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Editorial: Witnessing the birth of HB2 in Austin amid clamor
Texas legislators gather to witness Gov. Rick Perry sign HB2 into law, preventing abortions in Texas after 20 weeks.
By Marina Thompson
(Revised 8/15/13) The majority of Texans are pro-life.
On the night of June 18, I watched on television as Sen. Glenn Hegar engaged in a debate with fellow senators on the senate floor at the Texas Capitol. I was riveted to my screen as I knew this was life-changing. Little did I know that over the next 25 days, I would be forever changed by the dramatic events in Austin.
Thankfully, Senate Bill 5 (SB5) substitute -- with a 20-week ban on abortion, with some exceptions -- was voted out of committee 7-2 and would be debated the next Sunday afternoon. I arrived several hours before the opening session that Sunday and found many people wearing orange shirts in line. Pro-lifers wore blue. I saw the pro-choice leaders representing the Democratic Party of Texas and Planned Parenthood walking around with clipboards, collecting personal information. This was my first introduction to the opposition.
SB5 passed its second reading by 4 a.m. Monday, after much stalling by many of the Democrats. The orange-clad demonstrators raced around the House gallery screaming in anger and left the gallery to protest in the open rotunda. State troopers provided a strong presence. I arrived home at 6:30 a.m. -- exhilarated and exhausted. I had been at the Capitol for more than 16 hours that day.
On June 25 and 26, SB5 was shouted down by a very loud and unruly group. I was in the gallery at the time, watching and listening. With about 15 minutes left in the special session, two sentences by Sen. Leticia Van de Putte -- carefully including the words “gallery heard me” and a “female senator” -- incited the mostly orange-clad crowd to stand on their feet and yell until after midnight. It was deafening!
According to Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood’s leader standing outside the gallery in the main rotunda, some senators in the chamber would give the signal for crowd participation. I have no doubt that is exactly what happened. I lived it. As the senators tried to conduct the business of their constituents, Democrat state representatives stood in the senate chamber waving wildly with both hands outstretched upwards to the now-frenzied crowd in the upper gallery. It was disgraceful, to say the least. No one could have foreseen this behavior. This was in violation of the Senate rule concerning outbursts or demonstrations.
The noise rendered the orderly process of voting on the bill almost to cease. The legislators could not hear each other on the floor. They left their desks and huddled at the front, raising one finger to vote, but time expired. The bill failed.
A new session started July 1, to include what had been SB5 and was now HB2, and I attended each important meeting at the Capitol.
On that first day, pro-choice groups chanted loudly over scores of pro-lifers who were quietly praying on the second floor of the rotunda and singing “Amazing Grace.” I was so shocked. That behavior was repeated over and over. By that time, Planned Parenthood, NARAL pro choice, Occupy Austin, and the International Socialist Organization in Austin also were very active at the Capitol. Very young children on the lawn held signs it would be inappropriate for me to share in any forum. The vulgarity of the signs shocked me.
During this time, we spoke for nine hours on “Let Texas Speak.com,” streaming live to the world. The group in orange did not like this and taunted us during those nine hours with chants, signs, and other antics. Thankfully, the microphone was able to project our testimonies, songs, and prayers to the world while state troopers protected and kept the peace.
On July 12, the rotunda was again packed with protesters. I had waited in line with families before 6 a.m. Pro-choice groups in the rotunda were very loud in hopes of again disrupting the political process in the chambers. God be praised; with time on our side, the bill passed.
I hope the discussions at the Capitol with all the testimonies in the House and Senate changed lives.
Shockingly, many spoke of the need to “rescue” children from a possible life of poverty and abuse by aborting the unborn children. In order for a child to be born, must that child be first guaranteed a happy and fulfilled life? Who is ever guaranteed a “good” life? The womb should be a safe place for a baby.
The author writes under a pseudonym, concerned about safety issues following the recent legislative session.
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