Hundreds crowd state Capitol for debate over controversial abortion bills


by MARK WIGGINS / KVUE News and photojournalist MICHAEL MOORE

Bio | Email | Follow: @MarkW_KVUE

Posted on June 23, 2013 at 5:50 PM

Updated Monday, Jun 24 at 7:27 AM

AUSTIN -- Clad in the color orange, hundreds of abortion rights supporters crowded the Texas Capitol Sunday. 
With a vote scheduled over controversial legislation that would add sweeping restrictions on abortions and abortion providers, a sea of people waited anxiously to show lawmakers Texas women are watching. 
"Thousands of Texas women will not be able to seek healthy, safe care if they choose to exercise their constitutional right," said abortion rights supporter Katie Jackson.
"We're here to fight another battle that we thought we fought and won in the 70s and here we go again," said Sandy Burton of Cedar Park. "I hope they get the message that there are a whole lot of people against what they're standing for right now and that they can't ignore us."
"We're tired of people treading on us, we're against the war on women, and we're here to stay and to fight," said Abbey Griscon.
Though fewer in number, abortion rights opponents said the bills have plenty of supporters as well. 
"Ours are still in church," said Carol Everett of the Heidi Group, who argues the laws requiring abortion clinics to adhere to the same facilities standards as ambulatory surgical clinics and abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals are needed to ensure the safety of women seeking an abortion.
"We don't want the bottom feeders of the medical profession in this state delivering this kind of surgical care for women," added Kyleen Wright of Texans for Life. "So this is going to make abortion a lot safer for women and a lot rarer."    
Opponents of the legislation warn it would shut down all but five abortion clinics in Texas, but state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (R-Parker), author of the legislation in the House, disagrees. 
"It's a very lucrative industry, and they have the money and the ability that they can raise their standards," Laubenberg told KVUE in an interview Thursday. The Republican majority supports the bills, but Democrats hope to use parliamentary procedure Sunday to derail or delay their passage. 
Warned to refrain from outbursts, the gallery expressed support for comments against the bills by waving their hands. Many had signed up to speak at a public committee hearing Thursday night that stretched into Friday morning before testimony was cut short.
"Members in my nearly 20 years in this House I have never seen anything like this," state Rep. Jessica Farrar (D-Houston) said while speaking on personal privilege Sunday evening. "Not the level of participation, nor the level of disrespect for witnesses."
Despite the warnings, Farrar's speech ended in a standing ovation from the packed gallery. If passed by the House, the Senate must still approve HB 60 and HB 16 as well as any changes to SB 5. Meanwhile the clock is counting down on the first special session of the 83rd Texas Legislature, which ends midnight Tuesday.