Speaking to an enthusiastic throng numbered at 3,000 by the Texas Department of Public Safety, Democratic lawmakers pilloried the state's Republican leadership on issues ranging from Gov. Rick Perry's veto of an equal pay bill to crowded public school classrooms.
At a noon rally, Davis said the abortion debate provided a spark long missing from the Democratic Party, out of power for more than a decade in Texas.
"We feel hope. We had an opportunity to be inspired by each other's action in our democracy and how much we can accomplish," Davis said. "Right now, our state is in trouble. ... We need people in politics who love this place, people who want to build a better Texas more than a better political resume."
Her remarks came as activists on both sides of the abortion debate made their voices heard at the state Capitol as the Legislature officially kicked off a second special session, called by Perry to consider abortion restrictions.
At issue is a bill that would require significant, costly upgrades to Texas abortion clinics that abortion-rights activists say would cause the closure of all but five clinics in Texas. The bill also would ban all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Perry also instructed lawmakers to consider during the session legislation about transportation funding and punishment for 17-year-old capital murderers.
The House State Affairs Committee will hear the abortion bill Tuesday, but the full House adjourned for a week. The full Senate also adjourned until July 9, though committees will hear the transportation and juvenile justice bills Tuesday.
By midmorning Monday, hundreds of anti-abortion activists gathered in the Capitol rotunda singing "Amazing Grace" as abortion-rights activists distributed coat hangers to symbolize unsafe abortions they say will result if the legislation is passed.
The first special session ended in chaos Tuesday after an angry crowd in the Senate gallery erupted when Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst ruled that Davis had lost the floor after a nearly 12-hour filibuster. Although the bill passed, the commotion disrupted Senate business and prevented the legislation from being enrolled before the end of the 30-day special session, effectively killing it.
State Affairs Chairman Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, said he would begin the abortion bill hearing around 3 p.m. and cut off testimony at midnight, regardless of how many people show up to testify.
"No one's opinion is going to be changed by the testimony," he said. "This is the third go-round we'll have at hearing this testimony."
The bill failed during the Legislature's regular session, blocked by a Senate requirement that all bills must have a two-thirds vote to be debated. Dewhurst has dispensed with that rule for the special session.
Democrats said the abortion restrictions would fall hardest on low-income women, who will have to travel farther to obtain abortions. Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, said the two abortion clinics operating in his hometown would be forced to close.
"The nearest clinics are going to be 10 hours away," he said. "People are going to go to Juarez for an unsafe abortion."
Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, an emergency room physician, wore scrubs to a news conference in which several women shared personal stories about how they were forced into abortions or lied to about the procedure. They all said they regretted going through with the procedure because it left them physically and emotionally scarred for life, and they urged lawmakers to pass the package of new abortion restrictions.
One woman, Rhonda Arias of Houston, said her abortion roughly 30 years ago caused her to have nightmares, turned her toward a life of alcohol and drugs, and sank her self-esteem to an "all-time low."
"That daily torment was too much for me to bear, and finally I attempted suicide," she said.
Veronica and Rosemary Hamilton, sisters from San Diego, drove 40 hours from California to Austin a week ago to support Davis' filibuster.
"This bill is going to kill people," Veronica Hamilton said Monday. "When women don't have access to healthy abortions, they'll start doing unhealthy things. This is a national issue, affecting more than just Texas women."
Democrats made it clear they would press the advantage won by the national attention, driven by social media, given their cause. Davis said lawmakers would press for passage of an equal pay bill, no doubt to press the case that Republicans are engaged in a "war on women."
In recent days, party fundraising appeals have referred to Davis' filibuster, and party insiders are hoping the Fort Worth Democrat will run for statewide office.
Express-News staff writers Emily Bamforth and Elise Brunsvold contributed to this report.
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