The Texas House took up the contentious abortion debate again, complete with passionate protesters, prop coat hangers, and even discussion about teeth whitening.
At issue Tuesday was House bill HB2, which would ban abortions after 20 weeks, require abortion doctors to have hospital-admitting privileges, require doctors to administer abortion-inducing drugs in person, and require that abortions be performed in surgical centers.
Tuesday’s debate focused on amendments to the bill. Anti-abortion demonstrators clad in blue filled the Statehouse’s gallery, while the bill’s opponents in orange arrived with a bus emblazoned with the name of the organization Stand With Texas Women. State Sen. Wendy Davis, whose 13-hour filibuster derailed the bill in the last session, joined the protesters.
Republican Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, HB2’s author, said she wasn’t open to amendments. Yet, even by 5:30 p.m., the House was still hearing them.
Early on, Democratic Rep. Senfronia Thompson and others around her took out wire coat hangers, knitting needles, and turpentine in support of an amendment allowing exemptions in cases of rape and incest. If it failed to be included, she said that women would be forced to use such objects to procure an abortion.
Democratic Rep. Rafael Anchia didn’t oppose the 20-week ban, but he did criticize the bill for limiting physicians’ influence. “Doctors shouldn’t be handcuffed in their medical judgment,” he said. When sparring with Anchia, at one point, Republican Rep. Jeff Leahy asked him about why he would support a bill regulating teeth whitening but not one regulating abortion.
There are actually two similar Texas House and Senate bills on abortion. But even after a late-night public testimony in the Senate on Monday—which included a poetry reading titled "If My Vagina Was a Gun" and a speaker on the floor being dragged away by troopers—the Senate will wait on the House to decide further action. The Senate is adjourned until 9 a.m. on July 11.
UPDATE: As of 9:35 p.m. on July 9, the House approved the abortion regulations in HB2, much to the chagrin of protesters, who shouted "Shame on you" in the courthouse. It'll go up for final approval tomorrow, then on to the Senate.