AUSTIN, Texas — Hundreds are flocking to the Texas capitol building today to testify in support of a bill that would completely outlaw abortion in the state, and supporters are encouraging fellow residents of the Lone Star State to still arrive at the capitol this evening to be a part of the historic hearing.
According to video updates posted online by Abolish Abortion Texas, an estimated 300-400 people were in the building as of 2 p.m. this afternoon to testify before the House Committee on Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence.
The sounds of “Amazing Grace” and “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” filled the rotunda, and at one point, those gathered got down on their knees to pray for an end to abortion. Exuberant chants of “abolish abortion” also filled the air.
The hearing for the bill had not started yet as of press time, but once it does, it will likely go into the late evening due to the large number of residents who wish to testify in support of the measure. Residents will be allowed one minute each to speak, again due to the size of the crowd.
“[T]hat’s still five to six hours [of testimony],” Wesley Thomas of Abolish Abortion Texas explained. “So, if you can still get here, if you haven’t come but you were on the fence, please come down here. … Let’s keep going. Let still give them seven to eight hours of testimony.”
“We expect this to still be going on 8 o’clock, 9 o’clock, 10 o’clock at night,” added Bradley Pierce. “So, if you have to get home from work, get dressed, get over here, there still should be plenty of time to do that. So, please get over here as soon as you can and be a part of this historic day.”
According to instructions provided earlier in the day by committee Chairman Jeff Leach, signs are not allowed within the hearing rooms, but t-shirts with messages on them are permitted. Those interested in testifying must also register upon their arrival.
As previously reported, House Bill 896, also known as the “Abolition of Abortion in Texas Act,” declares that life begins at conception, and grants the unborn the same rights that are entitled to born children.
“A living human child, from the moment of fertilization upon the fusion of a human spermatozoon with a human ovum, is entitled to the same rights, powers, and privileges as are secured or granted by the laws of this state to any other human child,” the bill, introduced by Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, reads in part.
It asserts state sovereignty in that the legislation requires the attorney general to “monitor this state’s enforcement of Chapter 19, Penal Code [surrounding criminal homicide], in relation to abortion” and to “direct state agencies to enforce those laws regardless of any contrary or conflicting federal statutes, regulations, executive orders, or court decisions.”
According to VoteSmart, Tinderholt identifies as a Roman Catholic and attends Saint Vincent De Paul Catholic Church in Arlington.
Recently, the bill was assigned to the most favorable committee possible, chaired by Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, who co-sponsored an identical bill to abolish abortion in 2017. Rep. James White, R-Hillister, who also serves on the Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence committee, is already a co-sponsor of the current measure.
In order to be advanced to the full House for a vote, the Act needs the full support of its Republican members as the committee is comprised of five Republicans and four Democrats. In addition to Leach and White, Republican Reps. Matt Krause, Morgan Meyer and Reggie Smith sit on the committee. It is not known where these three stand on the legislation.
The bill has generated much support from Texans and beyond as more than 70,000 petitions were submitted to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in February calling for him to make the issue an “emergency item.” While he did not mention abortion at all during his State of the State address on Feb. 5, supporters still expressed a hope that the measure would move forward in the legislature anyway.
The matter also is of special significance this legislative season as Jeremiah Thomas, a 16-year-old boy who died in August following a fight with osteoblastic osteosarcoma, urged Abbott a month prior to his death to abolish abortion in the state of Texas.
“For my wish, I wanted to talk to you and discuss a bill of abolition,” he explained, while speaking to the governor by phone from his hospital room at McLane Children’s Hospital. “[W]e want you to treat abortion like an act of murder that should be punished by law.”
“I know that it must be difficult standing against a whole federal beast that forces abortion on us, but I think that we … could end abortion here and now,” Thomas said.
Abbott told Thomas that the Texas Republican party platform expresses a desire to abolish abortion, and that state lawmakers already planned on putting forward a bill that would make abortion illegal in the state.
“Your wish is on the Republican party platform and it’s what we’re going to be pursuing this next legislative session — that’s to outlaw abortion altogether in the state of Texas,” he told Thomas, the recording of which was posted to social media. “And so, your wish has been granted.”
Thomas’ parents and siblings are expected to be among those testifying this evening.
Abolish Abortion Texas told Christian News Network that it is not known whether or not the committee will immediately vote on the bill following public testimony, but that supporters of the measure are urging legislators to do so. A vote could also come at a later time, even the following day.