Republicans in a Texas House Committee have voted to approve new abortion rules for the Lone Star State, including banning abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, after eight hours of testimony and the rejection of amendments by Democrats.
The House State Affairs' vote, which was split by party, came Wednesday. The new abortion rules will go before the House for a vote next week. The Committee's consideration for the new rules, which are reported to be some of the strictest in the nation, brought thousands from both sides of the abortion debate to Austin.
According to reports, the state capitol building was filled with pro-life demonstrators who wore blue and pro-choice demonstrators clad in orange. No acts of violence or arrests were reported.
Last week, Texas Governor Rick Perry called for a second special session for the Legislature to deal with various matters including new regulations on abortion. Perry's announcement came in response to an inconclusive special session called last month to pass a controversial pro-life piece of legislation.
Known as Senate Bill 5, the proposed legislation would have, among other things, put stricter regulations on state abortion clinics and make 20-weeks the cut-off period for abortion. SB 5 garnered nationwide attention and large-scale protests from pro-choice activists, as well as a lengthy filibuster by Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis.
Although both chambers of the Texas Legislature passed the bill, due to confusion amid protests it was unclear whether or not the bill passed before the deadline set for the special session.
As with its predecessor, House Bill 2 has the 20-week abortion ban, the requirement for the procedure to be performed at ambulatory surgical centers, and that abortion performing doctors obtain admitting privileges at a hospital.
Many have noted that the new abortion rules would likely lead to the closure of all but five of Texas' abortion clinics due to the cost of implementing the standards.
Elizabeth Graham, director of Texas Right to Life, told The Christian Post in an earlier interview that the Legislature should pass the bill. "The abortion folks can no longer hide the humanity of preborn children so they have to take drastic measures to keep the truth about abortion from the public arena, which is what happened in the State Senate last week," said Graham.
"The majority of Texans are Pro-Life, and they have elected Pro-Life officials to represent their values in Austin. We are hopeful that the legislators will heed the will of the majority of Texas and pass this protection bill."
During her testimony before the House Committee, Gay Caldwell argued that HB 2 was a danger to women's health. "This bill is about women's lives, and I don't think you want to play politics with women's lives," said Caldwell, one of over a 1,000 people to testify before the representatives.
Next Monday, the Texas Senate Health and Human Services Committee will consider the companion to the House bill, known as Senate Bill 1 or the "pro-life omnibus bill."