AUSTIN, Texas (BP) — The Texas House approved its version of a bill on Wednesday (July 10) that would forbid most abortions beyond 20 weeks, require ambulatory clinic standards for abortion facilities and require abortion doctors to have hospital privileges within 30 miles of their practices.
House Bill 2 now goes to the Texas Senate, which could vote on the Senate version, SB 1, as early as Friday. House Republicans, who have largely championed the bill, staved off attempts to amend it.
Time ran out during the first special called session of the legislature on June 25 following a 10-hour Democrat-led filibuster and then procedural questions from opponents that aimed to derail a vote as well as crowd noise from abortion-rights protestors. That same week, Gov. Rick Perry, who has said he would sign the legislation, announced a second special session to take up the matter again.
Opponents have acknowledged it would be difficult to stop the heavily GOP Texas legislature from prevailing the second time. One Democrat, Sen. Eddie Lucio of Brownsville, voted for the bill in the first session and gave an impassioned plea during the filibuster to his Democrat colleague Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth, who gained international headlines for her stand against the bill. Lucio is a Senate co-sponsor of SB 1.
Pro-choice advocates have charged that the ambulatory care requirements would cause 36 of the 42 Texas abortion clinics to close their doors, while pro-lifers have argued the same standards should apply to abortion that apply to other surgical procedures.
According to the Associated Press, lawmakers spent more than 10 hours on Tuesday debating the bill as pro-life and pro-choice activists tried to make their voices heard on the Capitol grounds and one day after an estimated 2,000 pro-life activists rallied in support of the legislation amid heckles from opponents.
During Monday’s rally, the slate of speakers, led by former Arkansas governor and Fox News host Mike Huckabee, hit a common theme — the inherent value of human life — with several speakers making a point to state their Christian love for pro-choice activists, clad in orange, on the fringes of the crowd.
Huckabee followed Concerned Women for America CEO Penny Nance, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and state Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is expected to seek the governor’s office after Gov. Rick Perry, a fellow Republican, announced earlier in the day he would not seek another term.
Southern Baptists on the platform included Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, and Steve Washburn, pastor of First Baptist Church in Pflugerville, both of whom prayed, and First Baptist Church of Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress, who kicked off the rally with a fiery speech characterizing the abortion debate as being between “light and darkness, good and evil, the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan.”
Richards, who closed the rally in prayer, reminded the crowd that more than 2,400 SBTC churches stand with them in upholding the sanctity of human life as part of their confession of faith.
Huckabee, in his keynote address, said “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are not ordained by a government document but by God. He framed the abortion debate in the context of the Holocaust and slavery. The foundation for both lay in the poisonous concept that one person or group is better than another.
Jerry Pierce is managing editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN (www.texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. TEXAN correspondent Bonnie Pritchett contributed to this report.