There is a lot of misinformation floating around about #SB5, and I’m saddened and insulted by the inflammatory conservative rhetoric being thrown out regarding those of us who have been standing up to fight this legislation.
This is why I can’t support #SB5.
The main points of SB5 include:
• No abortions after 20 weeks gestation, the unsubstantiated “fetal pain” threshold (fewer than 500 such abortions occur in Texas each year).
• All abortions must be performed in an ambulatory surgical center, imposing burdensome and unnecessary costs on outpatient clinics.
• All doctors performing abortions must have hospital privileges within 30 miles of the clinic, a severe restriction in rural areas.
• Women seeking a medical abortion (i.e., early term and drug-induced) must have two in-person meetings with the doctor.
At its heart, SB5 is not a bill that seeks to improve women’s healthcare in Texas. To the contrary, it will effectively close down all but 5 of the existing women’s clinics that provide abortion services in the state. What people don’t seem to realize is that most of the women’s clinics who offer abortion services *also* offer other vital women’s services, including sex education, birth control, condoms, STD screening, gynecological exams, breast exams, uterine and cervical cancer screenings, treatment for ovarian cysts and even pregnancy planning and prenatal services. To close down those clinics who want to offer safe abortion services as part of comprehensive women’s healthcare, especially in rural areas where a higher percentage of poor, uninsured, unemployed or underemployed women reside, would *eliminate* affordable access to health care for those women. Clearly a far cry from “improvement.”
Beyond that, SB5 is not a “late term abortion ban.” In actuality, it would create a blanket ban of all abortions after 20 weeks. The ban does not include exceptions for rape, incest, birth defects such as encephalitis or Tay Sachs, or even imminent threat to the mother’s life. I cannot abide by legislation that forces women to carry a baby to term, knowing it will be still born, or knowing it could kill the mother. In this country, we are allowed to defend ourselves from physical attacks against our home or ourselves, and we are allowed to seek legal recourse against people or entities who cause us physical, emotional or psychological harm. It only stands to reason that productive, taxpaying women with existing lives, families and friends have the *right* to physical and psychological self-defense from devastating and dangerous health conditions *within their own bodies*. The “fetal pain” argument within the second trimester is weak, at best. Contrary to what the Texas GOP would have you believe, according to a comprehensive 2005 study performed by the American Medical Association, a fetus cannot consciously perceive pain until it reaches the gestational age of 29 to 30 weeks.
Additionally, the unreasonable expectations set forth for those 5 remaining clinics would make *all* abortions, even those performed within the first trimester, completely unaffordable for the majority of Texas women.
Governor Perry and the Texas GOP have already proven they don’t care about women’s rights on many occasions. In 2010, they named *all* Planned Parenthood clinics, not just the ones who provide abortion services, as “abortion affiliates” and in 2011, enacted mandatory ultrasound legislation and began the move to defund the Women’s Health Program across the state. In 2012, many women’s clinics were forced to close, leaving rural women without access to birth control and women’s health services. In 2013, following the defunding of the WHP, the legislator excluded Planned Parenthood from all state-funded healthcare programs.
On June 14, 2013, Perry vetoed of HB950, which would have granted equal pay to Texas women. Then, he proudly added SB5 for consideration midway through the special session, knowing it had a better chance of passing than it would during the regular session. And as the Democrats fought tirelessly and within the rules, with throngs of Texas citizens assembled peacefully in the chamber gallery, and the eyes of the nation fixed on the proceedings, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst eschewed even the most basic rules of parliamentary procedure, blatantly refused to recognize parliamentary inquiries and points of order from Democratic and female Senators, and most disgustingly, committed fraud by changing the time stamp on the Senate vote to show the vote had taken place before midnight, when significant amounts of proof existed to show otherwise.
Now, in the wake of the Democratic defeat of SB5…
Sen. Bill Zedler has called the SB5 protestors “terrorists.” Terrorism is defined in the Code of Federal Regulations as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives” (28 C.F.R. Section 0.85). Zedler is using right-wing rhetoric to evoke emotional responses. But the crowd never utilized force, or violence during this special session. The GOP did. It forced its way through the rules of parliamentary procedure, forced its way past the constitutional guidelines for special sessions, and seeks to force emotional, psychological and physical violence upon women who deserve the right to choose for themselves. If any “terrorists” exist here, they were standing at the dais, calling the shots.
Dewhurst blames the “unruly mob” for derailing the vote. Again, let me be perfectly clear. Aside from the occasional murmur at any one of the multiple asinine decisions called by Dewhurst, I personally witnessed exactly two outbursts in the chamber. One when Dewhurst sought to end Sen. Wendy Davis’ filibuster by saying discussion of *ultrasounds* was not germane to the topic at hand, and another when, after being blatantly ignored by Dewhurst multiple times, Sen. Leticia Van De Putte asked, “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?” To that statement, the crowd stood, clapped and cheered, and did not stop until well past midnight. *As they should have.* There is no way I could possibly convey the tension, emotion and fear building up within the hearts of the women sitting in the gallery that night as we watched our most fundamental right – the right to control our own bodies – being stripped away by men who refused to even recognize the voice of one of their own. The *only* acceptable response to Van De Putte’s question was thunderous and appreciative applause.
And Perry has called a second special session, saying, “we will not allow the breakdown of decorum and decency to prevent us from doing what the people of this state hired us to do.” Anyone who was at the Capital on Tuesday night can tell you: this is not what the people of this state hired you to do.