Wendy Davis, SB5

For Democrats in Texas hoping to prevent an anti-abortion bill a second time from passing through the state legislature, time will be both an enemy and a friend.

Republicans now have a second special legislative session devoted almost exclusively to passing a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks and impose regulations that would shutter all but six abortion clinics in the state, giving them plenty of time to overcome Democratic objections to the bill.

But they can also count on Democrats to make those days as painful for them as possible.

After Democratic State Sen. Wendy Davis successfully stopped the bill in last week's legislative session with an 11-hour filibuster, Democrats and their pro-choice allies now have a captive national audience watching the activities of the state legislature very carefully, increasing the political risk for Republicans who have been labeled by Democrats as anti-woman.

The next several weeks will likely entail a complex game of parliamentary maneuvering, heated rhetoric and political gamesmanship that have both local and national implications.

Today, Texas state legislators will hear testimony from Texans about the bill's impact for nine hours. But with both the full Texas House and Senate in recess until after the Fourth of July weekend, both sides have ample time to nail down their strategies.

Here are five things to watch in the special legislative session:

1) The Usefulness of Stalling and Laying Out the Public Record

With a 30-day, special legislative session at their disposal, Republicans have plenty of time to get their anti-abortion bill through the legislature.

But at the same time, Democrats hope to drag out the issue as long as possible, keeping it at the forefront of the attention of a national audience.

To do that, they'll focus largely on the little stuff, such as calling out violations of parliamentary procedure that could either delay or kill the legislation.

"The other thing you can do is creatively use of the rules and attentiveness to procedure. You look for violations of the rules," said James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas, Austin. "Calling points of order allows you to delay or procedurally disqualify legislation from being passed."

Democrats will likely continue to partner with national groups like Planned Parenthood and NARAL to organize rallies -- like the one outside the state capitol Monday -- to keep the broader public focused on the specifics of the law, and on Republicans' determination to pass it despite public outcry.

In the opening Texas House session Monday, Democrats pushed for and failed to get hearings on the bill to be conducted in hearings throughout the state of Texas.

"I think that's the argument here is that you're acting to limit a constitutional right and you ought to compile a record showing how that's going to affect women," said Hugh Brady, director of the Legislative Lawyering Clinic at the University of Texas Law School. "And to do that you have to go to where the women are. You can't expect everyone to come to Austin."

Still, it's almost certain that Republicans will successfully pass some kind of abortion restrictions either in this legislative session or in a future session Perry may call at any time. But according to Brady, Democrats know that in order to challenge an anti-abortion law in the courts, they need to meticulously establish a legislative record.

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