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How to close abortion clinics under the guise of women's safety

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From the outset, state Sen. Donna Campbell was eager to help Texas pro-lifers pick up where they left off in 2011. During last year’s heated campaign to unseat Jeff Wentworth, she hammered the “liberal, pro-choice Republican” for voting against Texas' infamous sonogram law, which, among other things, requires that doctors describe the development of the fetus to women seeking an abortion before making them arbitrarily wait 24 hours for the procedure.

By December, Campbell flanked Gov. Rick Perry during his press conference announcing the scientifically-dubious push to outlaw abortions after 20 weeks, saying, “How tragic to think that these babies suffer from pain, a cruel and unnatural death” — never mind that 2005 Journal of the American Medical Association study indicating “fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester.”

Not only did Campbell co-author and file the Senate's version of the so-called “fetal pain” bill, she's fixed her name to two other measures certain to please her pro-life base.

One, which she co-authored, bans “affiliates” of abortion providers (re: Planned Parenthood) from participating in or providing any materials to public school sex-ed courses (critics contend that other components of the bill would create more barriers to teaching sex ed in Texas). The other, which she stepped up to champion last week, truly carries the water for the anti-abortion movement this session.

Authored by Sen. Bob Deuell and co-sponsored by Campbell, two of the most zealous anti-abortion evangelicals in the Lege, SB 537 would force all Texas abortion clinics to comply with regulations governing surgical centers. If passed, abortion providers in Texas would drop from 42 to just five next year, immediately restricting where women can access abortion services while the making procedure more costly.

Deuell and Campbell bristle at any notion they're engaged in a backdoor ploy to restrict abortion in Texas, claiming the bill is about keeping Texas women safe. Either they're lying, as some pro-choice advocates suggest, or they're conveniently forgetting the broader nation-wide efforts of their anti-abortion brethren.

Campbell, a New Braunfels tea partier, took an impassioned tone during the contentious Health and Human Services Committee hearing last week. When one witness, a man, took to the dais to oppose the bill, Campbell seethed.

“You are a man, and I would like to see you arguing the point that we need to lower the standards on colonoscopies for men or penile things like that,” she said. “You are here arguing to decrease, or to stop improving, safety for women.”

Critics, however, argue SB 537 draws from the national conservative playbook on how to restrict access to abortion care; the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade forbids states from banning the procedure outright. “This is part of a larger strategy of making abortion inaccessible, whether they're willing to admit that or not,” Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, told the Current.

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