Protests Continue at Texas Capitol as Lawmakers Try Again on Antiabortion Bill

July 2, 2013 — Thousands of abortion-rights supporters rallied outside the Texas Capitol on Monday as a second special session began, while inside the Capitol Republican lawmakers set a legislative schedule for an antiabortion-rights measure (HB 2, SB1) that failed during the previous session, Texas Tribune reports.

According to the Tribune, the bill's proponents likely will succeed in passing it because the session can last up to 30 days and the majority of state lawmakers support the measure (Aaronson, Texas Tribune, 7/1).

The measure includes four abortion regulations that failed to progress in either chamber of the Legislature during the regular session: a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy unless a woman's life is in danger, a requirement that abortions be performed at an ambulatory surgical center, a mandate that physicians administer medication abortion drugs in person and a requirement that physicians who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles.

Republicans failed to pass the legislation during the first special session after state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) filibustered it for more than 10 hours and a crowd of abortion-rights supporters further stalled the voting past a deadline (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/28).

Protests Resume

On Monday, Planned Parenthood Action Fund and other groups that support abortion rights organized a rally outside the Texas Capitol that drew about 5,000 advocates, along with Davis and several celebrities (Glueck, Politico, 7/1).

Addressing the rally, Davis responded to criticism from Perry that she should have "learned from her own example" as a teenage mother. "I was lucky enough to be able to make the choices in my life that I knew would work for me," she said, adding, "That's what we are fighting for now. A Texas where every woman is able to overcome her unique challenges, because she has the same choices and the same chances I did" (Muto, Texas Tribune, 7/2).

Meanwhile, a few hundred abortion-rights opponents gathered outside the Capitol in support of the bill (Tomlinson, AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 7/1).

Legislative Schedule

Legislators on Monday referred the bills to House and Senate committees (MacLaggan, Reuters, 7/1). The House State Affairs Committee is scheduled to take up the legislation at 3:30 on Tuesday, according to the Texas Tribune.

Hundreds of opponents of the bill have signed up to testify. House State Affairs Committee Chair Byron Cook (R) said that he would not let the proceedings continue past midnight but that committee members would "try to accommodate as many [speakers] as we can" (Texas Tribune, 7/2).

Cook said the committee likely would advance the measure by Wednesday morning (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 7/1). The full Legislature is not scheduled to meet again until July 9 (Reuters, 7/1). According to a senior Republican aide, "the bill is likely to be on the House floor" on July 9 (Politico, 7/1).

The AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Perry could sign the bill into law almost immediately after it is approved by the Legislature (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 7/1).

Both Sides Expect Bill Will Pass

Both supporters and opponents of the bill expect it to pass. According to Reuters, Democrats have said they might try new delaying tactics but are unlikely to filibuster the bill again (Reuters, 7/1).

State Sen. Kirk Watson (D) said, "We know where the votes are. We also know what the calendar is. We know how difficult that calendar can be when [it's] working against you." Watson suggested that if the bill does become law it will likely head to court, adding, "If they win this battle ... I believe we will win the war" (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 7/2).

Meanwhile, the bill's supporters are taking steps to facilitate its passage. State Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (R) -- the sponsor of the House version -- said she would not accept any amendments to the bill once it reaches the floor (Texas Tribune, 7/1). Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R) said the Senate will vote on the measure using a majority vote, rather than the traditional two-thirds vote (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 7/2).