The battle over abortion legislation in Texas has gotten lots of national attention --from a filibuster to record-breaking crowds of protestors on both sides, it’s the noise about the bill that’s taken center stage.
But just what is in the bill that protestors and politicians are fighting over?
First we hear from bill supporters who are abortion opponents. (We’ll hear from abortion rights groups on Friday).
Governor Rick Perry didn’t even mention abortion in his State of the State speech back in January. And it wasn’t until late March that anti-abortion groups really started to gain any traction in their efforts to pass legislation. That’s when Governor Perry joined other abortion opponents for the Texas Faith and Family rally day at the Capitol.
“I don’t think there is any issue that better fits the definition of compelling state interest than preventing the suffering of our state’s children, including those yet unborn,” Perry told people at the rally.
At that point it was ‘game on’ for Texas Right to Life director Elizabeth Graham when I talked with her back in March.
“We really think the energy is revived. And it’s starting again. And we’ll start to see some more debates and some more protections on life,” Graham said.
So what exactly is in the bill? Well, House Bill 2, has three main components.
- First, a ban on abortions after 20-weeks of pregnancy. Graham and others call it a “fetal pain” bill.
“Well the bill is based on the medical science of the child feeling pain. So the neurological receptors, the neurological structures the physiological structures, all that equipment is present and functioning in that child at 20 weeks,” Graham explained.
Similar bills have been filed and passed in a handful of red states over the last year. In March North Dakota passed an abortion ban after 6 weeks. Arkansas passed a 12 week ban. Both of those bans are being challenged in court for being lower than the Supreme Court allowed in its Roe v Wade ruling. State Representative Sarah Davis (R-Houston) worried Texas might be sued if the bill were to pass.
“My understanding of Roe v. Wade is a viability analysis. And when I have been talking to doctors it seems viability is anywhere between 23 and 25 weeks,” Davis said at a women’s health event earlier this year.
Texas Right to Life director Graham wouldn’t oppose a move to lower the Texas bill’s current 20 week threshold, but she’s comfortable with the bill in its current form.
“Because the science supports the bill, if there is a challenge, we don’t take that lightly, but I think we’re on solid ground,” Graham said.
- The next part of HB 2 is a requirement that an abortion clinic doctor have admitting privileges at hospital no more than 30 miles from the clinic
- And lastly, the bill requires all abortion clinics to upgrade their facilities to ambulatory surgical centers. Graham said even abortion rights advocates say they want safe abortions, and that’s what these provisions focus on.
“When we talk about safe, we find that abortion clinics are not up to par. They don’t have hallways, many of them, that are wide enough for gurneys to fit through. So when there is a botched abortion or an abortion complication, the abortion clinics are ill-equipped to respond to an emergency situation,” Graham said.
But the requirements could also severely limit abortion access in Texas. Abortion rights advocates oppose each of the bill’s provisions. We’ll hear more from that viewpoint Friday afternoon.