Published December 21, 2015
Both sides of the abortion debate were bracing for an intense special session in Texas, as Gov. Rick Perry vowed that a Republican-backed law derailed by a filibuster and screaming protesters would not be stymied this time.
The new 30-day session begins Monday. Perry called lawmakers back after Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis, joined by hundreds of demonstrators, ran out the clock at the end of the last session, in turn defeating a strict abortion bill banning the procedure after the 20th week of pregnancy.
Davis did a round of Sunday-show interviews insisting she would not give up the fight against the bill. She told NBC's "Meet the Press" that she had no plans to "concede the argument."
"These are matters of personal liberty. In Texas, we hold very dear to intrusions against our personal liberty. We fight very hard against that. And we will fight as we begin the session again on Monday," she said.
She added: "And even if this bill passes, obviously there will be challenges to it going forward."
Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst were equally confident they would be successful this time.
"It will pass overwhelmingly and will become the law in the state," Perry said Friday in an interview with conservative radio host Laura Ingraham. "I think the voice of the people of Texas will be heard."
Davis and legislative Democrats stopped the bill at the midnight Tuesday deadline of the first special session in part because Perry had delayed adding it to the agenda. This time, lawmakers can take up the issue immediately and the Republican majorities in the House and Senate are expected to pass the bill for Perry to sign into law.
Dewhurst said Saturday after speaking at the National Right to Life Convention that next time, he'll move to have protesters thrown out if they become disorderly. He said he had tried to get them out Tuesday, though outnumbered troopers in the Capitol were not seen removing most protesters until the early hours of Wednesday.
"Believe me," Dewhurst told reporters. "I have spent most of my time between about 4 a.m. on Wednesday morning and through yesterday making sure that when I give the order ... to clear the gallery, it gets done."
In his speech, Dewhurst ripped the crowds opposing a vote as driven by "hatred" and "mob rule." He called on anti-abortion activists to fill hearing rooms and galleries during the next session as their opponents have done, and use social media to broadcast their support using the hashtag "#stand4life."
As for Davis, whose 11-hour filibuster delayed the vote on the session's final day and put her in the national spotlight, Dewhurst said, "No human being can talk for two weeks. This bill is going to pass."
He told reporters he would move quickly on the bill to keep it out of "filibuster range."
Perry's move to add abortion regulations well into the first special session limited the time senators had to act on it, Dewhurst said.
Dewhurst also backed down from comments published Friday on the conservative website Hot Air, in which he said he'd heard reporters in the Capitol were inciting protesters. He told Hot Air he would "take action" against any reporters who were driving the crowd.
On Saturday, he said he respected reporters and that "the case is closed."
Dewhurst has been lieutenant governor since 2002, and he is running for re-election next year. But a year after he was soundly beaten in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate by Ted Cruz, Dewhurst faces rivals who used Tuesday's episode to question his ability.
Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson said in a letter that Dewhurst "has lost his grip on the reins of the Senate." And state Sen. Dan Patrick, who has also joined the race, said the Senate needs new leadership.
Asked about his opponents, Dewhurst said, "I know it's harder to stay on top than get on top, and I'm going to make sure this state keeps moving forward."
Dewhurst was flanked Saturday by two women from groups that oppose abortion: Texans For Life Coalition president Kyleen Wright and Elizabeth Graham of Texas Right to Life. Wright and Graham said they continued to support the lieutenant governor.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.