Texas Republicans succeeded in moving a controversial abortion bill forward early Wednesday morning, despite objections of House Democrats who accused conservatives of refusing to consider any of their amendments.
The House State Affairs Committee voted 8-3 along party lines to approve House Bill 2, which would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and impose new building standards for abortion facilities across the state, such as widening hallways and specific requirements for the flooring and outfitting of janitors closets. Critics contend the new standards would impose expensive updates that would force many clinics to close. Approximately 1,100 people signed up to testify during the public hearing Tuesday before the vote—both in favor and in opposition to the bill—but fewer than 100 had a chance to speak.
"We took testimony in the regular session, in the first special. We've taken a lot of testimony," said House Committee Chairman Byron Cook.
Update: Testimony taken: 90 Remaining to testify: 998 4 minutes left #txlege #HB2— Jessica Farrar (@JFarrarDist148) July 3, 2013
Democratic State Representative Sylvester Turner requested more time for public testimony for the nearly 1,000 people who had yet to speak, but was denied by Cook. "I know you think they don't have a right to talk," Turner said, "but I have a right to talk."
Turner challenged State Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, the bill's sponsor, pointing out that Texas lawmakers have done little to fight for funding for public education and healthcare. "Tell me where does pro-life start and stop? When a child is born and we no longer fight for their quality existence?
Turner also attempted to offer amendments to the bill before the vote, but was told by Cook to bring it to the House floor next week.
"You know that's just wrong!" Turner angrily replied.
In a statement shortly after the vote, Democratic State Representative Jessica Farrar called the actions of Republicans "politics at its worst."
"The Texas Constitution says that the governor may call a special session 'on extraordinary occasions,'" Farrar said. "If this is such an 'extraordinary occasion,' Texans from across the state deserve the opportunity to voice their opinion."
The bill now advances to the full House next Tuesday, where it is expected to pass with a majority vote. This is the third time Texas legislators will have debated and voted on this abortion measure this year.