The Texas House of Representatives spent close to 15 hours debating a new abortion bill, Senate Bill 5, before giving preliminary approval early Monday.
The abortion bill was debated by House Democrats who tried to stall the bill’s passage, the Associated Press reports. The new abortion bill bans abortions after 20 weeks, requires the procedure to be performed at surgical centers and requires any doctor performing an abortion to have admitting privileges at a local hospital, AP notes.
As the Democrats debated the bill in the House, hundreds of protesters gathered outside. The Democrats were a vocal minority, but the largely Republican House voted in favor of the bill, 97-33, the Dallas Morning News reports. The news of the bill’s tentative passage was met with plenty of applause from supporters of the new abortion restrictions.
Rep. Chris Turner, D-Arlington, spoke to the gathered protesters ,saying, “Our being here says that the people who come to Austin who are elected officials have to be held accountable, and I know you will hold people accountable in the next election,” the Dallas Morning News notes. On Twitter, #txlege became a trending topic as Planned Parenthood and other supporters discussed the arbortion bill throughout the night.
Those against the bill believe the new restrictions will limit the number of safe abortion options, which could lead to women turning to unsafe practices. According to AP, opponents of SB-5 believe the bill would limit the number of abortion clinics in Texas to just five, effectively closing 37 of the 42 clinics currently operating in the state.
Speaking about the bill during the State Senate hearing on Tuesday, Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, said, “The bill’s unnecessary regulations could force medical clinics to close, thereby limiting access to critical services. If clinics close in regions without many alternatives, women are likely to delay seeking care, and those in desperate situations may turn to desperate, unsafe measures. Other unnecessary regulations in the bill also intrude upon the doctor-patient relationship by requiring a particular regimen and limiting a doctor’s ability to prescribe the best option for a specific patient. The legislature should not substitute its judgment for that of qualified medical professionals.”
During the debate, Democrats tried to add amendments to the bill, including adding an exception for victims of rape and incest, but Rep. Jody Laubenberg, R-Parker, rejected any changes to the bill she sponsored, AP notes. At 2 a.m. local time, Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, successfully raised a motion to halt the debate on SB-5 in order to proceed with other legislative items.
While the House tentatively passed SB-5, a final vote before midnight on Tuesday, when the special session is scheduled to end, is needed for SB-5 to become law. The Senate will vote on the bill on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, the United States House of Representatives passed an abortion bill banning the procedure after 20 weeks. The Senate and the White House both plan on blocking the bill. In addition to Texas, South Carolina may pass a similar bill to Texas’ while a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks was blocked in Arizona.