This is how it's done in the Third World, not a responsible democracy: a mob of 400 protesters managed to literally shout down a ban on late-term abortions in the Texas Senate chamber late Tuesday night. The bill would have passed, but the protesters made so much noise that the vote could not be completed before the midnight deadline.
The vote had already been delayed for hours, thanks to an all-day filibuster by state senator Wendy Davis, who received encouragement from none other than President Barack Obama. Remember that the next time Obama complains about a Republican filibuster. It's also presumably acceptable to pack the room with protesters and shout Obama and the Democrats down during speeches and legislation. If Obama's not comfortable with that, it would make him a hypocritical tyrant, and he keeps telling us not to listen to the voices that warn against tyranny. Let the word go out from coast to coast: Barack Obama endorses filibusters and mob rule.
Yahoo News describes the scene in Texas on Tuesday night:
As the protesters raised the noise to deafening levels in the Texas Senate chamber late Tuesday, Republicans scrambled to gather their colleagues at the podium for a stroke-of-midnight vote.
"Get them out!" Sen. Donna Campbell shouted to a security guard, pointing to the thundering crowd in the gallery overhead that had already been screaming for more than 10 minutes.
"Time is running out," Campbell pleaded. "I want them out of here!"
It didn't work. The noise never stopped and despite barely beating the midnight end-of-session deadline with a vote to pass the bill, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said the chaos in the chamber prevented him from formally signing it before the deadline passed, effectively killing it.
Dewhurst denounced the protesters as an "unruly mob." Democrats who urged them on called the outburst democracy in action.
I can't wait for this to happen to Democrats while they're trying to pass legislation in some state legislature. Their response should be highly entertaining.
Initially, Republicans insisted the vote started before the midnight deadline and passed the bill that Democrats spent the day trying to kill. But after official computer records and printouts of the voting record showed the vote took place Wednesday, and then were changed to read Tuesday, senators retreated into a private meeting to reach a conclusion.
At 3 a.m., Dewhurst emerged from the meeting still insisting the 19-10 vote was in time, but said, "with all the ruckus and noise going on, I couldn't sign the bill" and declared it dead.
He denounced the more than 400 protesters who staged what they called "a people's filibuster" from 11:45 p.m. to well past midnight. He denied mishandling the debate.
"I didn't lose control (of the chamber). We had an unruly mob," Dewhurst said. He even hinted that Gov. Rick Perry may immediately call another 30-day special session, adding: "It's over. It's been fun. But see you soon."
400 protesters get to decide what constitutes a "people's filibuster?" These people have no idea what demon bottles of tyranny they're uncorking. Everyone who can round up a few hundred noisy demonstrators will now get to declare themselves avatars of "the people" and overturn the results of representative elections. Or should we just submit meekly to tyranny and agree that only certain special ideologies get to employ these tactics?
I find myself doubting that many Democrat legislatures would be as scrupulous as the Texas Republicans were about following procedures to the letter. If some pro-abortion bill had been thwarted on technical grounds by a mob of noisy pro-lifers, the Democrats would probably just declare the interference illegitimate and claim the bill had passed anyway. On the other hand, it sounds as if Dewhurst and his colleagues made a lot of sloppy mistakes putting the legislation together and managing the vote. One hopes they'll learn a few lessons if Governor Perry gives them another shot at it.
As for the bill itself, LifeNews summarizes its provisions as follows:
Increase abortion facility safety standards to the level of ambulatory surgical centers to shut down Gosnell-like abortion providers in Texas,
Require the 18,000 RU-486 abortions performed each year be done according to FDA safety standards,
Require physicians who perform abortions to be qualified to treat life-threatening complications after botched abortions and have privileges at a local hospital, and
Ban abortions on unborn children beginning at 20 weeks after fertilization, when scientific evidence clearly shows babies can feel pain.
Opponents claim the safety standards would effectively shut down most of the abortion clinics in Texas... which says a lot about the standards currently maintained by such clinics, none of it good. Those noisy champions of "women's health issues" don't seem to care much about the health of women who encounter complications during abortion procedures, do they? Since the pro-abortion crowd staunchly supports President Obama, let me ask them a question of principle: how is this elevation of standards fundamentally different from Obama's vow to raise environmental standards until the coal industry, along with other energy providers he doesn't like, is driven out of business?
As for the ban on abortion after 20 weeks, polls show it has 62 percent support from Texans, with support rising to 85 percent among Republicans. So much for the claims of a "people's filibuster." Representative government works by organizing to elect representatives; it matters that the majority of voters for the majority party in the state legislature supports an initiative. Holding demonstrations to influence the thinking of these representatives, or rally support for the next election, is a grand and necessary tradition... but overpowering the rule of law with state-house hooliganism is something else entirely. The people who worked within the system, peacefully organized at the ballot box, and elected representatives who shared their values were chumps; they didn't take time away from their productive lives to pack the state house last night and hold the screamers at bay, so they lose.
Democrats are happy to take advantage of this system without complaint, at the state or national level, when it works for them. But when it doesn't, they suddenly begin acting exactly like the false caricature their media allies are always trying to paint of the Tea Party. What kind of coverage do you think those fine folks will get, if they try shouting down the vote on a bill they don't like? How about if pro-lifers give it a try? Oh, wait, that's right: Obama's IRS spent the last couple of years demanding they hand over their prayer books, and instructing them not to protest outside Planned Parenthood offices. Mob rule is fine for some, but even Constitutionally-protected free speech is too much for others.
Update: The Catholic Association's Ashley McGuire offers some more thoughts on that "people's filibuster" concept:
"What happened in Texas last night was one woman and a small mob overruling the democratic process and the wishes of most Americans. By way of reminder, 73 percent of Americans do not think abortion should be legal in the second trimester and 86 percent do not think it should be legal in the third. After 20 weeks many babies can live outside the womb and the procedure becomes rather brutal. So the abortion lobby killed a bill that would have helped guarantee women's safety in the post-Gosnell era and saved the lives of many babies who could live outside the womb. The abortion lobby remains a ruthless force against human dignity and female safety in America."
Update: On Wednesday afternoon, Texas governor Rick Perry announced that he would indeed call another special session of the legislature to pass the abortion legislation. One suspects a greater degree of order will be maintained in the Senate chamber. Suggestion: hold the vote underwater, with everyone wearing scuba gear.