Today will be a busy day at the Capitol, as the Senate Health and Human Services committee meets to hear testimony on SB1, the back-door abortion ban currently being forced through by Texas Republicans.
Doors to the Capitol opened at 7:00 a.m. and folks from both sides of the debate — orange-clad pro-choice advocates and blue-shirted anti-choicers — are here in strong numbers.
Below the jump, follow all of the events of the day on our liveblog!Updates will run at the top of the page.
|Last Update 11:28 p.m. from Katherine:|
Testimony from citizen witnesses has stretched into its twelfth hour at this point. Many of the anti-choice advocates have left the Capitol, leaving mostly pro-choice folks who are fueled by a desire to make their voices heard as part of a process that seems to pay little respect to their bodily experiences.
By far the most compelling aspect of this process — at least for this blogger — is the personal testimony of women from across Texas who have shared their most private stories. Perhaps they hope to sway votes through basic human compassion for their experiences, though that remains sadly unlikely no matter the mounting hours.
Crying women speak about their sexual assaults at all stages of their lives, tell stories of abuse intended to rape the lesbianism out of them, weep for their desperately wanted children who were diagnosed with severe abnormalities, cooly detail their efforts to procure illegal abortions or cross state lines to access their rights. They cry and yell, sometimes simultaneously, into the microphone.
It was traumatic to watch — though likely not as traumatic as it was to live and relive — and it was riveting. And yet their testimony will leave the Republican Senators and one Democrat, Eddie Lucio Jr, unmoved.
Is there no critical mass of rape victims who can testify, no victims of abuse, who can convince the Legislature to attach an amendment that considers exceptions for victims of rape and abuse?
Is there no story of a desperately wanted child diagnosed with spina bifida or something equally as likely to render an infant's life brutal and short that can move the cold hearts that beat in this Legislative body?
Many of the witnesses opposing the bill related their own experiences having abortions and the traumas they endured. The thing is, I don't know any pro-choice women who want anyone to have a bad experience or want anyone to be forced into making a decision they don't want.
If a woman is forced to have an abortion, that's as much a violation of her bodily autonomy as a woman forced to give birth.
Any woman who is denied her choice is denied her basic reproductive rights. That's true for women who want their pregnancies and are coerced otherwise, and those who want to terminate and are denied that choice.
Bear the babies that you want, and Democrats will advocate every step of the way for your pre-natal care, universal Pre-K, public school funding, TEXAS grants, and any and all programs that give you the right to not merely create that life but make it one of liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
(I'm not sure Republicans will make such a good offer.)
At one point, Senator Royce West made the case that elections have consequences, and Texas voters elected a majority-Republican Senate. His point might have been lost on folks watching the hearing: don't like this bill? Don't want bad legislation like this to pass? Bust your ass to elect a pro-woman majority in both parties, and get the majorities in the Legislature that will reflect the majority of Texans who oppose this bill.
|Update 8:52 p.m. from Katherine:|
The ant-choice crowd held a rally on the Capitol steps tonight, featuring
Compare for yourself whose rally was bigger: the one organized by pro-choice coalition last Monday at noon, or the one that bused folks in from across the country?
Photo at left via Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer. Photo at right via me.
Coach buses lined Trinity as I drove home tonight. It's clear that despite busing in folks by the hundreds, the anti-choice crowd couldn't equal the numbers of actual Texans who stood in during the hot summer sun to advocate for women's rights.
|Update 8:52 p.m. from Katherine:|
A march of pro-choice Texans stepped off from the Capitol gates at 8:00 p.m. Here are some Tweets that tracked their progress:
|Update 8:00 p.m. from Chaille:|
People are still arriving to sign in. The image at right is the line to register an opinion on the bill, which lasts until 9:00 p.m. Senate sergeants are handing out witness cards. The line stretches over two floors.
It's a mixed bag of orange and blue shirts, but I've seen plenty of people I know who signed in after work while not wearing orange. We're not an “unruly mob,” we're simply citizens who care.
|Update 7:53 p.m. from Katherine:|
During the regular session I visited a friend who works in the Capitol. Referring to the building, she said, “This is your house. This is the people's house.” At the time I found it amusing, since it's clear that much of the high-profile legislation passed and signed into law is nothing I support, and nothing that's in the best interest of all of the people of Texas.
Over the last few weeks, however, watching hundreds and then thousands of Texans show up in full force, I began to rethink my cynicism towards referring to the Capitol as the people's house. In fact, it was the people who raised their voices to end the first special session by preventing a vote on the bill they opposed before the midnight deadline.
Today, I watched as Democratic legislators opened up their offices to give people a quiet place to sit and watch the hearing, or to receive deliveries of food. This building has actually felt more like the people's house, now that a broader range of voices are here and speaking up against a bill that will hurt many Texans.
The influx of people into the Capitol — from Blue Ribbon Lobby Day to the original orange shirts at the first special session's Senate HHS hearing to the filibuster to the 6,000 person rally last Monday to what is planned for the coming days and weeks — has made a difference in this law, galvanized more Texans to stand up and speak out, and actually given the people a real chance, their first in decades, to elect statewide leaders who will govern in the best interests of all of those who live in Texas.
This is the people's house, and it's great to finally hear the voices of so many people speaking up in it.
|Update 6:38 p.m. from Katherine:|
Rachel, a young woman and traditionally Republican voter, says she “will not and cannot in good conscience” support Republicans any more. “This bill has nothing to do with protecting the health and safety of women and has everything to do with promoting a far-right agenda that contradicts conservative values.”
She made clear that Republicans have lost her vote over this debate and their process throughout. “The authors just don't have the guts to be honest about their true intentions.”
Rachel's not alone, y'all.
|Update 6:33 p.m. from Chaille:|
Pro-choice folks took a break to make signs in advance of tonight's march. There is still a long line to sign up to testify, which is mainly full of blue shirts right now in advance of the 7:00 p.m. anti-choice rally.
Battleground Texas has also been busy registering voters and helping folks update their address as needed.
|Update 6:09 p.m. from Katherine:|
Aaaand we're back! Testimony is still going strong, and folks continue to arrive to sign in. Please come sign in against this bill before 9:00 p.m. It is critical that as many people as possible oppose this bill.
The photo at right is from waaay earlier today — thanks to folks who sent East Side Pies and Sugar Mama's to keep our energy and blood sugar high. If you would like to send food and drinks, please do! This will go really, really late.
A list of places that deliver is available on Jessica Luther's blog. Here's some quick options:
East Side Pies (512) 524-0933
Deliver to Texas Capitol, 1100 Congress Avenue, Capitol Grill, Level E1, Room E1.002.
|Update 3:56 p.m. from Katherine:|
One of the better moments of this afternoon's testimony was the poem “If My Vagina Was A Gun,” written and performed by Katie Heim. Follow her on Twitter here. We are excited to have her permission to republish it here:
Rock on, Katie!
Here's the audio, recorded by David Rauf of the San Antonio Express-News and Houston Chronicle.
|Update 3:26 p.m. from Katherine:|
Tomorrow! The Stand With Texas Women bus tour kicks off at 9:30 a.m. Come on out, y'all!
Tuesday, July 9, 2013 | 9:30 a.m.
East Grounds of the Capitol
RSVP on Facebook
Join Cecile Richards, Sen. Wendy Davis, Sen. Kirk Watson and other special guests as they kick off a statewide tour of events to raise awareness of the ongoing war on Texas women's health. Then you can sashay into the Capitol for tomorrow's State House floor debate in HB 2.
The rally will also stop in Houston tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. More information is available on Facebook.
|Update 3:04 p.m. from Katherine:|
Want to show your support for Texas women? Order a bad-ass shirt from 4000 Years for Choice, with all proceeds going to Lilith Fund and Texas Equal Access fund. That's right, your awesome shirt will help fund abortions for poor women in Texas and you'll look awesome in your orange gear.
|Update 2:53 p.m. by Genevieve:|
Here's a quick overview of today's expert testimony, as covered on Twitter:
|Update 2:51 p.m. from Katherine:|
Can we all agree that comparing the deaths of millions of living, breathing Jewish people and other Europeans during World War II and the terminating of pregnancies — especially to save the lives of women or in the case of non-viable embryos — is not the same? That maybe this line of reasoning is really offensive?
No? We cant agree on that? Ok, just checking.
|Update 1:23 p.m. from Katherine:|
Much of this debate centers on what happens when women cannot access safe, legal abortions. Several years back, the New York Times published an op-ed from a doctor who treated women in pre-Roe America.
It is gruesome and grisly and merits a read for anyone who isn't familiar with the horrors of back alleys and illegal abortions:
Almost any implement you can imagine had been and was used to start an abortion – darning needles, crochet hooks, cut-glass salt shakers, soda bottles, sometimes intact, sometimes with the top broken off.
Women will always seek abortions. As the Guttmacher Institute makes clear, women will continue to seek abortions if they are denied safe access to the procedure. They will just face increasing risks of death and injury in doing so.
|Update 12:56 p.m. from Katherine:|
A Republican woman from Richmond just wrapped up her testimony against SB 1. She stated, “my personal reproductive choices do not give me the right to restrict those of other women. This omnibus bill is too restrictive, cutting off care for women who want a healthy pregnancy and need the resources that these clinics provide.”
She described the public school near her home, where over 60% of children qualify for free school meals. Her church provides some of those meals during the summer when school is out. She closed with an excoriation of the legislature's refusal to fund education and access to basic medical care:
“The reality is, most of these children live in the WORST of circumstances and this state does nothing to support their right to life.”
Amen. More Republicans like this, please.
|Updated 12:46 p.m. from Genevieve:|
“I've been a lifelong supporter of women's rights. It was ingrained in me from birth by my mother,” this woman explained. “But, I haven't been very involved in politics at the state level until now.”
She says that this bill and these special sessions have “awakened a sleeping giant” in Texas. It is clear to her that “now more than ever – [the fight for women's rights]is not over.”
Though she was unable to come out during the first special session, she was here for the rally on Monday and for the House committee hearing last week. “I believe you can judge a government on how they treat their citizens. Denying 50% of the population access to healthcare is criminal.”
She thinks that the focus on this bill is in the wrong place. “It's so edgy to throw out 'abortion,' which is inflammatory. [The impact on] healthcare gets overlooked.”
|Updated 12:25 p.m. from Katherine:|
Take action! Planned Parenthood has an action center set up in E2.024 so while you're here for hours waiting to speak or just watching it all go down, take a few minutes to write your Representative or take other steps to oppose this bill.
Not here at the Capitol? Sign the petition urging statewide hearings on SB 1.
|Update 12:20 p.m. from Genevieve:|
For this group of women from Waco, this is their first time at the capitol on this issue. “We called our representatives and tried to encourage those who could make it,” one woman said, but this is the first time they have come to testify.
Another woman, sporting a bright orange flower, says she has been working for women's rights for “years and years,” and “this [bill]is ridiculous… I'm concerned about women who will lose access.”
One of them brought her daughters with her today. This bill, to her, infringes on women's relationships with their physicians. “I believe that women's healthcare decisions should be made between them and their doctor, not legislators without medical backgrounds.”
Though her older sister decided to save her comments for the committee, the youngest member of the group (she will start 7th grade in the fall) had this to add: “People should do what they want to do, and not what other people want them to do.”
|Update 12:08 p.m. from Katherine|
A small contingent of anti-choice protestors have gathered in the extension's mini rotunda in the rain. It seems that there are far fewer members of the opposition here today as there were during the State Affairs hearing.
It is unclear exactly how many buses have disgorged out-of-state activists to join the blue-shirted army today, though a police officer outside said that several groups had arrived throughout the morning.
With the anti-choice rally scheduled for 7:00 p.m. tonight headlined by a bunch of people from Arkanas, expect their numbers to grow.
|Update 12:03 p.m. from Genevieve:|
These three students drove in from Dallas this morning. They left at 6:00 AM and then waited in the rain to get in line and testify. One of them was able to attend the rally last Monday, but for the other two, this is their first time here. They came from different backgrounds, but they are all agreed on this legislation.
One has been a “peace activist” as long as she can remember, and later became interested in sex education and access to information about reproductive health. “Surveys show that most Texans oppose this legislation,” she said, “but conservative legislators think that just because someone talks the loudest they represent the most people.”
Another became involved in worker's rights this year, and she sees a direct correlation between the people she works with in the labor movement and those who will be impacted by SB1. “This legislation is putting the heaviest burden on women who need access the most.”
The third is majoring in Women's and Gender Studies in school, and he is active around women's issues and issues facing the LGBT community. “There is a blatant disregard for the impact this ideological battle will have on people,” he said, “It will disenfranchise people of color and lower socioeconomic status. It's disgusting.”
|Update 11:56 a.m. from Katherine:|
Quick update on the testimony process: everyone who was in line by 11:00 a.m. who wants to speak has signed in and been assigned a group. Apparently over 2000 people were in line. Now, folks are lining up to either turn in written testimony or simply register against the bill. A line — shown at right — formed briefly as Senate staff took a pause in distributing cards as they processed the initial pile. Now cards are being distributed again.
If you can come register against the bill, please come do so
It is imperative that pro-choice Texans continue to register opposition to this bill so that it's clear that we are in the majority of folks who show up today — especially folks who live in Texas.
|Update 11:46 a.m. from Genevieve:|
This woman lives in Austin, but grew up in San Antonio, where her father was a physician who provided abortion as a part of his practice. She has been involved in working for women's access to reproductive rights since her teens, interning with Sarah Weddington and NARAL Pro-Choice Texas.
She has been coming to the capitol since the House hearing in the first special session on HB 60, and she is mainly concerned with the portrayal of abortion providers in this conversation. Her father was an abortion provider. “He had to wear a Kevlar vest to work,” she said, “and we lived in a gated community. ” She wants people to know how much physicians give up to provide this important service to women.
When she was a young girl, someone told her that her father “killed babies.” She said, “I was confused, because I knew he delivered babies, and I didn't understand.” Her father took her to a clinic where he provided abortions once a week. The waiting room was entirely packed full of people who “traveled hundreds of miles to get to these clinics.”
She sees a direct correlation between that experience and this legislation: “If this bill passes, that is what will happen again. They will have to travel 800 miles from El Paso to San Antonio. That's going to be impossible!”
|Update 11:01 a.m. from Katherine:|
The Senators have finished grilling Hegar on his bill. It can be summed up as follows:
Hegar: Meh, uninterested.
Democratic Senators: Science! Research! Actual true things!
Hegar: I remain entirely unmoved.
Nelson ended debate amongst Senators present, and then announced that 379 individuals have signed in to testify, and that there are another 1700 or so folks in line waiting to sign in.
Now, it's time for expert invited testimony.
|Update 10:40 a.m. by Katherine:|
Democratic senators are peppering Hegar with questions about his bill. First up, Senator Judith Zaffirini spoke about her own pro-life stand and argued that this bill does nothing to actually reduce abortions. After several back-and-forths…
Hegar: I'm not really sure where you want to go with that.
Hegar was also unable to explain how the bill does anything to reduce unintended pregnancies. That's because it doesn't, but no big deal, let's just pass a law that punishes poor and rural Texas women.
Uresti also took his turn to make clear the challenges faced by women in his sprawling rural south Texas district. Subsequent rounds of hearing have sharpened the Democrats' questions on this issue, and their inquiries make abundantly clear that this bill will NOT make women safer, will NOT reduce abortions, will NOT reduce unwanted pregnancies.
All it will do is drive Texas women into back alleys and unsafe situations, and will have an outsized negative impact on poor, rural, and minority women, in keeping with most of what the Republican legislature does these days.
Update 10:28 a.m. from Genevieve:
Two sisters came to the capitol today to share their testimony. One now lives in Round Rock, the other in San Antonio. They got involved after Wendy Davis's filibuster. Though the older sister has been an active advocate for reproductive rights since the sixties, her younger sister said this was “the first time I'm doing something like this.”
All of her previous political involvement was “easy, because nobody was mad at me. I wasn't nervous then, but now I am because it is more emotional, more personal.”They came wearing their pink “Wendy Davis sneakers,” and they're ready to stay all day.
Update 10:23 a.m. from Katherine:
Senator Bob Deuell is soapboxing against Senator Wendy Davis's filibuster, claiming that 20 Senators had their vote “suppressed” because of her procedural efforts to block a vote.
Listening to old white men who pass laws to disenfranchise minorities at the ballot box complain about “vote suppression” is pretty effing rich, y'all.
Deuell then placed several pairs of baby shoes on the dais to represent the children who cannot speak because they are aborted. He then referenced a “holocaust,” thus triggering Godwin's Law, which thankfully does not automatically end a debate in the State Senate.
|Update 9:59 a.m. from Katherine:|
We have an update on process as the committee calls to order. First, Senator Glenn Hegar will lay out his bill. At 11:00 a.m., public testimony will begin, starting with invited witnesses — two from each side of the debate.
Folks who signed in have been assigned to groups in batches of 60. Group 1 is already in the Senate Finance room. Group 2 is currently in E1.028, a reserved overflow room for the “on deck” circle, so to speak. Groups 3 to Infinity can wait in any overflow room or the auditorium, and must assemble in E1.028 to prepare to enter the hearing room itself.
To testify, you must be in line by 11:00 a.m. to provide oral testimony. Important: you can still turn in WRITTEN testimony after that, but to speak you must be in like by 11:00 a.m.
The HHS committee members are listed here.
|Update 9:41 a.m. from Katherine:|
The House calendars committee just met at 9:30 a.m. and voted to send HB 2, the House version of the back-door abortion ban — introduced by Jodie “Rape Kits Clean That Out” Laubenberg — to the floor for a vote tomorrow.
Debate will start at 10:00 a.m.
|Update 9:30 a.m. from Katherine:|
The line to sit in the hearing room is VERY LONG:
Orange shirts seem to just about outnumber blue shirts. At worst it's 50-50. That's impressive for the pro-choice side given that this was supposed to be the “big day” for the anti-choice contingent.
It's unclear how many of these folks plan to testify, submit written testimony, or just want to sit in the room while it all goes down. However, it's a very impressive showing for before 9:00 a.m. on a Monday.
|Update 9:13 a.m. from Katherine:|
The hearing starts at 10:00 a.m. While we wait, here's a funny video based on the Schoolhouse Rock classic “I'm Just A Bill” modified to reflect the ongoing War on Women waged by Republicans in Congress and legislatures across the country. It's pretty clever:
|Update 9:10 a.m. from Katherine:|
The doors opened at 7:00 a.m. and a long line of orange and blue clad folks were here to line up for the hearing. The room where the hearing will be held — the Senate Finance committee room — is fairly small and holds only 67 people.
It's not entirely clear what the overflow rooms will be today — we previously published that the auditorium and other rooms would be open — but DPS won't confirm at this time. We'll keep you posted.
Overall, energy is high despite the early hours, and organizers and volunteers seem upbeat.