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Local News

July 16, 2013

Controversial HB 2 passes Texas Senate

AUSTIN — In the waning hours of Friday, July 12, Texas legislators passed the most contentious piece of abortion legislation since Roe vs. Wade.

In addition to banning most abortions beyond 20 weeks of pregnancy and severely limiting the use of the abortion pill, the stringent requirements House Bill 5 enacts will effectively shut down all but five facilities where abortions are performed in Texas. The facilities that will remain open — which also provide other procedures related to women’s health, such as pelvic and cancer exams — are located in the Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio metropolitan areas, meaning some women would have to drive nearly 1,000 miles for that care.

The requirements a clinic must fulfill in order to perform abortions are akin to that of an ambulatory surgical center (ASC), something that Amy Hagstrom Miller, president and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, argued against in her testimony.

“The ASC requirements will not improve care, but rather reduce access for women in Texas and put more women at risk,” Miller’s testimony read. “ASC regulations are primarily related to the physical plant, and they do not make abortion any safer.”

The bill passed both the House and the Senate in spite of a June 26 filibuster by Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, which delayed the bill in its first special session, and a very vocal opposition from abortion rights activists. Rep. Joe Deshotel, D-Beaumont, saw people lined up and circling the Capitol’s stairwell.

Deshotel said he expects to see litigation concerning the bill’s violation of Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that declared a woman’s right to privacy extended to her decision to have an abortion. This is something, he said, that HB 2’s supporters are well aware of.

“They're aware that it probably will not stand up to constitutional scrutiny,” Deshotel said in a telephone interview. “But it's an issue designed to feed and excite the far right primary voters.”

Deshotel added that not all Texas Republicans are behind HB 2.

“A number have said they don't agree, but if they don't support it, they will have an opponent in the primaries and get defeated,” he said. “Many know it's not the right thing to do, but they don't feel they have much of a choice.”

Not everyone disagreed with the conditions of the bill, however. The Rev. Joe Worley called the Senate’s decision “a step in the right direction for pro-life people.”

“I'm not in favor of any abortions, but it creates a safer medical environment if in fact they have to take place,” said Worley, who has spent the last 18 years as the pastor of First Baptist Church in Groves. “For all the people who care about choice, there's still those options available, and they're very realistic options.”

Although he would support the decision to have an abortion if the woman’s life were in jeopardy, Worley said, that circumstance occurs less than 1 percent of the time.

“I don't believe the industry is facilitating the well-being of the mother as well as the child,” Worley said. “These are people who are making money off people who are in very difficult circumstances socioeconomically and emotionally.”

With numerous Texans on both sides of the fence, this is an issue that is far from over.

“These extreme and deeply unpopular attacks on women’s health have lit a fuse,” Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement released to the media. “People are outraged by what’s happened here in Texas, and they know that the answer is to get organized and get engaged to change this state’s approach to women’s health in the long run.”

Email: ecallahan@panews.com

Twitter: @ErinnPA

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