Senate recesses until July 9 as thousands demonstrate at the Capitol

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by DAVID SCHECHTER

Bio | Email | Follow: @davidschechter

WFAA

Posted on July 1, 2013 at 8:23 AM

Updated Monday, Jan 6 at 3:19 PM

AUSTIN –– Following one of the most dramatic days in Texas political history, the legislature reconvened Monday for a second special session in an attempt to pass one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation. 

Last week, a Democratic filibuster led by Sen. Wendy Davis, D – Fort Worth, killed Senate Bill 5. In the final hours of the session large, vocal crowds in the gallery created chaos in the Senate chamber helping Democrats run out the clock on the first special session.
 
Ordering lawmakers to take up the abortion issue a second time, Republican Gov. Rick Perry called for a second special session. Jim Henson, a political science professor at the University of Texas, predicts Republicans will likely try to get the abortion bill moving as soon as possible.
 
“We’ll get signals from the Senate leadership about how they are going to handle activists in the gallery," Henson said. "And probably some debate about procedure (for the session)."

As protestors stuffed the rotunda, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst gaveled the session in shortly after 2 p.m. He made it clear what he expects from the gallery and its observers.

"It's my hope that all visitors to the Capitol will follow our request for decorum," he said. "If they are unable, then we would have to clear the gallery to proceed. 

Last week, Dewhurst credited an 'unruly mob' with the Senate's inability to secure a vote before midnight. Ultimately, the senators met for less than an hour. After convening, the Senate agreed to recess until 11 a.m. on July 9. 

But that didn't stop demonstrators from crowding the Capitol.

"We expect a large turnout at our 'Stand with Texas' rally," said Heather Busby, executive director of Pro-Choice Texas. "And, afterwards, we'll have educational sessions, collection of video testimonials and letter writing."

More than 5,000 demonstrators packed the area outside the Capitol for the afternoon rally. Wearing burnt orange shirts and carrying signs critical of many Republican leaders and the legislation, the protesters heard from politicans and entertainers who are against the bill. Davis, upon her arrival, triggered a loud roar from the crowd.  

"I believe in Texas more than ever," she said. Texas lawmakers have "forgotten their duty to represent all of us." 

After the Senate recessed, hundreds, many dressed in burnt orange, stood in the rotunda and chanted in support of pro-choice.

Women addressing the crowd earlier in the afternoon called on lawmakers to reject the law because it took away a woman's right to choose. But Republican majorities who oppose all abortions are expected to pass the bill over the next 30 days.

At least 300 protesters opposing the legislation were seen outside the Capitol Monday morning, ahead of the noon rally. One carried a sign saying "Perry will never be pregnant," next to a picture of a coat hanger.

Anti-abortion protesters recited the Lord's Prayer in advance of their own afternoon rally. At one point, protesters signing "Amazing Grace" in the rotunda were met with chants from abortion-rights activists.

At least 100 officers were seen, some with helmets and truncheons.

Texas Alliance for Life, a pro-life advocacy group, also planned a Monday event. Hundreds showed up to show support, many wearing blue shirts.

"Texas has a culture of life.  Texas is pro-life," said Republican Donna Campbell who was present Monday at the Capitol. "I think that was biased, a screwed view of sentiment toward pro-abortion and the abortion industry. “

 The legislation under consideration would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and add requirements to the standards of medical care required to perform abortions. Critics say the new requirements would greatly reduce access to the procedure for pregnant women.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst gaveled in the session shortly after 2 p.m. Davis returned to the chamber wearing a bright orange dress but without the pink tennis she wore that night while she stood.

The Senate gallery was full but calm as the session began after a boisterous demonstration outside.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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