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Abortion debate returns to Texas legislature

Governor Rick Perry has called another special session in Texas to consider the abortion issue again. Protesters on both sides of the debate swarmed around the state capital, in the hope of swaying the legislators inside.

As reported by the Washington Post:

Used with permission. Copyright Felicia Winfree Cravens

Used with permission. Copyright Felicia Winfree Cravens


With 30 days and the majority of state lawmakers on their side, Republicans are almost assured success as they seek to pass restrictions that would ban abortions starting 20 weeks after fertilization and require clinics performing the procedure to meet costly new requirements that could put many of them out of business.

“The Texas Legislature is poised to finish its history-making work this year by passing legislation to protect the unborn and women’s health,” Gov. Rick Perry (R) said in a statement.

In the first special session, the measure didn’t make it to the Senate for final approval until the last day, giving state Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) the window — and the national stage — to filibuster the measure to defeat.

“I was lucky enough to be able to make the choices in my life that I knew would work for me,” Davis told supporters Monday, responding to Perry’s suggestion that, as a teenage mother herself, she should’ve “learned from her own example.”

The new versions of the bill — House Bill 2 by state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (R-Parker) and Senate Bill 1 by state Sen. Glenn Hegar (R-Katy) — are headed for committee hearings.

The “costly new requirements”, if the new bills are similar to SB-5, include requirements that all clinics has physicians on staff that also have privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the facility, and increased accountability for the clinics and their employees to ensure the safety of patients. Additionally, all penalties are levied against physicians and clinics, not patients. SB-5 cited fetal pain as the purpose of the legislation. It was not mentioned that according to the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute, 1.5% of all abortions in 2006 were performed after the 20-week limit being considered in Texas, or that complications increase significantly the longer a woman waits to have an abortion.

The risk of death associated with abortion increases with the length of pregnancy, from one death for every one million abortions at or before eight weeks to one per 29,000 at 16–20 weeks—and one per 11,000 at 21 or more weeks.

Used with permission. Copyright Felicia Winfree Cravens

Used with permission. Copyright Felicia Winfree Cravens

While protesters against this legislation may want to claim that they are for women’s health, objecting to increased oversight and accountability in clinics does not exactly square with that ideal. Also, given the low number of women that tend to have abortions at that stage of pregnancy, and the increased probability of complications, including death of the woman, the argument tends to fall flat. After the Kermit Gosnell case in Pennsylvania, it would have been hoped that all women, regardless of their opinion on abortion, would want to do anything to prevent similar situations from happening again, which is exactly what the current bill under consideration would do. Time will tell, but if there are no significant changes on the floor in the Texas legislature, this measure will undoubtedly pass, and will not be stolen again by an unruly mob.

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