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Wendy Davis marathon speech halts abortion bill in Texas

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One giant achievement for Texan women, one rather impressive feat of bladder control for a brave politician. Wendy Davis earned instant heroine status among the ten gallon hats and ultra-conservative attitudes of the Texas legislature with her majestic filibuster to stall the passing of a bill that would make abortion all but unobtainable in the Lone Star State.

Davis, sporting comfortable trainers, got to her feet in the State Senate House and spoke for more than ten hours without breaks. Opposing the bill which would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and require terminations to take place in surgical centres, she cited testimony from Texan women opposed to the legislation. There was also plenty of time to include some autobiographical details, telling the House how she had a first child as a teenager and later graduated from Harvard Law School.

While Republicans watched, ready for any break or relaxation that would allow them to stop her on a point of order, Davis's supporters cheered her on from the public gallery in Austin, a city that is an isolated outpost of liberal values in a predominantly reactionary state.

Davis played for time brilliantly. Even when she was told to stand down by the Senate president, Democrat supporters appealed against the ruling. Vital time was used up debating the procedural issue, meaning that the controversial bill could not be passed before the midnight deadline.

Fellow Democrat Leticia Van de Putte gave credit to the supporters who had turned up in impressive numbers. "The Republicans in the Senate and the House and the governor tried to silence women in Texas," she said. "They did everything they could. Your power is greater. This bill would have passed if you guys had not come here these last five days."

Elsewhere in Texas, conservatives won a macabre victory as the state executed its 500th prison inmate by lethal injection. Protesters called it "a disgrace for our nation and our state".

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