Last night's debate on Senate Bill 5, the omnibus bill that places the most draconian restrictions on abortion access Texas has ever seen, didn't get in the way of a nice meal and the Spurs game for our Lieutenant Governor, who asked Rick Perry to add abortion restrictions to the special session.
This issue- which he personally requested be placed on the special session agenda himself- still wasn't enough to get in the way of leaving the debate to have a nice steak dinner (apparently at Austin Land and Cattle) and announcing basketball scores in the middle of floor debate as Senators determined the closure of all but five abortion clinics in Texas.
Earlier in the day as pro-choice supporters filled the gallery in orange “My Family Values Women” shirts, the sergeant at arms in the Senate chamber asked these people to turn their shirts inside out. Apparently even silently valuing women in the Texas legislature is not allowed.
The hearing was a painful evening full of Senators defending SB 5 with no evidence or solid reasoning. Instead, they repeatedly threw around the phrase “increasing the standard of care,” without ever explaining when decreasing access to health services has ever actually improved the health of individuals.
Read more below the jump:Even as Senator Wendy Davis read testimony against the provisions laid out in SB 5 by experts such as the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists- who argued the bill's regulations would harm women by decreasing access to legal abortion services and using outdated medical protocols- it was completely disregarded as “opinion” by Senator Hegar. Yet another friendly reminder that in the Texas legislature, modern medical expertise is disregarded as opinion, unless your opinion happens to reflect that of the majority. Then your opinion becomes fact.
Senator John Whitmire began questioning Senator Hegar at the beginning of the hearing as he laid out a committee substitute without any explanation for the changes made. The committee substitute removed the ban on abortions after 20 weeks, to which Hegar admitted he could not pass such a provision with just one week left in the special session.
Senator Wendy Davis held down the ground for a lengthy portion of the debate, who called out Senator Hegar's real reasoning for filing the bill:
“Truly, this isn't about making women safe,” Senator Davis said. “It's about political primaries and making sure you're feeding the red meat of the people who will be voting in those primaries.”
Hegar attempted to accuse Democrats of doing something similar, except he missed the fact that not all Senate Democrats were against SB 5, meaning that not all Texas Democrats think you can lose a primary over issues of reproductive freedom.
Senator Eddie Lucio Jr. was the only Democrat to vote for the bill. And despite how much Senator Lucio deserves to be challenged in his next primary based solely over his complete disregard for women and their right to choose, he probably won't be.
Senator Leticia Van de Putte questioned Hegar specifically about the requirement to have physicians prescribe three times the clinically accepted pharmaceutical dose for medical abortions, and offered the only Democratic amendment accepted to change this provision.
With amendments flying through, being struck down by party lines (except Lucio of course), Democrats were close to pushing debate late into the night. However, the bill still wrapped up before midnight.
If Democrats had pushed the debate past midnight, we could have seen a second day of debate scheduled. Pushing for a second day of SB 5 in the Senate would have meant delaying the rest of the process for another day. And with a week left of special session, every single day, every single step is critical.
Now these efforts are all left in the hands of the House, where a large, oppositional majority outweighs the number of reproductive justice proponents.
Yesterday was a huge loss for reproductive rights here in Texas and nationally. Texas Republicans want to talk about masturbating fetuses instead of the real life challenges women face in health care today.
The only chance left to fight against SB 5 lies with the House Committee on State Affairs, which is scheduled to meet sometime on Thursday. There needs to be as much public testimony as possible on this bill, so please attend if you are able. You can follow NARAL Pro-Choice Texas on Facebook for more details.