(Edit as of 2:40pm: All four of these bills were voted out of committee and are expected to be heard on the Senate floor Tuesday, June 18th at 11:00am)
Yesterday, the “Kumbaya session” grew to become an ever-more distant memory as Senators on the Health and Human Services Committee met to debate four pieces of anti-abortion legislation.
These bills, set on the suddenly-packed special session agenda set by Rick Perry, included bills that would ban abortion after 20 weeks, require surgical abortions to be administered in ambulatory surgical centers (closing all but 5 clinics in Texas), make doctors who administer abortion-inducing drugs to do so in person, and an omnibus bill that rolls up all three of the other filed bills, just in case.
These unnecessary measures– not supported by any major medical group– are set to prevent access to abortion and force women into unplanned pregnancies all for the sake of the “culture of life” Rick Perry claims Texas to uphold.
Expanding Medicaid for the most-uninsured state in the nation could have been one way to promote a “culture of life,” but that would make too much sense. Why increase access to health care when you can make the presence of Texas state government increasingly known in the genitalia of women in our state?
The audience in the Senate gallery included a sea of bright orange “My Family Values Women” shirts, provided by NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, and women (including myself) dressed in 1950's garb to show how incredibly backwards it is in 2013 to have to fight for your reproductive rights.
Read more on the hearing below the jump!Some legislators not on the Senate Health and Human Services Committee chose to attend the almost four hour-long hearing, including (thankfully) Senator Sylva Garcia, and (unfortunately) Senator Donna Campbell.
As Senator Hegar laid out SB 5, the omnibus anti-abortion bill, he continued to claim a plethora of sources reinforced the new measures he wants to enforce in the uteri of Texas.
Senator Garcia questioned the heaps of data Hegar cited. “How did you reach this great body of evidence?” she asked. “Did you Google it?”
As legislators debated the bills, Senator Royce West continued to question the validity of the research on banning abortions at 20 weeks, as it is not supported by the American Medical Association. He also had enough sense to point out it was mostly men who were debating the bills. Senator Hegar responded “We're members of the Legislature and we have the opportunity and requirement to debate any issues on the Senate floor.”
The Senate authors of the bills, as well as the Governor and Lieutenant Governor who called these bills on the agenda, are all men.
Some testimony included pleas to “Keep your bills out of my vagina,” which received loud applause in the Senate gallery.
Others made it clear whose rights these bills will infringe upon: “Me, a white woman of means, will continue to have access,” she said. “These laws will hurt low-income women, women of color.” These legislators know it, but they choose to ignore it.
Anti-choice testimony included Abby Johnson, once employed by Planned Parenthood, has built a career on spreading lies about the organization to exploit around the state.
An emergency room physician also testified, discussing the overload of emergency rooms in Texas, stating that ER patients are more likely to be received due to “wisdom teeth complications than anything involving an abortion.” Less than .5% of abortions have more serious complications that would require hospitalization.
An exchange between Senator Campbell and Whole Woman's Health CEO, Amy Hagstrom Miller showed yet again how unaware Republican lawmakers are when it comes to abortion laws in Texas, despite their keenness to chip away at reproductive rights.
Hagstrom Miller corrected Senator Campbell several times in her assumptions of abortion facilities in Texas, specifically when Campbell stated Texas law does not require abortion facilities to track complications arising from the procedure (complications are actually strictly tracked by the Department of State Health Services, Hagstrom Miller stated).
As noted above, these bills are set to hit the Senate floor Tuesday, June 18th.
We need your help more than ever. For updates on what you can do, check NARAL Pro-Choice Texas's website or contact the Lilith Fund at firstname.lastname@example.org. You should also call and email your State Senator and let them know you oppose these restrictions!