• Texas House committee meets on abortion in small room

    A Texas House committee considering new restrictions on abortions has scheduled another hearing when it will likely approve at least some of the tighter regulations.

    House Affairs Committee Chairman Byron Cook provided notice of the meeting two hours and 16 minutes before Friday's hearing in a room that can hold only 30 people and does not have a video feed. It comes after hundreds of abortion rights supporters packed a hearing Thursday until 3:30 a.m.

    Opponents hoped to stall the measures, but Cook cut off public testimony saying it was becoming repetitive. A Democrat said in 20 years she'd never seen a chairman deny witnesses a chance to speak.

    The proposed laws would limit which clinics and doctors can perform abortions and would ban abortions after 20 weeks instead of 24.

  • The Morning Texan: Ordination, abortion and affirmative action

    According to the National Weather Service, Friday's high is going to be 98 degrees.

    Here is some morning reading:

    Yesterday's most read story online: Mary Ann Kaiser, a youth director at the University United Methodist Church on campus, was suddenly removed from her candidacy to become an ordained minister because she identifies as a lesbian. Some church officials are saying rules were violated because she was not interviewed by the Board of Ordained Ministry before being denied ordination.

    In case you missed it: The House left two abortion bills pending in committee after more than 700 people signed up to testify on the bills and the hearing was nearly 15 hours long. Many UT students testified on the bill.

    What you have to read: It turns out, the Supreme Court could hold the Fisher case till next year and wait to release a decision then. That is because they are the Supreme Court of the United States, and they do what they want. Here's how and why they might hold the case. 

  • UPDATE: Abortion bills pass Texas House State Affairs Committee

    Updated at 1:30 p.m. 

    The Texas House State Affairs Committee approved abortion bills HB16, HB60 and SB 5 Friday afternoon. The full House chamber is expected to debate on bills Sunday. 

    Original Story:

    Following many hours of emotional, citizen testimony on abortion bills, the Texas House State Affairs Committee adjourned and left two abortion bills pending in committee.

    According to multiple twitter reporters, more than 700 people registered to speak on HB16 and HB60, bills that would add additional restrictions to receiving abortions in Texas. Both bills were filed by Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Austin, along with several other authors.

    The commitee hearing was almost 15 hours long. Speakers ranged from grandparents to college students, and included voices from both sides of the abortion debate.

    HB 16, or the so-called “fetal pain bill,” would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. HB 60 would add several more restrictions to having abortions in Texas. Lawmakers supporting the bill have said these bills aim to make abortion safer in Texas, but critiquers of the bills have said it would make it more difficult for Texas women to get an abortion.

    Several UT students, recent UT graduates and even UT professors spoke to the committee during the late hours Thursday evening and early hours Friday morning. The committee did not adjourn until 3:45 Friday morning, though registered speakers who did not get a chance to testify kept speaking.

    UT Professor Joseph Potter also spoke in opposition to the fetal pain bill and other abortion legislation. He said the sonogram law from the previous session, which requires women to have a sonogram before receiving an abortion, has made it more difficult for many women to get an abortion.

    “This is not going to be anything to help women’s health,” Potter said. “The brunt of the impact is going to be on low-income women.”

    Leslie Tisdale, communications studies senior and a former president of the University Democrats, pointed out to the committee that Texas high school textbooks say fetuses begin feeling pain at 28 weeks, while HB 16 claims fetuses begin feeling pain at 20 weeks. This is a discrepancy that concerns her, she said, since she is looking to becoming a teacher.

    “I ask you all to reconsider this bill,” Tisdale said to the committee.

    Activists from the LGBTQ community also waited in the long line of testify to speak on the abortion bills. Lauren Cozart, who identifies as lesbian and is a former child protective services investigator for Travis County, said she was speaking against the abortion bills for herself and other women in Texas.

    Quite frankly, I'm a lesbian. Unless I get the next Jesus in me, I'm not getting pregnant,” Cozart said.

    She said she has seen women with minimal-wage paying jobs who have struggled to feed the children they already have. More mouths to feed would make life even harder, Cozart said.

    Ash Hall, a UT graduate and former campus LGBTQ activist, also spoke against the abortion bills for the LGBTQ community. Hall said there are those who will attempt to force themselves on lesbian women in order to have “corrective sex” to try and make them straight. Hall said it is crucial abortion remains an option for these women, who are raped.

    Earlier this week, the Texas Senate passed SB 5, a bill that includes many of the provisions the two house bills include. Many conservative Texas lawmakers have supported the abortion bills, while Democrats have been opposed to the legislation.

    This article has been updated since it was posted.

    Follow Bobby Blanchard on Twitter @bobbycblanchard.

  • Hard questions and emotional testimony at Texas House abortion hearing

    Hundreds of advocates are packing a Thursday evening hearing on an omnibus Texas House bill that would place additional restrictions on obtaining an abortion if passed.

    HB 60, authored by state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, require doctors performing abortions at hospitals within 30 miles of an abortion clinic to obtain permission to admit patients and add other language regulating how doctors administer medication and meet practice standards.

    The bill is similar to a Senate bill that passed last week, SB 5, although the authors of the bill dropped the 20-week clause in the interests of ensuring a passing vote.

    During prolonged questioning directed to Laubenberg, state Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, questioned the veracity of the bill’s claim that fetuses experienced pain at 20 weeks and thus were a compelling interest for increasing regulation.

    Laubenberg said it was not her attempt to close abortion facilities in Texas by excessively adding regulation, to which Farrar responded by mentioning a recent tweet by Gov. David Dewhurst indicating such an outcome would be a victory for Texans.

    State Rep. Rene Oliveira, D- Brownsville, complained there was no language in the bill exempting late abortions in the case of rape or incest.

    “If my daughter gets raped, she will have to have that baby, under your big brother statutes?” Oliveira said.

    Public testimony from students, doctors, religious leaders and civil rights activists is ongoing and expected to continue late through the night. As of press time, more than 500 persons had signed up to be called for testimony.

  • How to get a lifetime swim pass to Austin's Barton Springs

    At Thursday's City Council Meeting, the council approved a request from the Austin Parks and Recreation department to issue a Barton Springs lifetime swim pass to Austinite Nancy McMeans Richey. 

    Yes — it turns out there is a way to get a lifetime pass to the pool and avoid the $3 entry fee. But it won't be so easy for college students to get this pass. In order to apply for a pass, an Austinite must be at least 80 years old.

    Tom Nelson, a division manager in the Austin Parks and Recreations department, said the application process for this pass is pretty simple. Interested swimmers need only submit a drivers license and some history about their use of the Barton Springs. 

    Nelson said the Austin City Council has been issuing these lifetime passes since at least the 1980s. Counting the pass that was givent to Richet, 32 passes have been granted in the past 42 years. 

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