Tampons and bottles of feces removed from protesters as Texas senate votes to pass measure that will toughen up abortion laws
- Bill will restrict access and time frame for abortions
- Activists for both sides gather to make their voices heard
By Daily Mail Reporter PUBLISHED: 13 July 2013
Republicans used their large majority in the Texas Legislature to pass the Bill nearly three weeks after a filibuster by Democratic Senator Wendy Davis and an outburst by abortion-rights activists in the Senate gallery disrupted a deadline vote on June 25.
As protesters came to the Capitol building in Austin on Friday, bottles of urine and feces, and even tampons were confiscated by state troopers as they tried to prevent anything from disrupting the debate.
Democrats, who have called the proposal unnecessary and unconstitutional, sought to enter into the legislative record material that could help in a court battle.
According to NBC News, Governor Perry lauded lawmakers who ‘tirelessly defended our smallest and most vulnerable Texans and future Texans’, and said the legislation showed the state’s commitment to protect women’s health.
The Senate’s debate took place between a packed gallery of demonstrators, with anti-abortion activists wearing blue and abortion-rights supporters wearing orange.
Those attending the debate were searched, and any item that could potentially be thrown from the gallery, including tampons, were confiscated, according to the Washington Post.
A senator later stopped security officials confiscating tampons, calling the move ‘bone headed’.
However, Texas Department of Public Safety officers were reported to have found one jar suspected to contain urine, 18 jars suspected of holding feces and three jars suspected to contain paint.
Four women who tried to chain themselves to a railing in the gallery were also arrested and a ten-minute break had to be called when another woman managed to chain herself to the railing.
The Senate’s leader, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst told officers to remove a group of protesters who started chanting ‘Give choice a chance’ as the debate resumed.
Outside the chamber, the crowd grew so loud that troopers were being issued earplugs, as protesters shouted ‘Shame! Shame! Shame!’ as senators gave their closing statements.
The Senate’s approval would send the bill to Republican Governor Rick Perry, who has said he will sign it.
The circus-like atmosphere in the Texas Capitol marked the culmination of weeks of protests, the most dramatic of which came on June 25 in the final minutes of the last special legislative session, when a Democratic filibuster and subsequent protest prevented the Bill from becoming law.
Only five out of 42 existing abortion clinics meet the requirements to be a surgical center, and clinic owners have said that they cannot afford to upgrade or relocate.
Senator Glenn Hegar, the Bill’s Republican author, argued that all abortions, including those induced with medications, should take place in an ambulatory surgical center in case of complications.
Democrats pointed out that childbirth is more dangerous than an abortion and there have been no serious problems with women taking abortion drugs at home.
They introduced amendments to add exceptions for cases of rape and incest and to remove some of the more restrictive clauses, but Republicans dismissed all of the proposed changes.
THE ABORTION BILL
- Doctors would need to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals
- Abortions would be allowed only in surgical centers
- Women would be limited to where and when they could take abortion-inducing pills
- Abortions would be banned after the 20th week of pregnancy
- 72,000 abortions were carried out in Texas in 2011, according to state figures
- Fewer than 400 took place after the 20th week of pregnancy
Earlier, Senator Royce West, a Dallas Democrat, asked why Mr Hegar was pushing restrictions that federal courts in other states had suspended as possibly unconstitutional.
‘There will be a lawsuit. I promise you,’ Mr West said, raising his right hand as if taking an oath.
The Bill mirrors restrictions passed in Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, Alabama, Kansas, Wisconsin and Arizona.
In North Carolina, lawmakers are considering a measure that would allow state health officials to apply standards for ambulatory surgical centers to abortion clinics.
Passing the law in Texas would be a major victory for anti-abortion activists in the nation’s second most-populous state.
Mr Hegar acknowledged working with anti-abortion groups to draft the legislation.
A lawsuit originating in Texas would also likely win a sympathetic hearing at the conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Senator John Whitmire, a Houston Democrat, said it was clear the Bill was part of national conservative agenda attempting to ban abortion and infringe on women’s rights one state at a time.
He pressed Mr Hegar on why the Texas Medical Association, Texas Hospital Association and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology opposed the Bill.
‘There are differences in the medical profession,’ Mr Hegar said, ‘I don’t believe this legislation will majorly impede the doctor-patient relationship.’
Senator Bob Deuell, a Greenville Republican and doctor, defended the Bill, saying abortion clinics ‘had not maintained the proper standard of care’.
Mr Dewhurst was determined to keep the vote on track. The Texas Constitution gives him the authority to jail anyone who breaks the chamber’s rules of decorum, which stipulate that there can be no demonstrations or attempts to disrupt the Senate’s work.
In addition to the jars of suspected urine and feces, officers took paint, glitter, confetti and feminine hygiene products from people wanting to sit in the gallery, according to the Department of Public Safety.
The debate has been simmering for months in Texas.
Democrats successfully blocked the Bill in the regular legislative session. Then, during the first special session, the Senate did not take up the bill until the final day.
That allowed Fort Worth Senator Wendy Davis to use a filibuster to delay a vote. When Republicans rushed to try to pass the Bill in the session’s final 15 minutes, angry protesters began shouting and screaming from the gallery.
Mr Dewhurst could only watch with frustration as a half-dozen state troopers tried to remove more than 450 people.
Democrats see in the protests an opportunity that could help them break a 20-year statewide losing streak. They believe Republicans have overreached in trying to appease their base and alienated suburban women, a constituency that helped President Obama win re-election.
‘In the long run, all they have done is built a committed group of people across this state who are outraged about the treatment of women and the lengths to which this Legislature will go to take women’s healthcare away,’ Planned Parenthood president, Cecile Richards, told The Associated Press.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2362499/Tampons-bottles-feces-removed-protesters-Texas-senate-votes-pass-measure-toughen-abortion-laws.html#ixzz2YuEmCjfK
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