Crowds gather in Texas on both sides of abortion issue

Mike Stone/Reuters - Democratic Senators Wendy Davis and Kirk Watson lead a rally before the start of a special session of the Texas legislature dealing with abortion restrictions in Austin on July 1.

AUSTIN — As thousands of protesters descended Monday on the state Capitol to protect access to abortions in Texas, Republican state leaders launched their second special legislative session with a clear message: They will not stop until they’ve approved far tighter restrictions on the procedure.

With 30 days and the majority of state lawmakers on their side, Republicans are almost assured success as they seek to pass restrictions that would ban abortions starting 20 weeks after fertilization and require clinics performing the procedure to meet costly new requirements that could put many of them out of business.

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“The Texas Legislature is poised to finish its history-making work this year by passing legislation to protect the unborn and women’s health,” Gov. Rick Perry (R) said in a statement.

In the first special session, the measure didn’t make it to the Senate for final approval until the last day, giving state Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) the window — and the national stage — to filibuster the measure to defeat.

“I was lucky enough to be able to make the choices in my life that I knew would work for me,” Davis told supporters Monday, responding to Perry’s suggestion that, as a teenage mother herself, she should’ve “learned from her own example.”

The new versions of the bill — House Bill 2 by state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (R-Parker) and Senate Bill 1 by state Sen. Glenn Hegar (R-Katy) — are headed for committee hearings.

The House will consider public testimony on HB 2 starting Tuesday afternoon; state Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana) and chair of the House State Affairs Committee, said testimony would begin at about 3 or 4 p.m. and end at midnight.

When the Senate will begin its committee work is less clear; the Health and Human Services Committee chair, Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), was attending her daughter’s graduation.

What is clear is that Republican legislators plan to make quick work of the process. Laubenberg said that when her bill hits the House floor — as early as next week — she does not plan to accept amendments . As of Monday afternoon more than 400 people had already pledged to testify against her bill in committee.

“The best thing to do is keep the bill the way it is,” Laubenberg said.

The Senate, meanwhile, will proceed without the “two-thirds rule” the chamber normally uses — meaning it will only take a simple majority to bring the bill up for a vote. (They also did without that provision during the first special session, which ended last Tuesday.)

“If they win this battle, because of timing and throwing out tradition and rules, I think we will win the war,” said state Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin).

— Texas Tribune

This story was produced in partnership with Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

 
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