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SB5: Dead Anti-Abortion Bills See New Life In Special Session

Photo: Photo courtesy Planned Parenthood Greater Texas, License: N/A

Photo courtesy Planned Parenthood Greater Texas

For an updated version of this story, read "Texas Senate Votes To Decimate Abortion Access"

Just when we thought we evaded a round of draconian abortion bills proposed during the surprisingly quiet 83rd Texas Legislative regular session, Gov. Rick Perry has not-so-surprisingly clumped the most onerous restrictions together and slapped them on the special session agenda, in what reproductive rights advocates call an “anti-choice wishlist.”

While under the impression he was reigning legislators back in for worthy causes like redistricting and transportation funding, earlier this month, Perry – pressured by anti-abortion activists who saw minimal strides this go around – shut down hopes that legislating the female reproductive system was so 2011.

Relatively calm waters marked the regular session, with lawmakers actually undoing some of the massive damage done to reproductive health services in the state, like restoring $100 million for women’s health through primary care funding. To the chagrin of the anti-choice lobby, none of the more than 20 abortion-restrictive related bills filed gained enough political muster for a floor debate, even amid one of the most socially conservative Legislatures in recent history.

But the stalled legislation has come back with a vengeance, now dangerously equipped with the potential to be fast-tracked due to a procedural technicality. While a two-thirds Senate majority is needed to pass legislation during regular session, Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is dissolving this rule for special session, effectively stripping pro-choice lawmakers of their blocking power. Sailing through last Friday afternoon’s Senate committee hearing, the bills now move to the floor. With 19 Republicans against 12 Democrats in the chamber, the odds aren’t pretty.

One of those Democrats, state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio), says she’s been pleased with the bipartisan efforts made this session – but her praise is short-lived.

“Sadly, Governor Perry apparently wants something different for the Special Session. He added abortion issues to the […] call, renewing the attack on women,” Van de Putte said in a statement. “If the Governor is going to keep legislators in Austin, let’s make that time productive and work on issues that will take all Texans into the future, rather than pushing women’s reproductive rights back to the past.”

The 19-page omnibus Senate Bill 5, authored by Sen. Glenn Hegar (R-Katy), rolls four of the most restrictive pieces of legislation into one and guarantees abortion access will recall a pre-Roe v. Wade era more than ever before.

For instance, it includes a measure that would require abortion-providing doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital no further than 30 miles where the procedure is performed, a narrow and complicated demand pro-choice advocates describe as a Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, or TRAP law. Another, written by Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston), would compel doctors to follow FDA guidelines (considered outdated by major health organizations) when administering abortion-inducing drugs and require women to pay higher costs while experiencing more side effects. (You can thank the infamous sonogram law author for keeping the hits coming.)

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