Defying hundreds of pro-choice advocates who occupied the Texas state capitol building through Sunday night, the Texas House Monday morning brought the state one step closer to passing Senate Bill 5, which, if implemented, will impose severe restrictions on abortion, amounting to near-complete ban for a majority of Texans.
The bill is part of nation-wide efforts to pass sweeping anti-abortion laws at the state level, and ultimately, erode women's right-to-choose across the country.
"Shame them for what they’ve done!" chanted hundreds of protesters who were still occupying the capitol at the four in the morning when the bill's passage was announced.
SB 5 would make it near impossible to get an abortion in the state of Texas. The sweeping measure—a cocktail of several previous abortion bills—would ban the procedure after 20 weeks, impose prohibitive restrictions on abortion providers, and require that abortions only be provided at surgical centers. Pro-choice advocates explain that the bill would shutter 37 of the state's 42 abortion clinics.
"All of these restrictions represent an extreme burden on women, particularly the most vulnerable in our state. This is a callous disregard for the health and safety of women, setting up the kind of restrictive environment that leads women to seek desperate measures," declared Heather Busby, director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas.
Governor Rick Perry imposed a 30-day 'special session' to advance the bill that temporarily suspends normal legislative rules, making it easier to steamroll efforts to block the bill from within the government and across Texas.
The special session was imposed after the bill failed in regular session, and SB 5 supporters are rushing to push it through before the session expires.
After passing the House, the bill will next go to the Senate. The governor is expected to enthusiastically sign the sweeping bill into law if it makes it to his desk.
"The bills Perry hopes to pass through the special session were too extreme to pass during the regular session," declared Busby. "It is a shame that our state leadership prioritizes the regulation of women's bodies over the pressing needs of Texans."
The legislation is just the latest in a series of government attacks on Texas abortion rights. In April, Texas passed a law allowing the state exclude abortion providers from the public Women's Health Program, resulting in a devastating de-funding of Planned Parenthood.
The bill advances despite mass opposition from Texas residents who deride it as an unbridled attack on women.
More than 700 Texas women's health advocates participated in a 'People's Filibuster' at the capitol Thursday, testifying against the passage of SB 5 for a stunning 12 hours and temporarily blocking its advance through the House.
When the debate resumed, pro-choice advocates rushed to the capitol to make their voices heard. Sunday's overnight protests and occupation filled the building, as protesters wore orange and red to signal their opposition and waved banners, including one that showed ovaries, followed by the words 'Don't Tread on Me.' Protesters chanted within earshot of the House as it debated the piece of legislation.
NBC reports on protesters' outrage at the bill's content:
“It's absolutely insane we are still having this debate in this day and age,” said Alyssa Potasznik of Dallas.
Despite the widespread outcry, in the early hours of the morning, Republicans blocked the debate and forced a vote.
Women's heath advocates vow that the fight is not over. Think Progress reports:
“Women are not going to tolerate the constant chipping away of their rights, we are not going to be bullied,” Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D) said on Sunday night in reference to the legislature’s attempt to push through last-minute abortion restrictions. “We are soldiers in the army of women’s rights, and while today we may be outnumbered and out gunned, our cause is just and we shall prevail.”