Republicans have learned quickly in Texas just how “Special” a Special Session can be.
Late last night in the Senate, the GOP took advantage of unique rules in the Special Session, and were able to pass SB5 against Democratic objections. Senate Bill 5 is textbook amongst TRAP laws, or Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers. Like the ones already passed in other states, it would place unnecessary restrictions on abortion providers, such as each doctor on staff having admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles of their practice, or the need to upgrade their facilities to match that of an Emergency Room. Given that Texas is a VERY sparse state in rural areas, and what few hospitals there are have religious objections to abortion, this is basically an eviction notice for women’s health services. These restrictions will effectively end abortion services for Texas women in all but a few select urban areas. Only 5 clinics in the whole state at present meet the rigorous qualifications set forth in SB5, which would cause the shut-down of 42 clinics.
During the Senate hearings, Republicans said that they were passing the legislation out of “concern for women’s health care”, but that reasoning was a total lie, as revealed by Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst. After the Senators spent hours trying to say otherwise, he proudly boasted such news on Twitter by tweeting out the map showing how many clinics would be forced to shut down…
Given that the Texas House is dominated by Republicans, the measure will likely become law tonight. At the same time, Texas women from across the state are headed to Austin for rally in protest.
This is truly a new low for the Texas Congressional GOP.
9:10am June 21st— Though the Senate has done it’s dirty work by passing SB 5, House Bill 60 (HB 60) is still in committee. And thanks to the bravery and true dedication of 700 Texans last night and into this morning, HB 60 did NOT get a vote. They descended upon Austin and staged an astonishing Citizen’s Filibuster as everyone present signed up to speak about the bill. It was a total takeover of what the GOP House members expected to a “rubber stamp” hearing.
Here’s part of the first-hand account from Andrea Grimes at rhrealitycheck.org
We’re here as part of a citizens’ filibuster against a bill added to the Texas house’s special session calendar at the last minute by Republican Gov. Rick Perry. They spent the day anxiously waiting for their names to be called by House State Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana). They’ve been poring over testimony, timing themselves on smartphones, practicing their statements in the hallway with quavering voices.
Seven hundred people registered to testify today. Tonight. Into the wee hours. They were prepared to wait as long as it took.
At midnight, Rep. Cook told us that, after nearly seven hours of testimony against HB 60, our words were getting to be “repetitive,” and he would allow just one more hour of testimony.
That’s when the yelling started.
“Let her speak!” chanted women and men who gathered in the room as one woman was escorted away from the podium by a Texas State Trooper.
Shortly thereafter, citizens took over the hearing room and decided to testify with or without the committee members present.
That’s when #HB60 began trending worldwide on Twitter. That’s when people stopped tweeting about getting coffee delivered to the James H. Reagan building here in downtown Austin, and started tweeting about bail money.
Eventually, Rep. Cook and his colleagues called the hearing back to order and gave the gathered citizens another half-hour to speak against HB 60.
“Our words are not repetitive,” testified Lesli Simms, a first-generation American. “Our government’s attacks on our choice, on our bodies, is repetitive.”
There are hundreds of people still waiting to have their voices heard. But it may be their silence, engineered and ensured by Rep. Cook and right-wing lawmakers, that will speak loudest of all.
These courageous Texans fought for all of us last night. And for that, I thank them.