By CALEB SLINKARD
Senate Bill 5, controversial legislation that limits abortions in the state of Texas after 20 weeks and requires increased medical standards for abortion facilities, passed the Texas House of Representatives Monday morning and was returned to the senate for a final vote.
According to State Representative Dan Flynn (R-Van), the legislation is designed to safeguard women’s health and “the unborn.”
“Today is a great day, one that will have far-reaching effects and increase standards for places that perform abortions,” Flynn said. “This is a great day for protecting women’s healthcare and for protecting the unborn.”
SB 5 must sit for 24 hours before the senate can pass it and send it to Gov. Rick Perry, unless the senate votes to suspend the time requirement. The senate has until midnight tonight to pass the bill, which is when the special session ends. They will undoubtedly have to weather a filibuster by Senate Democrats.
“We have the votes (to pass SB 5), we just don’t have the votes to suspend the (24-hour) rule,” Senator Dr. Bob Deuell said. “If we had one more day, it would be a done deal. Hopefully, the governor will call us back for another session.”
The bill, which was set for a vote in the Texas House on Sunday at 2 p.m., was delayed for more than 13 hours as House Democrats attempted to use parliamentary tactics and proposed amendments to stop the bill’s progress. According to Deuell, that delay will most likely cost the senate the opportunity to vote on the bill.
Flynn pointed out that the legislation would ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy because studies have indicated that a fetus can feel pain at that point in its development. Other measures include a requirement that all doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles and a limit on locations where abortions can be performed.
The legislation would also place RU486, also known as Mifepristone, an abortion-inducing pill, under FDA guidelines. Women using RU486 would be required to have regular follow-up exams.
While detractors have warned that the bill is a continuation of the GOP’s so-called “war on women” and would shut down a vast majority of abortion clinics in the state, Flynn said that the legislation enacts common-sense standards.
“When you’re talking about RU486, you’re talking about something that has a major impact on a woman’s body,” he said. “That should be put under the guidelines of the FDA. And who wants to have major surgery conducted by a doctor who can’t even admit you to a hospital? This bill ensures women’s health is protected.”
Deuell, who originally sponsored a portion of what is now SB 5 that required abortion clinics to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers, was at a loss as to why pro-choice advocates were fighting the bill.
“It mystifies me that pro-choice people wouldn’t support what we’re doing: making abortions safer and improving women’s health,” Deuell, who practices medicine in Greenville, said. “The pro-choice crowd doesn’t seem to have a problem with abortions coming out of substandard facilities.”
The legislation has sparked a national debate about abortion and women’s healthcare, one that is sharply divided along party lines.
“We join other medical experts in opposing this dangerous legislation,” Cecile Richards, president of the Planed Parenthood Foundation of America, said in a statement. “It is extreme, it is unconstitutional, and it would take deeply personal and often complex decisions about pregnancy out of the hands of a woman and her doctor. In fact, it could criminalize doctors for performing a lifesaving abortion.”
Flynn does not see SB 5 as a political issue.
“Seventy-five percent of this bill is directed at protecting the health of the mother when she makes a choice,” he said. “It’s amazing that this is a political issue for (Democrats).”
Flynn serves Hopkins, Hunt and Van Zandt counties as a Representative for District 2. Deuell represents Senate District 2, which includes Delta, Hopkins, Hunt, Rockwall, Kaufman, Fannin, Rains, and Van Zandt counties, and parts of Dallas County.