Messing with Texas Women

Over the last week, Texas has become a battleground in the war surrounding women’s rights. Governor Rick Perry added abortion to the agenda for the Texas legislature’s special session, and with the clock ticking down the issue has become increasingly heated. 

At the end of last week, the Texas House began to consider an omnibus antichoice bill.  The legislation would not only ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, but would also impose strict regulations for clinics and doctors providing abortions.  Estimates reveal that if the bill were to pass, 37 of the state’s 42 abortion clinics would be forced to shut down.  While supporters of the bill claim that they are simply looking out for women’s health, the restrictions established by the bill are medically unnecessary and difficult to comply with, especially in a state with such a large rural population.  The bill would essentially eliminate access to safe and legal abortion services for Texas women.

In response to the proposed legislation, hundreds of women turned out at the state capitol to protest this attack on their reproductive rights and to testify against the bill.  Republican lawmakers, however, cut off much of the testimony and hurriedly forced a Monday vote on the restrictive bill, angering women across the state and the nation as the legislation successfully passed the Republican-controlled Texas House.  

Discussion of the Texas bill brought not only outrage over the incredibly restrictive contents, but also set the stage for an all-too common occurrence: ignorant and offensive remarks from GOP lawmakers.  This time, it was Republican state representative Jodie Laubenberg, a sponsor of the Texas bill.  While discussing the bill, Rep. Laubenberg argued against an exception for rape victims because, supposedly, “in the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits, where a woman can get cleaned out.”  In fact, rape kits are used by medical professionals to collect evidence after a crime has been committed, and do not do anything to terminate a pregnancy.  Comments like these are incredibly concerning because they highlight the fact that the very legislators who are attempting to take the most control of women’s healthcare lack a basic grasp of the issues, further evidence that lawmakers should NOT be making personal medical decisions on behalf of women and their doctors. 

Despite their apparent lack of knowledge about basic healthcare issues, Texas lawmakers are continuing this week in their attempt to push through the bill that would have enormous consequences for millions of Texas women.  House Republicans were able to ignore the protests of the women whose lives they are inserting themselves into, but a time restriction may fortunately prevent the measure from having any chance of succeeding.  The special legislative session ends at midnight on Tuesday, at which point the Texas Senate will have to have passed the bill.

Currently, State Senator Wendy Davis is attempting to filibuster the bill, a feat which will require her to speak for about 13 hours without any breaks.  Her efforts, which include reading testimony from women who were denied the right to speak last week, prove that women will not stand for this unconstitutional infringement, and that no woman should stand passively by as her very personal rights are taken away by elected officials.  This week’s lesson: don’t mess with Texas women.    

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