AUSTIN — Texas took a major step toward enacting tough new abortion restrictions on Friday, after a lawmaker cut short an 11-hour attempt to stage a “citizen’s filibuster.”

Hundreds of people were waiting to speak — the vast majority of them women opposed to the legislation — when House Affairs Chairman Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, said the witnesses had become repetitive and he would allow only two more hours of testimony. Normally each witness may testify for three minutes on a bill, and Cook’s decision to halt public participation was the first time a chairman had used that prerogative in recent memory.

At stake was a collection of measures to restrict when, where and how a woman may get an abortion in Texas. Cook’s committee approved all of the measures on a party-line vote without comment Friday afternoon.

The Republican-backed measures would ban abortions after 20 weeks; the current limit is 24 weeks. They also would require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles, and only allow abortions in surgical facilities. Many private hospitals will not grant privileges to a doctor who performs abortions and most abortion clinics do not qualify as ambulatory surgical centers, a standard usually reserved for procedures that involve extensive surgery or general anesthesia.

Supporters said the bills would make abortions safer, but abortion-rights groups said they would lead to the shuttering of 37 of the state’s 42 abortion clinics, leaving facilities only in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin. The Texas Democratic Party, Planned Parenthood and Texas NARAL called on supporters to testify against the bills Thursday night in hopes of slowing them down ahead of a Tuesday deadline.

200 denied testimony

When Cook finally called an end to the hearing at 3:35 a.m. Friday, more than 200 people remained on the witness list.

“I’m ashamed at what I saw, because people traveled from all over the state, and there were people on both sides of the issue who came to speak about this, but they were shut down,” Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, said. “They’re playing political games with women’s health and it’s unacceptable.

Republican-controlled legislatures in several states have passed similar measures, and many are tied up in courts.

Rep. Jody Laubenberg, R-Parker, said her bills would protect fetuses after 20 weeks and increase the level of care for women undergoing abortions. She added that “the Legislature should be on the side of life, not death.”

Other Republicans, including Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, said they welcomed the closures of abortion clinics as a result of the legislation.

The ban on abortion after 20 weeks includes provisions to protect a woman’s health and to allow the abortion of fetuses that cannot survive outside the womb.

Democrats complained that the ban on abortion after 20 weeks does not include exceptions for rape, incest or the mental health of the mother.


(1) comment


I was one of those who drove down to testify. Abortion has been performed safely since Roe vs Wade. These additional rules, are not only misinformed, but a blatant attempt to close clinics in Texas. Any physician can admit a patient at any hospital in an emergency. You don't need admitting privileges. I find it interesting that not one word was said about these bills during the regular session, but suddenly they are trying to pass them hoping no one notices. TEXAS WOMEN NOTICED. Nearly all the testimony was against these bills. 80% of Texas women are against these bills. The Republicans and their big brother government is out of control and frankly this is unconstitutional. Women have the right to have any abortion if they choose. The only thing this bill will do is kill women too poor to drive 300 miles twice and try to have and abortion themselves with wire hangers, pills from the internet, or their husbands/boyfriends beating them in the stomach. There is nothing pro-life about these bills. This is about controlling women and their choices.

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