UPDATE: Confusion reigned in the Texas Senate Chamber late last night as the clock ticked toward midnight and Texas lawmakers attempted a vote on an abortion bill that would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. A vote occurred, with the bill passing 19-10, but because of the distraction caused of hundreds of jeering pro-abortion protesters in the gallery, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst could not sign the bill before the midnight deadline passed, thus killing the bill.
Dewhurst denounced the protesters as an “unruly mob.” Democrats who urged them on called the outburst democracy in action.
Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis tried to kill the bill by filibustering, but that effort was cut short earlier in the evening.
OUR EARLIER REPORT (June 25, 6:07 p.m.): Early Monday morning the Texas House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill (97-33) that would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy and would also require all Texas abortion centers to meet stricter health and safety regulations.
But the bill has stalled in the Texas Senate, where Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, is staging a one-woman filibuster in an attempt to defeat the bill in the remaining hours of this 30-day special legislative session. If Senate Bill 5 doesn’t reach the desk of pro-life Gov. Rick Perry by midnight tonight it will not become law.
But GOP lawmakers are attempting to end the filibuster this evening. The Houston Chronicle reports that Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, with the required support of five other senators, has turned in a request to call the previous question and allow a vote on the abortion law.
“We’re going to stand on our rulebook … and let a baby die a horrific death in the womb?” Patrick asked. “That reminds me of when Jesus came and talked about the Pharisees and the laws. They were more interested in the laws than they were the people. I don’t want to leave here being the modern-day Pharisees.”
If the bill should pass, it would effectively shut down three-quarters of the state’s abortion centers unless they upgrade their facilities to be classified as ambulatory surgical centers. Also, the law would require that abortionists secure admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and to administer personally the abortion-inducing drugs to their patients.
The Texas bill is modeled after laws banning abortions at 20 weeks in seven other states. Elizabeth Graham, director of Texas Right to Life, said it is unlikely Davis will filibuster for 13 hours straight. (David began her speech at 11:18 a.m. CDT this morning.) If she did, she would not only kill the abortion bill, but also a handful of other bills in line for review at the special session.
Although Texas is just the latest state to attempt to enact tougher abortions limits, the scope of its efforts is notable because the state has a large population and the bill covers many issues.
Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, predicted doom and gloom if the bill becomes law: “If this passes, abortion would be virtually banned in the state of Texas, and many women could be forced to resort to dangerous and unsafe measures.”
Women’s health is exactly this issue for this bill, Graham said. Lawmakers are very troubled about the current standards of Texas abortion centers in light of the Kermit Gosnell trial in Philadelphia and the Douglas Karpen scandal in Houston.
The 20-week abortion law conflicts with Roe v. Wade, which doesn’t permit restrictions on abortions prior to viability—24 weeks. Bills that seek to ban abortion after 20 weeks, if passed, could eventually make their way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Abortion-restriction proponents hope the court will reconsider Roe—something that is more likely if many states pressure the court by passing these abortion laws. So far, the laws in the other states have not been challenged in court.
Gov. Perry is on board the pressure train. He called for the special legislative session to address important issues that were not considered during the regular session. The Texas Tribune reported that more than 60 GOP House members called on the governor to include the anti-abortion measures in his legislative agenda.
Proponents of the law say it will ban abortions after a child in the womb can feel pain. Perry said in a statement. “We have an obligation to protect unborn children, and to hold those who peddle these abortions to standards that would minimize the death, disease and pain they cause.”