More Stringent Limits on Abortion Passed in Texas House

Published on June 24, 2013


AUSTIN – –  Republicans used their  majority to cut short debate and give preliminary approval early Monday to some  of the toughest abortion restrictions in the country as time was running out on  the Texas Legislature’s special session.

Many members of the conservative majority had flyers on their desks that read  “Psalm 139:13-14,” which reads in part, “You covered me in my mother’s womb. I  will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Democrats gained strength from more than 800 demonstrators who packed the  hallways of the Capitol carrying signs reading, “Stop the War on Women” to  oppose Senate Bill 5. The measure would ban abortions after the 20th week of  pregnancy, require doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and  limit abortions to surgical centers.

“If this passes, abortion would be virtually banned in the state of Texas,  and many women could be forced to resort to dangerous and unsafe measures,” said  Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund and daughter of the  late former Texas governor Ann Richards.

Democrats used parliamentary tactics to draw out the debate for 15 hours,  pointing out technical mistakes in the process or trying to tack on amendments  to fundamentally change the bill. Republicans remained largely silent, until  finally passing a motion to stop accepting amendments and force a vote, a highly  unusual and partisan move.

“We are willing to have an attack on women in order to have someone’s  political agenda achieved,” Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, said in opposition  to stopping debate on the bill. “It may be in the dark of night now … but the  sun will shine on each and every one of us, and we will be held  accountable.”

Republicans, though, needed to end debate and move the process forward if  they hope to make a midnight Tuesday deadline, when the session ends. House  members must still give final approval to the bill, and then it must sit for 24  hours before the Senate can consider it.

The bill’s sponsor stopped answering questions about her bill after the first  two hours after she got into trouble denying Democratic amendments. When Rep.  Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, called for an exemption for women who were  victims of rape and incest, Rep. Jody Laubenberg, R-Parker, explained why she  felt it was unnecessary.

“In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits where a woman can  get cleaned out,” she said, comparing the procedure to an abortion. “The woman  had five months to make that decision, at this point we are looking at a baby  that is very far along in its development.”

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