Texas Senate enacts harsh new anti-abortion laws

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AUSTIN, Texas (Texas Media Collective) - Late this past Friday, the Texas Senate voted 19-11 for harsh anti-abortion measures that include a 20-week ban on abortions, with no exemptions for rape or incest.

The vote came after Republicans shot down 20 amendments, offered by such Democratic state senators as filibuster star Wendy Davis, Kirk Watson, and Rodney Ellis, that in the main focused on women's health issues. Republican Gov. Rick Perry is expected to sign the bill quickly into law.

The law will allow abortions only in state-of-the-art surgical centers, limit where and when women may take abortion-inducing pills, and ban abortions after 20 weeks.

Out of the state's 47 abortion clinics, only five reportedly meet the new requirements to remain open. The 47 clinics provide wellness visits, cancer screenings, sex education, birth control, and abortions.

During the final debate, Sen. Ellis pointed out that the State of Texas, run by Republicans, turned down a large sum of Obamacare health funding. "Supposedly, your abortion bill is about quality of care of women, but then you turn down that much money, that would be a third of our current budget," he said.

In a state Capitol where gun wearing is allowed for licensed owners, visitors wanting to watch the final Senate debate had their bags searched by security guards who removed anything remotely throwable - including tampons.

Guards viewed the tampons as possible projectiles, although how much damage a tampon could do thrown from the gallery is debatable. Guards stopped the tampon seizures once visitors, by way of sarcastic tweets and online postings, alerted the public.

Down on the Senate floor, more serious matters prevailed. Sen. Watson called the anti-abortion bill a "poster child for Big Government regulation." He said, "Let's be honest what this bill is about. It's bogus. Its true agenda ... is to reduce access to safe and legal abortion procedures ... It's a power grab."

Republican Sen. Dan Patrick claimed during the debate, "I listen to the word of God in this issue." After describing voting for the restrictions as the Christian thing to do, he added: "Are we a nation that stands for a Judeo-Christian ethic, or are we not?"

Fellow Sen. John Whitmire, a Democrat and, like Patrick, a born-again Christian, countered, "I believe you've crossed the line. Don't question the faith of any member on this floor. It has no place in this discussion."

Lisa, an activist who attended much of the session, commented, "What someone does with their own body is extremely personal. Why do we want to criminalize women on top of everything else they must decide? These laws will not stop abortions in Texas or anywhere else; they will only make them unsafe."

Lisa happens to be Jewish. She said, "I feel that the government shouldn't be able to put their religious beliefs in my health care. They are imposing their faith on me to the point that they'll make me a criminal if I don't act the way they want on this ... Now women are having to decide if they're going to break the law or not."

A young Latina who lives in Central Texas, and didn't want her name used, attended one of the hearings leading up to the final vote.

She had never before been in the Senate chambers. "I had no idea what to expect," she said. "It upset me, watching them vote on something they shouldn't use the law for. I have family in the Valley [the Rio Grande valley at the southernmost tip of Texas], so this definitely affects them ... driving all day to get to someplace that'll treat a woman with dignity. These Republicans, they don't think they have to live by the rules on making honest money ... but we've got to live by their rules on religion and sex, stuff like that. It's crazy."

Photo: At the Texas State Capitol, June 23, 2013. Ann Harkness CC 2.0

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