The Texas house is expected to give its final approval to an omnibus anti-abortion bill Wednesday morning, sending the bill to its final journey through the Texas senate before it becomes law. Legislators debated the bill for ten hours Tuesday, with many Democrats, alongside two Republicans, offering 26 amendments to the bill that is expected to shut down all but five abortion clinics in Texas. The proposed bill bans abortion after 20 weeks, puts onerous restrictions on the prescription of medication abortions, requires abortion providers to gain admitting privileges at local hospitals, and mandates that abortion facilities be licensed as ambulatory surgical centers.
House Democrats carried coat hangers to the house podium Tuesday to signify an impending return to back-alley abortions for Texans in rural areas who will not be able to travel hundreds of miles to access the state’s abortion-providing ambulatory surgical centers, currently located exclusively in urban centers.
Debate grew contentious as the day wore on and HB 2’s sponsor, state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (R-Parker), moved to table every one of the proposed amendments, including a proposal from Rep. Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin) that would extend Texas’ “baby Moses” law that allows parents to surrender their children at designated state safe-havens.
Dukes, who adopted a child from family services, wanted to push back the safe haven deadline from 60 days to a year. Hers, she said, was a true “pro-life” amendment. She asked Laubenberg, “What was your answer about why you don’t want to protect kids that are older than 60 days?”
But the day was not without its moments of humor, after a flying gavel—hit too hard at the dais—narrowly missed state Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) as he proposed an amendment that would exempt doctors from the hospital admitting privileges requirement if local hospitals employ policies expressly refusing those privileges to abortion providers.
“We need to recess for two weeks!” Turner exclaimed, to laughter from the gallery. “I need an ambulatory surgical facility!”
Things grew somber during closing arguments, with one Republican lawmaker bringing a sonogram image of the 13-week-old fetus in his wife’s womb, which he said was able to play “criss-cross apple sauce” even at its young gestational age. Another Republican representative implored Democrats to vote to approve the bill, because “the Bible tells us” that children are “knit together” in a mother’s womb. Yet another Republican representative read a poem written by her sister about the abortion she regrets.
In her closing statement, Rep. Mary Gonzalez (D-El Paso) invited her colleagues to consider the damage the bill would do to victims of rape and incest who would be forced to carry 20-week pregnancies to term, and to see them not as a faceless group. She admitted that she herself had been abused as a child. “I want you to look at me,” she said, and “make this bill about women’s health. Make it about women’s lives.”
The state house approved HB 2 just after 8:30 p.m. CST. The house is expected to pass the bill to the senate after a third and final vote Wednesday morning.