People on both sides of the abortion debate are gearing up for a crucial hearing Thursday at the Texas Capitol. The Senate Health and Human Services committee will hear testimony on four bills that would likely make it harder to get an abortion in Texas, after Governor Perry on Tuesday added the issue to the special legislative session.
Senate Bill 5 includes provisions to ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy and require that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. The 20-week provision is also contained in Senate Bill 13, which is before the committee. Senate Bill 18 requires that women who receive the abortion drug RU-486 receive it in a clinic from a doctor. And Senate Bill 24 would make abortion clinics follow the tighter guidelines of ambulatory surgical centers.
At least ten other states have approved measures to ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, according to Bloomberg News. The landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade ruled that a woman is entitled to an abortion until a fetus is "viable," which was defined as at least 24 weeks.
In May, a federal court struck down an Arizona law that aimed to limit abortion to the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. Wednesday, a U.S. House Committee approved a similar ban, the Washington Post reports.
Joe Pojman with the anti-abortion group Texas Alliance for Life supports all four Texas bills. While he would like to see abortion outlawed, Pojman says the measures are intended to protect the health of women.
“It is incumbent on the legislature to do whatever it can do to regulate abortion to make it as safe a procedure as possible," Pojman said.
Blake Rocap with the abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice Texas says if the bills become law, it would force most abortion clinics in Texas to close.
“It would deny women access, and they would be stuck in a position of being taken advantage of by non-physicians looking to make a quick buck off their desperate circumstances," Rocap said.
The state Senate hearing on the abortion bills is scheduled to start Thursday afternoon at 3:45, and will be streamed online.