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Texas Abortion Fight Follows Familiar Pattern

State Sen. Wendy Davis at an abortion rights rally in Austin, Texas, July 1, 2013.

Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis at an abortion-rights rally in Austin on Monday.

For many watching the abortion fight in Texas, it's deja vu all over again.

Abortion-rights protesters once again gathered Monday at the state capitol building to express their outrage at the Legislature's attempt to further restrict abortions in the state. The images from Austin looked a lot like the previous week's when state Sen. Wendy Davis famously filibustered to stop the legislation from passing.

But another reason the scene looks familiar is that Texas is the latest state in which protesters in the hundreds have descended on a Republican-controlled state capitol to try to stop legislative efforts to implement elements of a conservative agenda.

And just as the protesters in Texas appear to have the odds against them, so did protesters in Wisconsin and North Carolina who failed to stop the changes that spurred their activism.

In Wisconsin, protesters laid siege to the state capitol in 2011 as part of an attempt to turn back the effort by Republican Gov. Scott Walker and the GOP-controlled Legislature to restrict the collective bargaining power of most public employee unions.

Not only did protesters fail to stop the legislation they despised but they also fell short in their goal to oust Walker or to gain partial control of the Legislature.

This spring, protesters in North Carolina, led by the NAACP, staged what they called Moral Mondays, rallies at the state capitol building in Raleigh to protest legislative efforts by the Republican governor and lawmakers that progressives found abhorrent.

Many demonstrators wound up getting arrested, placing further strains on an already strained county court system, according to one news report.

But they couldn't stop the conservative agenda put forward by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and GOP lawmakers. Among the laws pushed through: an end to long-term jobless benefits and a resumption of executions, a penalty that had been halted for several years owing to concerns about racial disparities in death sentences.

Measured by their success in stopping the legislative efforts that galvanized them, the protests in North Carolina and Wisconsin didn't accomplish much, at least to date. And in Texas, protesters are likely to share a similar outcome.

But these protests may end up advancing other goals. They've served as focal points for organizing, they've helped new leaders to surface and they've proved to be great tools for raising money.

The Texas protests, for example, have raised Davis' profile, sparking talk that she could use the publicity as a springboard to run for governor. Texas Democrats have also used the protests and the successful filibuster to raise money. That's a double-edged sword, however: Republicans have countered by telling their own supporters that their donations can help protect against "mob rule."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit www.npr.org.

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