Testimony continues in public hearing on abortion bill

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by TINA SHIVELY / KVUE News and photjournalist MICHAEL MOORE

Bio | Email | Follow: @TinaS_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on July 8, 2013 at 6:17 PM

Updated Monday, Jul 8 at 6:16 PM

AUSTIN -- Hundreds lined up in the Texas Capitol extension Monday, all hoping to testify either for or against Senate Bill 1. It's a measure that would make abortion regulations in Texas some of the most strict in the nation.

At two minutes a piece and no scheduled breaks, all involved are in for another long night at the Capitol.

Those wishing to testify began lining up early Monday morning wearing orange and blue to show their opposition and support for Senate Bill 1, respectively.

Sarah Masters supports SB1. "People need to get out. They need to express their opinions. They need to be a part of our nation," she said.

"People having the ability to express their opinion is great. Whether they're for or against the bill, I'm glad people are here," said Megan Jansen. She's against SB1.

Between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Monday, close to 500 people signed up to speak.

Those who didn't get on the list hung around and made their voices heard, some outside the Capitol. Supporters of SB1 rallied in the Extension Rotunda in the rain. Inside, speakers packed the hearing room and several overflow rooms.

Chairperson Republican Senator Jane Nelson of Fort Worth told the crowd she intends to continue testimony through the night, and that disruptions would not be tolerated.

"I want to allocate as much time as I can to public testimony," said Sen. Nelson. "I will strive for an orderly and respectful hearing that gives all witnesses opportunity to express their views before this committee."

The Senate Committee of Health and Human Services began calling those witnesses after more than two and a half hours of expert testimony from doctors.

One of the first to speak was 16-year-old Laura Ramsey. She's in favor of SB1 and how it could help her peers who become pregnant.

"By banning abortions after five months, we will be preventing women who do not want to have abortions from being forced to have them later in their pregnancies," Ramsey said.

Also in support of SB1 is Susan Stack. A child she and her husband were set to adopt was aborted.

"I would ask that if you're not willing to protect all people including those living in their mother's wombs. We should at least provide the best care and protection for the women seeking this appalling procedure," Stack said.

Sarah Schumer explained why she's against the bill as her three-year-old daughter Madelyn looked on.

"I stand with Texas women that oppose SB1. Regardless of what my personal beliefs or experiences are, my personal reproductive choices do not give me the right to restrict other women who make very personal decisions based on their own circumstances with their doctors," Schumer said.

Melissa Tucker testified against SB1. In her testimony, she responded to a statement made by Republican Senator Robert Deuell of East Texas. He left pairs tiny shoes on the dais to represent the unborn.

"On behalf of the 5,000 women who die annually from unsafe abortions, many of them Texans who are not able to be here today to testify, I have a cheap pair of shoes I'd like to leave with you," Tucker said.

Tucker handed over her shoes in an impromptu move and left the committee room barefoot.

Staffers broke witnesses into groups. Each panel will be made up of three people on either side of the debate. Senate leaders tell KVUE it's part of an attempt to be sure both sides are equally represented at this session of public testimony.

More than a dozen hours of public testimony are expected at the Capitol Monday. It's unusual, but not unheard of.  A long session of public testimony was most recently seen when lawmakers tackled the debate over voter ID cards.

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