LIVEBLOG: Texas Senate committee hears abortion legislation

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Pro-choice activists Melissa Gabriel, Ally Parks and Tina Johnson look over pro-life demonstrators at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas on Tuesday afternoon as part of the first day of hearings on House Bill 2 and Senate Bill 1, which would restrict abortion in the state. Activists of both sides attended the hearings in order to bear testimony on the bills as well as voice their opinions.
Pro-choice activists Melissa Gabriel, Ally Parks and Tina Johnson look over pro-life demonstrators at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas on Tuesday afternoon as part of the first day of hearings on House Bill 2 and Senate Bill 1, which would restrict abortion in the state. Activists of both sides attended the hearings in order to bear testimony on the bills as well as voice their opinions.

Tuesday, 1:55 a.m. — The Texas Senate Committee on Health and Human Services went into recess at about 1:45 a.m., without voting on the abortion bill it was hearing.

Sen. Jane Nelson, chairwoman of the committee, said more than 3,800 registered an opinion on Senate Bill 1, which would ban abortion after 20 weeks and place additional restrictions on abortion healthcare. She could not provide the break down of how many registered for or against the bill.

"There are very strong feelings on this issue, and it was important to this committee that we took the time necessary to hear from everyone," Nelson said. 

Nelson noted, with pride, that the entire committee was still at the hearing when the committee went into recess. The hearing lasted for more than 13 hours. 

Tuesday, 12:25 a.m. — Testimony on the Senate's abortion bill continued past midnight.

One woman was escorted out of the room by DPS officers when she began to call the committee hearing "a hoax." Another woman who testifed sung a song to the committee. She wanted to use a ukulele, but Nelson requested she not use it.

Nelson has promised she would hear all testimony from anyone that was in line to testify at 11 a.m. Monday morning.

For our story on the two rallies at the Texas Capitol, click here.

6:00 p.m. — As the sun started to set and the evening began, testimony continued in the Senate's Committee on Health and Human Services hearing.

While testimonies continue, two different rallys are expected to begin at the Capitol on Monday night.

At 7 p.m., an anti-abortion group will meet on the South Steps. Speakers will include former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. 

Then, at 8 p.m., opponents of the abortion legislation and restrictions will march from the Capitol to Austin's City Hall.

Follow Bobby Blanchard on Twitter @bobbycblanchard for live updates on these rallies and marches.

3:42 p.m. — Lawmakers continued to hear testimony as the afternoon waned away.

Testimony has included personal stories, tears, calls to religion and scientific statements. 

Austinite Katie Heim was one of many to testify before the committee. Unlike the other testifiers, she read a poem she wrote, called "If My Vagina Was a Gun." Read the full poem, below:

"If my vagina was a gun, you would stand for its rights,
You would ride on buses and fight all the fights.
If my vagina was a gun, you would treat it with care,
You wouldn't spill all its secrets because, well, why go there.
If my vagina was a gun, you'd say what it holds is private
From cold dead hands we could pry, you surely would riot.
If my vagina was a gun, its rights would all be protected,
no matter the body count or the children affected.
If my vagina was a gun, I could bypass security,
concealed carry laws would ensure I'd have impunity.
If my vagina was a gun, I wouldn't have to beg you,
I could hunt this great land and do all the things men do.
But my vagina is not a gun, it is a mightier thing,
With a voice that rings true making lawmakers' ears ring.
Vaginas are not delicate, they are muscular and magic,
So stop messing with mine, with legislation that's tragic.
My vagina's here to demand from the source,
Listen to the voices of thousands or feel their full force."

2:45 p.m. — While hundreds of people remain to testify on abortion legislation at the Texas Capitol, Nelson has praised the people testifying before the committee.

"I saw an orange shirt pass a Kleenex to a blue shirt. I saw an orange shirt pass a glass of water to a blue shirt," Nelson said. 

People wearing orange shirts are at the Capitol against the bill. Those in blue are at the Capitol supporting the bill.

12:30 p.m. — Following questions from senators, public testimony began. Nelson chose to begin the testimony with four different witnesses chosen to lay the groundwork for the debate.

Amy Miller, President of Whole Woman’s Health, spoke first against the bill. She said the bill’s extra regulations and requirements were not necessary for abortion.

“Medically, abortion is a very simple procedure,” Miller said. “This is totally uncalled for, medically.”

Carter Snead, a law professor from the University of Notre Dame, spoke in support of the bill. He said there is nothing in the constitution that prevents Texas from banning abortion after 20 weeks, and there is no precedent from the Supreme Court that prevents it either.

“The court would treat this as a new interest,” Snead said. “I think there is a very strong reason to believe that [Justice Kennedy] would treat this as a new interest.”

Several others, including expert witnesses, also testified.

11:03 a.m. — Before public testimony began, several senators spoke on the abortion bill and questioned Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, who filed the bill.

Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, reminded the senators that she is “pro-life,” but she raised several issues with the bill. She asked Hegar if it did anything to lower the need for abortion. He responded that he did not believe that issue was on the second special session’s agenda.

Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, raised the issue that the bill does not allow for the exception in exceptional cases, including rape.

Other senators raised many issues, including the implications from Roe v. Wade and how the bill might close clinics statewide.

10: 25 a.m. — Nelson began the committee hearing on the Senate’s abortion legislation with strict rules.

Nelson said she would not tolerate outbursts from those in the committee hearing room. She said she would give one warning. If a second outburst happened, she said she would clear the room.

Nelson also said the committee would hear testimony from everyone who was in line to give testimony by 11 a.m.

“We’ll be here all week if necessary,” Nelson said.

Hegar then laid out the bill, which he filed. Following that, Sen. Bob Duell, R-Greenville, spoke in support of the bill, referring to an “american holocaust.”

He also criticized the media for focusing on the tennis shoes of Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, instead of the abortion legislation.

9:35 a.m. — The Senate Committee of Health and Human Services will convene at 10 a.m. to hear SB1, the Senate's abortion bill for the second special session.

The bill, filed by Hegar, would ban abortions after 20 weeks, place additional restrictions on surgical centers and abortion clinics and place more restrictions on abortion-inducing drugs. Supporters of the bill have argued that it increases safety for women, while opponents of the bill have argued it makes getting an abortion more difficult.

Registration for testimony began at 9 a.m. Testimony will be limited to two minutes.

Later tonight, two different rallies are scheduled at the Capitol. A rally of supporters for the bills is scheduled at 7 p.m., at the South Steps of the Capitol. At 8 p.m., opponents of the bill will march from the Capitol to Austin's City Hall.

Correction: This article has been updated to show the correct name of Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio. This article has also been updated to show the correct spelling of Katie Heim's last name.

Follow Bobby Blanchard on Twitter for updates @bobbycblanchard.

For a glossary of terms you need to know to survive the second special session, click here.

For a list of lawmakers and activists you need to be aware of to follow the second special session, click here.