AUSTIN – Members of the Texas House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a 20-week late-term abortion ban during the wee hours of Monday morning.
With almost a three-to-one ratio, Texas legislators voted 97-33 to authorize Senate Bill 5 (SB5), which will now be sent to the Texas Senate for consideration later this week. This comes nearly two weeks after Texas Governor Rick Perry announced intentions to include pro-life legislation in a special session of the Texas legislature.
“The horrors of the national late-term abortion industry are continuing to come to light, one atrocity at a time,” Perry wrote earlier this month. “Sadly, some of those same atrocities happen in our own state. In Texas, we value all life, and we’ve worked to cultivate a culture that supports the birth of every child. We have an obligation to protect unborn children, and to hold those who peddle these abortions to standards that would minimize the death, disease and pain they cause.”
SB5 was authored by Glenn Hegar, a conservative state senator from Katy who is a recipient of Texas Right to Life’s “Perfectly Pro-Life Award.” In addition to banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, Hegar’s 19-page bill would also tighten restrictions on abortion procedures.
“[S]ubstantial medical evidence recognizes that an unborn child is capable of experiencing pain by not later than 20 weeks after fertilization,” the bill reads. “[T]he state has a compelling state interest in protecting the lives of unborn children from the stage at which substantial medical evidence indicates that these children are capable of feeling pain.”
SB5 also stipulates that each abortionist must have “active admitting privileges” at a hospital no more than 30 miles away, so that women can quickly be transferred to the hospital if complications arise during an abortion. Abortionists who do not comply with this measure would be fined up to $4,000.
Furthermore, the bill calls for stricter oversight of abortion-inducing medications, requiring all such drugs to be administered only by qualified physicians. Additionally, before any drugs are prescribed, a doctor must see the woman seeking an abortion to assess the gestational age and location of the unborn child.
Even though Texas Republicans control a significant majority of the state house, hundreds of protesters crammed into the State Capitol on Sunday night and Monday morning to protest HB5. As reported by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, abortion activists loudly yelled “boo!” and “shame!” once the votes were officially cast.
Some pro-abortion legislators, including Representative Jessica Farrar of Houston, said the bill’s passage was a frustrating display of political manipulation.
“Everything about the process related to these abortion regulation bills has smelled like partisan politics,” Farrar told the Associated Press. “Proponents of the bill have failed to demonstrate any evidence that the regulations imposed by these bills are necessary. Nor have they expressed any sign of responsible governance in ensuring that women will continue to be able to access safe and legal abortion care.”
Similarly, Representative Sylvester Turner of Houston accused pro-life legislators of ramming SB5 through “with an arrogance of power,” according to the Dallas Morning News.
However, pro-life supporters are praising the piece of legislation, saying it is a very meaningful step in the right direction. In a recent statement, Elizabeth Graham of Texas Right to Life praised Texas Governor Rick Perry and Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst for facilitating this type of legislation in the state legislature.
“Governor Perry has been a faithful champion for the rights of the most vulnerable in our state,” Graham wrote, “and he has always welcomed and sought opportunities to protect life. We laud his efforts and the constant commitment of Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst to safeguard pregnant women and their unborn children while holding abortion clinics accountable.”