The Mad Men: Senate Votes to Impose New Abortion Limits

Senate GOP votes to impose new abortion limits

Eddie Lucio
Eddie Lucio
Photo by John Anderson

Women dressed in Mad Men-era garb and dozens of women's rights supporters wearing bright orange T-shirts that read "My Family Values Women" gathered in the state Senate chamber last week for a committee hearing on a quartet of measures that opponents say are designed solely to restrict access to abortion and to drive backward in time women's reproductive rights. On Tuesday afternoon, the Mad Men contingent returned, to watch Senators debate until nearly midnight – and then pass, on a 20-10 vote (with Brownsville Democrat Eddie Lucio joining 19 Republicans) – the bulk of those measures over to the House, just a week before the special-called session is scheduled to end.

Glenn Hegar
Glenn Hegar

Thanks to Gov. Rick Perry's adding abortion regulations to the session's call, four divisive measures that failed to pass during the regular session have been revived as Senate Bill 5, which would 1) require all abortion clinics to be held to the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers; 2) require all abortion doctors to have hospital-admitting privileges within 30 miles of every clinic where they practice; and 3) require two in-person visits with a doctor for women seeking medical abortion. Originally, SB 5 would have banned abortion at 20 weeks gestation (the so-called "Pre-Born Fetal Pain Bill"); that provision was withdrawn by its author, Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy.

Although there are a handful of bills filed that address each matter separately, Hegar filed the omnibus SB 5 to incorporate each entry on the right-to-life wish list. But when the Senate gathered to debate – beginning at 5:30pm Tuesday evening – the bill had been mysteriously revised to exclude the 20-week ban.

Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, questioned Hegar about the last-minute decision to pull the controversial ban. "A large number of us are kind of mystified" about the last-minute change, he said. Would it be fair to say, then, Whitmire asked, that Hegar was "actually compromising [his] position on this issue for political expediency?" Not so, Hegar replied. Whitmire asked how it made sense to debate a new version of the bill without opportunity to review the substitute with constituents or experts. The issues aren't new, Hegar countered, and have been raised throughout the session.

For more on this story, see the News-desk blog.

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