Filibuster broken on Texas abortion limits

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AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas' lieutenant governor late yesterday suspended a senator's filibuster against wide-ranging abortion restrictions, but Democrats moved quickly to appeal the decision and set off a parliamentary fight over the rules.

Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst halted the filibuster after determining Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis, of Fort Worth, had strayed off the topic when she talked about a sonogram bill passed in 2011 and how the new abortion restrictions only compounded the anti-abortion laws in Texas.

Democrats immediately appealed the decision and set off a heated debate over rules. Austin Democratic Sen. Kirk Watson appeared to be positioning himself to launch a new filibuster on Dewhurst's decision.

Wearing pink tennis shoes to prepare for nearly 13 consecutive hours of standing, Davis began the day with a one-woman filibuster to block a GOP-led effort to impose stringent new abortion restrictions across the nation's second-most populous state.

Davis' filibuster began at 11:18 a.m. yesterday and continued until 10:03 p.m., less than two hours before the midnight deadline marking the end of the 30-day special session.

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The chamber's filibuster rules stipulate that the senator remain standing without any breaks and also stay on topic.

Republicans pointed out a mistake and later protested again when another lawmaker helped Davis with a back brace. Republican Sen. Donna Campbell flagged her remarks on the sonogram law. Under the rules, lawmakers can vote to end a filibuster after three sustained points of order.

If signed into law, the measures would close almost every abortion clinic in Texas. The bill would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy and force many clinics that perform the procedure to upgrade their facilities and be classified as ambulatory surgical centers. Also, doctors would be required to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles -- a tall order in rural communities.

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