A proposal passed in the House early Monday morning, which could pass in the Senate Tuesday, would ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, limit abortions to surgical centers, and require doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The restrictions could force 37 out of 42 centers to close; nevertheless, proponents believe the bill would improve women's health care, unless a filibuster by Democrat Sen. Wendy Davis can stop it.
"Do you want to return back to the coat hanger or do you want to give them the option to be able to terminate their pregnancy because they have been raped?" Houston Democrat Senfronia Thompson said as she held up a white wire coat hanger in front of the House's assembly.
Admitting privileges place doctors on a hospital's list of who can admit patients to certain hospitals or medical centers in the local area. Opponents of the proposal say the requirement is unnecessary and could force clinics to shut down because the procedure to obtain such credentials may be difficult. Proponents say its purpose is to ensure safe follow-up care in case of abortion complications.
The bill's sponsor, Jodie Laubenberg of Parker Texas, avoided looking into the crowd as she said, "This does not prohibit an abortion for any reason including rape and incest up until five months. Up until this point we are looking at a baby that's very far along in its development."
Hundreds of Texans representing both sides stayed in the Capital in Austin all night, chanting, screaming and wearing their opinion on their shirts. The legislature lasted 15 hours Sunday night and ended at 4 a.m. Monday.
After the House easily approved the Senate Bill 5 Monday morning, the anti-abortion package was sent to the Senate for filibuster. The proposal passed 95 to 34 with the support of four Democrats.
The Senate doesn't receive a bill until 24 hours after it has passed through the House, setting the Senate debate for Tuesday morning, with a filibuster put into effect to last 13.5 hours.
A filibuster is the only way Democrats can block a vote, which requires running out the clock. This will be one of the most exhausting filibusters to date, as Sen. Davis has to follow strict Senate filibuster rules. She must speak continuously, stick to the topic, without eating, bathroom breaks, or leaning on anything to rest as she fights the Republican-dominated Texas Legislature.
A filibuster's ultimate purpose is to obstruct progress in a legislative progress with an action, such as a prolonged speech, and this particular one must go on until midnight Tuesday to avoid giving the Senate a chance to vote. If the filibuster proves successful, Gov. Rick Perry can call for another special session and try again.
Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurts, and other Republican leaders said the legislation is being pushed in order to protect women's health and an unborn child at the 20-week stage of development.
The Legislature's 140-day regular session eneded May 27, but Gov. Perry kept lawmakers in Austin for another 30-day special session, and on June 11, the abortion ban was added to the roster.
Rep. Laudenberg drew a comparison to explain why she felt the bill was necessary, "In the emergency room they have what's called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out," she said, comparing abortions to rape kits. "The woman had five months to make that decision."
Shortly after her rape kit statement, Laudenberg was widely ridiculed on social media sites. The Rep nevertheless rejected all proposed changes to her bill without speaking until the end of the debate.
In Texas, the second largest state after California, 84,610 abortions were performed in 2008, or 16.5 per 1,000 women, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. If the law passes and clinics shut down due to strict requirements, women would have to travel the 773-mile wide and 790-mile long state to outside borders to find the nearest available clinic.
According to the National Council of State Legislatures, eight states have successfully banned abortions after 20 weeks, along with Arizona's legislation at 18 weeks and Arkansas' ban after 12 weeks. But fetal pain initiatives are not supported nationwide. Supreme Court rulings established a woman has a right to an abortion until the fetus is outside of the womb.
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund and the daughter of late former Texas Gov. Ann Richards said, "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."