Monday's State Senate Health and Human Services Hearing on #SB1: What To Expect

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Monday morning, the State Senate's Health and Human Services committee, chaired by Sen. Jane Nelson, will meet in the Senate Finance room to hear testimony on SB 1, the latest and least-greatest iteration of the Republicans' back-door abortion ban in Texas.

Pro-choice advocates are asking folks who can arrive as early as 7:00 a.m. to please do so, to make sure we get enough people seated in the hearing and have witnesses signed up to testify early in the hearing in case it is cut off.

Additionally, emails have been going around that claim that if you are not testifying, you should not show up. This is not true. Anyone who can come by the Capitol tomorrow to sign a paper card against this bill is encouraged to do so. It won't take even an hour of your time.

Below the jump, read more on what to expect tomorrow, what to do if you're testifying, and why we need to stay calm in the face of anti-choice folks trying to make us look bad.  What To Expect at the Hearing

Expect a long wait, a crowded room, and a bunch of anti-choicers looking to cause problems. As Shelby Alexander detailed earlier today, the anti-choice crowd is busing people in from out of state. Stay calm, stay informed, and remember that your peaceful presence and testimony tomorrow is the best thing you can offer to oppose these bills.

How long will the hearing last?

Good question! It's not clear. The Senate rules say that everyone must be given a “reasonable opportunity” to speak, but that's not defined. If hundreds of folks sign in, Chairwoman Nelson could let them all talk, or she could curtail testimony at some point. I've heard rumors that she's just going to let it go as long as people want to talk.

Let's be clear: there are still over 2 weeks left in this special session, so there's no reason the GOP needs to speed this up. Shutting down citizen testimony gets really bad press and angers people. She may let it go all night.

Will witnesses be called in any sort of order?

Again the answer here isn't clear. I'd go with “Yes, sort of.” Invited testimony will go first, and then usually witnesses are called in the order in which their cards were turned in. However, there is no rule that requires this. That's why getting there early is important — so our side can make sure our voices have the best chance of being heard.

Where can I sit?

There will be overflow rooms for anyone who cannot get into the main hearing room. They are the Capitol Auditorium, E1.004, E1.012 (Hearing Room), E1.016 (Hearing Room), and E1.028 (Hearing Room).


What To Expect If You're Testifying Or Signing In

First off, everybody is encouraged to come sign in against SB 1. The more, the merrier. If you're a Texan, you should speak or sign in! Unfortunately you have to do it in person on a paper card at the Capitol, however.

What do I fill out to register my opposition to SB 1?

Instead of using an online registration system like we did in the House, the Senate uses paper cards. Here's an example of what one looks like and how to fill it in if you are submitting oral and written testimony:

There will be orange-clad volunteers there to help if you have questions.

What should I say?

Heather Busby, the ED of NARAL Texas, posted this helpful advice on Facebook:

1. Be respectful.

2. Keep it to 2 minutes (they're strict about that). Practice in advance.

3. Speak from the heart.

4. Lead with “My name is __ and I live in _____, TX and I'm here to testify against SB1.” Other than that, don't waste those precious 120 seconds on personal details about yourself. Get to the point right away!

5. Finish your sentence when your 2 minutes are up and say “thank you.”

6. Bring 20 copies to turn in if you have to leave before you're called/you miss your name being called & get skipped. You can also just submit written testimony.

If you cannot wait all day to speak, please print and bring 20 copies of your testimony to turn in, and register your opposition.


What's Up With Those Anti-Choice Folks? Are They Trying to Cause a Ruckus?

I don't know what's up with them, BUT there are reports that the anti-choice contingent will be looking to start altercations with pro-choice folks to disseminate to the media to make us look bad. Don't take the bait!

Again, from Heather Busby:

We would also like to ask that, if you're going to be joining us at the Capitol on Monday, please treat the opposition with as much neutrality as you possibly can. A lot of these folks are going to be veterans at counter-protesting, abortion clinic picketing, and other practices designed to get under our skin and make us react in ways that don't help us represent our cause. They will be there to try to control the story, but we don't have to let them!

If anyone is upsetting you or seems to be acting out of the ordinary, look for folks in orange tee shirts with yellow arm bands and alert them. Try to avoid walking around alone — practice the buddy system.

Most importantly, pay attention to your gut — if something doesn't “seem right,” tell a volunteer or organizer.

The Austin chapter of NOW also has a really great explainer on how to handle the opposition tomorrow.

Bottom line: don't engage them. Don't take their bait.


What Else Can I Read To Prep For Tomorrow?

Jessica Luther has the best explainer on this that I've seen so far. It is super thorough!

Non Sequiteuse has a great post about why it's not worth our time to try and engage the other side. (Ask yourself, can they change YOUR mind?)

See y'all tomorrow. I'll be wearing orange.  


About Author

Katherine Haenschen

Katherine Haenschen is a PhD candidate at the University of Texas, where she studies political participation on digital media. She previously managed successful candidate, issue, voter registration, and GOTV campaigns in Central Texas. She is also a fan of UCONN women's basketball and breakfast tacos.

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