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'People's Filibuster' Defeats GOP Assault on Women in Texas

State Sen. Wendy Davis is joined by hundreds of citizens who drown GOP hopes for nation's strictest anti-choice law

- Jon Queally, staff writer

Members of the gallery cheer and chant as the Texas Senate tries to bring an abortion bill to a vote as time expires, Wednesday, June 26, 2013, in Austin, Texas. Amid the deafening roar of abortion rights supporters, Texas Republicans huddled around the Senate podium to pass new abortion restrictions, but whether the vote was cast before or after midnight is in dispute. If signed into law, the measures would close almost every abortion clinic in Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)As the Texas Observer describes the scene, it was a handful of committed Democrats led by State Senator Wendy Davis who led the charge against GOP lawmakers on the floor of the Senate chamber as they tried to push through the most anti-choice law in the country on Tuesday, but it was the citizen activists who crowded the galley up above—performing a "people's filibuster"—who ultimately stemmed the rightwing assault and brought the proposal to a dramatic defeat.

The legislation, that would have prevented a woman from receiving an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy and effectively closed all but five of the state's abortion clinics, needed to be signed into law by midnight in order to meet this legislative session's final deadline.

According to the Observer, whose liveblog offered complete coverage of the events:

3:24 a.m.: In the end, after the 13-hour filibuster and all the wrangling over rules, Wendy Davis and her fellow Texas Democrats could do only so much. In the end, it was the citizens in the gallery who made the difference late Tuesday night.

With the Texas Senate poised to approve one the harshest anti-abortion laws in the country—just 15 minutes before the midnight deadline—and Senate Democrats apparently out of maneuvers, the crowd took over. Thousands of orange-clad abortion-rights activists who packed the Texas Capitol all day began roaring louder and louder until they literally shouted down the final minutes of the 30-day special session before Republicans could pass the bill.

What followed was three hours of confusion during which no one was sure if the bill actually passed. Republican senators were running around claiming the bill had passed before a midnight deadline, but many observers who watched the debate live didn’t see it that way.

After those hours of confusion, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, a Republican, emerged and announced with disappointment that the bill did not pass and was "dead."

Dewhurst went on to blame the "unruly" protesters for the bill's failure, deriding them as a mob.

But Sen. Davis championed those who gathered to protest the bill. “I felt empowered by their presence, by their support, by their letters,” she said. “They made a difference. They are what makes Texas so amazing, and I’m proud to be a Texan tonight. ”

Democrat Senator Leticia Van de Putte also praised those in the crowd: "You really were the citizen filibuster," she said. "I've never seen anything like it and I'll never see it again – I hope we never have to see it again."

However, in an ominous sign-off, it was Dewhurst himself who suggested that Governor Rick Perry may call a special session to take up the bill again. "It's over. It's been fun. But see you soon," he said.

In the meantime, however, reproductive rights advocates and women in Texas and across the country were celebrating and the #standwithwendy hashtag on Twitter was trending throughout the night:

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