How a photo on Twitter helped kill a controversial Texas abortion bill

Gigaom

Last night was a rowdy one at the Texas State Senate in Austin, where legislators were in a heated battle over a controversial bill that needed to pass before midnight. By 4 a.m., they had called it quits and killed the bill — with a little help from a photo posted on Twitter.

The bill in question, Texas SB5, sought to restrict abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy and standardize practices surrounding the procedure — a measure that would have shut down 37 of 45 clinics currently in the state. Democrats fought hard to filibuster the bill, as Senator Wendy Davis conducted an 11-hour speech to prevent the conservative majority from making it law.

All the while, Twitter continued to buzz with the events of the evening, with hashtags #sb5 and #standwithwendy, and  more than 200,000 users watched the Texas Tribune‘s liveblog of the events.

But her efforts fell short as a final point of order allowed proponents of the bill to end her stalling and move to a vote on the bill 15 minutes before the midnight deadline. Then the audience of pro-choice protestors began screaming in support of the Democrats, creating such chaos that it was impossible to conduct the vote. State troopers moved in and ultimately silenced the group, after which the senate speedily passed the bill.

But the initial timestamp read 12:02 am, past the midnight deadline.

After the vote, an argument broke out over whether the bill passed before the deadline, as printouts emerged showing the bill’s timestamp on June 25. Outraged at the attempts to turn back the clock and enforce the bill, Senator Juan Chuy Hinojosa took to Twitter, and the still-watching public, with the evidence:

Time-stamp altered to show vote happened before midnight. Left shows 6/26; right 6/25. #txlege #sb5 #timestampgate pic.twitter.com/HA2QJCxAA9

— Juan Chuy Hinojosa (@TxChuy) June 26, 2013

The infighting continued, but the (now public) picture didn’t lie — conservative senators finally conceded that the timestamp was altered and the bill didn’t pass in time. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst ended the special session, admitting that SB5 had died in the senate.

Gov. Rick Perry could call another special sesson and a similar bill could be reintroduced. But for now, the Democrats are celebrating their little bit of social media saavy.




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