The Texas House of Representatives spent close to 15 hours debating a new abortion bill, Senate Bill 5, before giving preliminary approval early Monday. The new bill bans abortions after 20 weeks while restricting where abortions can take place and who is qualified to perform the procedure.
While supporters and several hundred protesters stood watch in the Capital today, some cheering at the verdict, while others loudly yelling the word, “Shame”, the bill was passed 97-33 reports the Dallas Morning News.
“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,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, in the Associated Press report.
Rep. Chris Turner, D-Arlington, spoke to the gathered protesters saying, “our being here says that the people who come to Austin who are elected officials have to be held accountable and I know you will hold people accountable in the next election,” notes Dallas Morning News.
According to the AP, opponents of SB-5 believe the bill would limit the number of abortion clinics in Texas to just five, effectively closing 37 of the 42 clinics currently operating in the state.
Speaking about the bill during the State Senate hearing on June 18, Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, said, “The bill’s unnecessary regulations could force medical clinics to close, thereby limiting access to critical services. If clinics close in regions without many alternatives, women are likely to delay seeking care, and those in desperate situations may turn to desperate, unsafe measures. Other unnecessary regulations in the bill also intrude upon the doctor-patient relationship by requiring a particular regimen and limiting a doctor s’ ability to prescribe the best option for a specific patient. The Legislature should not substitute its judgment for that of qualified medical professionals.”
While the House tentatively passed SB-5 a final vote before midnight on Tuesday, when the special session is scheduled to end, is needed to send the bill back to the Senate. If the final vote approves SB-5, the Senate will vote on the bill on Thursday–Senate Democrats have vowed to filibuster, AP reported.
On June 18, the United States House of Representatives passed an abortion bill banning the procedure after 20 weeks. The Senate and the White House both plan on blocking the bill. In addition to Texas, South Carolina may pass a similar bill to Texas’ while a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks was blocked in Arizona.