Angry protesters flooded a House committee meeting and rallied outside the Texas Capitol as one of the nation’s most restrictive abortion bills advanced in the state legislature early Wednesday morning.
The Texas House committee voted to move forward with House Bill 2 – an identical version of the abortion legislation that was stalled last week by a filibuster. The bill would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and shut down 37 of the state’s 42 clinics.
More than 3,5000 people came to the Capitol to register their position to the bill and more than 2,000 signed up to testify on Tuesday, but the House State Affairs Committee approved the measure 8-3 after hearing from fewer than 100 people. The controversial bill will now move to the House of Representatives for consideration early next week.
Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) asked the committee chairman to allow more people to testify, but his request was denied.
“The people have the right to come here, and they have the right to be heard,” he said. Turner also made an attempt to amend the bill, which House State Affairs Chairman Byron Cook (R-Corsicana) also denied, telling him he “can bring it up on the House floor.”
Democratic lawmakers criticized Republicans for advancing the bill so quickly, despite the thousands of Texans who have protested against the law on the streets. Rep. Jessica Farrar told MSNBC that the actions of the Republicans were “politics at its worst.”
“The Texas Constitution says that the governor may call a special session ‘on extraordinary occasions,” she said. “If this is such an ‘extraordinary occasion,’ Texans from across the state deserve the opportunity to voice their opinion.”
The committee meeting was flooded with crowds of pro-choice advocates wearing orange t-shirts and anti-abortion advocates wearing blue. There were an equal number of supporters and opponents when the hearing began, but the orange t-shirts were more prevalent as the night dragged on, AP reports.
The meeting room was quiet as lawmakers heard testimonies from supporters and opponents, but activists carried signs and babies to symbolize their beliefs. Some signs urged lawmakers to “stop the war on women” and “protect women, protect life”. Kelly Savedra, a mother of two, told Reuters that the government should not have “any right to tell me or my daughter what we can do with our bodies.” At least one activist held a sign that said “stay out of mommy’s vagina.”
But some pro-choice protesters took their rallying to extreme levels: a YouTube video shows abortion rights activists standing outside the Capitol, allegedly chanting “Hail Satan” to drown out pro-life activists’ singing of “Amazing Grace.”
“The pro-abortion crowd has responded with repeated chants of ‘hail Satan.’ It’s taken us all day to get a video recording,” wrote the Blaze, whose Texas blogger Adam Cahm captured video of the scene.
It remains unconfirmed whether or not the protesters truly chanted “Hail Satan”, but the video is quickly garnering page views and the news has become a worldwide trending topic on Twitter.
Meanwhile, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists announced its opposition to the abortion legislation, stating that it is “plainly intended to restrict the reproductive rights of women in Texas through a series of requirements that improperly regulate the medical practice and interfere with the patient-physician relationship.”
Pro-life activists argued the opposite, urging lawmakers to vote for the hotly contested bill.
But despite the fact that more pro-choice activists were at the Capitol in the early-morning hours before the vote, the legislature voted in favor of the legislation. If approved, Texas would become the 13th state to pass a ban on most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The bill will advance to the full House next Tuesday, where it is expected to pass with a majority vote.
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