A filibuster of a Texas abortion bill was trending worldwide on Twitter
Democratic Senator Wendy Davis stood and spoke for 10 hours against the bill
More than 180,00 people tuned into a live stream of the proceedings on YouTube
Democratic Senator Wendy Davis took to the floor of the Texas Senate at 11:18 a.m. in pink tennis shoes and began what she hoped would be a nearly 13 hour filibuster of an abortion bill.
As the day went on, the story of Senator Davis’ filibuster caught fire on Twitter, and by the evening it was trending worldwide. There were at least 730,000 total tweets about the filibuster on Tuesday. The excitement peaked at 11:58 p.m. central time, just two minutes before the midnight deadline, with 5,776 tweets per minute about the story, according to Twitter.
Ultimately, after much confusion, it worked. Senate leaders tried to push a vote through, but didn’t do so until a couple of minutes after midnight and, around 3 a.m., the state’s legislature declared a special session over.
It even caught the attention of the official President Obama Twitter account, which tweeted out “Something special is happening in Austin tonight” with a link to The Texas Tribune during the filibuster’s ninth hour.
Senate Bill 5 (SB 5) would ban abortions after the 20th week of a pregnancy. According to opponents, new abortion clinic standards in the bill would effectively shutter 37 of the state’s 42 abortion clinics. The bill would give Texas some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.
Strict senate rules for filibusters added to the drama. According to the rules, Senator Davis was not allowed to sit down, take a restroom break, go off topic or even lean.
By 10:30 p.m., the YouTube channel live streaming the special senate session passed 100,000 viewers, and the number jumped when Senator Davis was found to be in violation of senate rules for straying off topic. It was her third violation, which opened the window for a vote on whether or not she must cease the filibuster. Other senators who opposed the bill filled the remaining time with questions and points of order to run out the clock.
With fewer than five minutes left until the midnight deadline and an outcome still murky, the YouTube live stream had more than 180,000 viewers glued to their screens.
On Twitter, the topic was trending worldwide. At different points during the evening, #standwithwendy, #SB5, #texlege “Wendy Davis,” “Texas,” “Robert’s Rules of Order” and “Midnight in Texas” were all trending on the social network. The #standwithwendy hashtag had 400,000 mentions on Tuesday, according to Twitter.
Senator Davis’ Twitter account was silent while she was on the floor, but her number of followers jumped from just under 6,000 to more than 48,000 during the course of the day, an 8x increase.
Twitter also served as a rallying point for local protestors, who increased in numbers throughout the day to fill the senate chambers and line the rotunda. Many posted photos and Vines of the crowds. Chanting could be heard inside and outside the senate at midnight, when the floor erupted in confusion as it appeared senators were still taking a vote, even though the deadline had passed.