Stocked with granola bars, brick-sized books, and sweaters to keep warm in a frigid hearing room, Texas activists are preparing to testify late into the night Thursday as part of a “people’s filibuster” against an omnibus abortion bill that would shut down all but five abortion clinics in the state and do much to damage doctors’ ability to provide, and Texans’ ability to access, safe, legal abortion.
Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst showed his hand yesterday in a tweet proclaiming his excitement over the possibility of shutting down 37 of Texas’ 42 existing licensed abortion providers. He captioned a Planned Parenthood infographic showing the four major cities where Texas’ remaining providers would be located: “We fought to pass SB5 thru the Senate last night, & this is why!”
As of early Thursday afternoon, hundreds of Texans had signed up for their three minutes in front of the House State Affairs Committee; they began trickling into the John H. Reagan Building in downtown Austin around 1:00 p.m., many driving from Houston, Dallas, and south Texas with just 24 hours’ notice.
[Disclosure: Reporter Andrea Grimes is speaking on the house floor as part of the "people's filibuster."]
The committee may not meet for some time—legislators still need to finish a redistricting debate in the house—but that gives activists more time to rehearse testimony criticizing HB 16 and HB 60, the state house’s version of SB 5, which would, as RH Reality Check previously reported:
- ban all abortions after 20 weeks, with the exception of those “necessary to avert the death or substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman” or if a fetal anomaly “will result in the death of the infant not later than minutes to hours after birth regardless of the provision of lifesaving medical treatment“;
- require all abortion-providing doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where the procedure is performed;
- effectively ban telemedical abortions, requiring doctors to provide the abortion pill (a mifepristol/mifepristone combination) in person and according to outdated 13-year-old Food and Drug Administration regulations that are not only unnecessary, but thought to increase likelihood of complications, according to the American College of Gynecologists and the Texas Medical Association;
- and require all abortion providers to be licensed as ambulatory surgical centers, which would reduce the number of sites at which a Texan can obtain an abortion to a total of five, located solely in major metropolitan areas.
Texans wishing to testify are invited to continue to sign up to speak throughout the afternoon and evening. For those who want to follow the hearing online, I’ll be tweeting, and the hearing itself will be broadcast live here when it begins later Thursday afternoon.