AUSTIN -- Texans from far and wide, one by one, offered impassioned testimony over sweeping new abortion legislation.
Opponents say it would make legal abortions out of reach for many Texas women, while the bill's supporters argue it would lead to fewer, safer abortions. Hundreds spent hours in line waiting to share their stories before the House State Affairs Committee Tuesday afternoon.
The committee hearing comes just one day after the beginning of a new special session called by Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) to try a third time to pass controversial abortion laws that have stirred uproar at the Texas Capitol and placed the Lone Star State in the national spotlight.
After a filibuster by State Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) ended in hundreds of abortion rights supporters drowning lawmakers' attempts to pass the bill, Republicans renewed their commitment to passing the legislation Monday.
"It's either supporting the predatory abortion industry or it's supporting life," State Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) told KVUE Monday.
"The people of Texas felt differently about that, and in exchange they were called names," said State Rep. Jessica Farrar (D-Houston), a member of the House State Affairs Committee who helped calm the crowd during the previous hearing on the bill. "They were called an unruly mob. They were not recognized as a legitimate movement and a legitimate protest against a government."
The outpouring against the bill began at a hearing before the same committee two weeks ago, when an announcement by chairman Byron Cook (R-Corsicana) that public testimony would be cut short resulted in outrage. The mounting tension culminated in an explosion of shouts as Republicans attempted to end Davis' filibuster Tuesday night, leading Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R-Texas) to accuse abortion rights supporters of "mob tactics."
Despite the majority testifying in opposition to the bill, there's little to stop its passage during the second special session. With another 30 days to move the bill through the legislative process, it's unlikely the legislation will land within filibuster range again. Even so, many on both sides Tuesday said they just wanted to be heard.
"These people are young, and we need to protect them from themselves sometimes because they don't know what the world is trying to do to them," said Carolyn Anne Venable of Houston, who supports HB 2. "They're taking away babies and killing them."
"They're not getting that there are actual women involved here," said Jessica Luther of Austin, who opposes the legislation. "They want to focus on fetuses instead of actual women, and that's a problem. I just can't understand it."
Testimony is scheduled to last until 12:01 a.m. July 3, at which point the majority Republican committee could vote to send the legislation to the full House for debate. It must clear both chambers of the Texas Legislature before being sent to the governor's desk to be signed into law.