Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Texas, State-Level Anti-Abortions Legislation and Why You Should Care

I started writing this post to document the major push in anti-abortion laws in 2013. I have run into people who are totally unaware this is all happening, which blows my mind, so I decided to make this my first post after my hiatus. I was going to include 2012 state-level anti-abortion bills and laws in this post, but there were so many that I was quickly becoming overwhelmed and decided to just stick to 2013. Then, as I continued my research, it seemed as if new state-level anti-abortion legislation was being announced every single day. As a result, I decided to narrow the frame of this post. Otherwise, this entry would be never-ending and I would end up never posting anything. This post will focus mainly on the timeline of the highly publicized SB5 battle in Texas. I will then reference and link to other anti-abortion laws in other states around the country at the end of the post.

Note: Check out my abortion 101 blog post for basic information on abortion procedures and rights.

Why These Laws Matter:

The recent surge in anti-abortion legislation is incredibly troubling. From a purely logical perspective, it does not make sense on face value. Why would individual states (namely states where Republicans have control over the state legislatures) propose and pass anti-abortion legislation when abortions are clearly legal thanks to Roe v. Wade? It’s actually pretty simple. These laws are decided to create so many limitations and restrictions on an individual’s right to an abortion that Roe v. Wade becomes inconsequential. They claim that all they care about is protecting life, but remember, these are some of the same people who support the death penalty and still think the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were brilliant ideas. I do not know whether it’s more laughable or vomit-inducing to watch Texas governor Rick Perry talk about the sanctity of life in one moment while ordering the deaths of more inmates than any other state in the country in the next. Apparently, life is only sacred when one is a fetus. Weirdly enough, it seems as if the fetus is held up on a pedestal, deemed to be oh so pure and perfect, but several months later, if/when that fetus is born, it no longer matters. It is as if the event of birth somehow corrupts it. Oh, person that was once a fetus, do you have a preexisting condition and need healthcare? Did you want to go to preschool? Would you like your voting rights not trampled on? Would you like your higher education to not be so painfully expensive? Well, too bad. You are not a perfect little fetus anymore. You are a person who might demand rights, who might be a minority, who might be poor or worse, who might not vote Republican. You’re on your own.

The lives of adults and, namely, the lives of the adults who seek abortions are unimportant and these state Republicans are determined to effectively ban and/or make safe abortions impossible to access in their states. Honestly, I am at a loss as to what they expect. If someone wants an abortion, they are going to get it. These laws only limit poor disenfranchised individuals who cannot afford to take days off of work and travel to places where they can access safe abortions. When an individual wants an abortion and cannot receive a safe legal one, they do not shrug their shoulders, go back home and give birth. Instead they try to find other means (usually, unsafe means) to have the procedure. Maybe these state Republicans just don’t care. They don’t care about the suffering these laws will potentially cause as long as they can pat themselves on the back (and as long as they could potentially have their abortions on the sly).

Now, let’s specifically talk about the Texas SB5 bill (now law). Here is some of what the bill actually says:

The physician, on the day of an abortion, must have “active admitting privileges at a hospital that is located not further than 30 miles from the location at which the abortion is performed or induced…” A physician in violation of this section of the bill will be fined up to $4,000. [Chapter 171.0031, sec. 1, subsection A and sec.2, subsection b]

Any doctor performing an abortion must have “active admitting privileges at a hospital” that is 30 miles or less away from the clinic. This section of the bill is not necessary because hospitals are already federally required and able to take in a patient if an emergency were to occur. So if this section is basically redundant, why was it included in this bill? Requiring doctors who want to perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges gives power to those running the hospitals in question. These individuals have the power to deny doctors admitting privileges and, as a result, have the power to effectively shut down clinics. Also, any physician who performs an abortion without local hospital admitting privileges will be heavily fined.

“On and after September 1, 2014, the minimum standards for an abortion facility must be equivalent to the minimum standards adopted under Section 243.010 for ambulatory surgical centers” [Sec. 171.044, sec.3, subsection a]

Proponents of this bill (now law) claim that forcing abortion clinics to follow the standards of ambulatory surgical centers would increase the level of safety for patients. The American Congress of Obstretricians and Gynecologists released a statement disagreeing with this claim. The ACOG reaffirms that abortions are safe procedures and “the risk of complications from abortion is minimal, with less than 0.5% of abortions involving major complications”. The ACOG also states further that decisions supposedly made for the safety and medical care of patients should be based on science and made by medical professionals, not legislators. Forcing abortion clinics to conform to the same standards of ambulatory surgical centers (e.g. buying various unnecessary equipment) would be a crippling financial blow to the clinics and cause many to close.

“If  some or all of the provisions of this Act are ever temporarily or permanently restrained or enjoined by judicial order, all other provisions of Texas law regulating or restricting abortion shall be enforced as though the restrained or enjoined provisions had not been adopted; provided, however, that whenever the temporary or permanent restraining order or injunction is stayed or dissolved, or otherwise ceases to have effect, the provisions shall have full force and effect.” [Sec. 171.044, sec. 6a]

If any sections of the bill are stuck down for being unconstitutional, for example, the rest of the bill will remain unaffected and continue on as if nothing ever happened.

To give a bit more perspective, this bill (now law) would close 42 clinics across the state, leaving only 5 clinics open to fulfill the needs of Texas women.

To just highlight how absurd and aggressive Texas State Republicans have been in their efforts to pass this anti-abortion legislation, I’ve set up this timeline:
  • May 27th: Texas’s regular 140-day legislative session ended.
  • June 11th: After Rick Perry called a special 30-day legislative session, he added the abortion legislation to the bills that could potentially be passed during this special additional session.
  • Thursday June 13th: The Texas Senate committee has its first hearing on SB5. 42 people showed up for public testimony: 20 for the bill, 22 against.
  • June 18th: The Texas Senate passed (20-10) SB5.
  • June 24th: The Texas State House of Representatives passed a version (95-34) of SB5 this time including the 20-week abortion ban. Although the ban is considered unconstitutional and will probably be forcibly removed, this potential removal does not affect the rest of the bill. 
  • June 25th: Wendy Davis led an 11 hour filibuster against this bill. The rules for filibustering in the Texas State Senate are incredibly strict. Eating, drinking, sitting, leaning on anything, going to the bathroom and speaking "off-topic" are not allowed.
  • Rick Perry announced that a second special session lasting 30 days would be held the following Monday to try to pass the bill again.
  • July 10th: The Texas State House passed the bill and sent it to the Senate (96-49).
  • July 12th: The Senate passed the bill (19-11). 
  • July 18th: Rick Perry signed the bill into law. 

Guess what? Texas Republicans didn't want to rest on their laurels: Thursday July 18th (The same day Rick Perry signed a version of SB5 into law), the senate introduces a new anti-abortion bill, a fetal heart bill

The second special session ends on the 31st so the Texas GOP proposed 7 other bills presumably to try to pass before the deadline.

And Texas isn’t the only state on a recent anti-abortion kick:

Well, now you're all updated...until an hour from now when another new anti-abortion bill is announced. 

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