June 18, 2013 — Texas Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Friday voted 5-2 to move an omnibus abortion bill (SB 5) out of committee, sending the legislation to the full Senate for debate this week, the Texas Tribune reports (Luthra, Texas Tribune, 6/14).
The omnibus legislation combines four measures that failed to progress in either chamber of the Texas Legislature during the regular session. It includes a provision that would ban abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy, another that would require abortion clinics to meet standards for ambulatory surgical centers, and a third that would mandate that physicians who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. A fourth provision would require physicians to administer medication abortion drugs in person (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/13). The individual measures also were voted out of committee, according to the Tribune.
The committee's approval came after "[i]mpassioned testimony and heated exchanges" among senators during a hearing Thursday, the Tribune reports. State Sen. Glenn Hegar (R), the bill's author, was asked about whether the legislation would intrude on the doctor-patient relationship and whether he had reviewed legal outcomes for similar legislation in other states. Hegar described the omnibus bill as an "accumulation of all those different bills and scientific data that's out there."
State Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D) said she was concerned about the bill's language and questioned the scientific data Hegar had used, specifically regarding the ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Brooke Randall, an emergency room physician, said the decreasing number of hospitals in Texas would make it difficult for doctors to obtain admitting privileges. She added that abortions are safer and simpler than many other procedures performed in hospitals (Texas Tribune, 6/14).