This year, Texas ended its legislative session without advancing a single one of the two dozen anti-abortion bills introduced by the state’s Republicans. The Democrats in the legislature credited their successful defensive strategy to the fact that attacking women’s health has become deeply unpopular among voters, particularly after Texas slashed family planning programs and defunded Planned Parenthood. But Gov. Rick Perry (R) isn’t taking note.
On Tuesday, Perry announced that he will add anti-abortion legislation that wasn’t able to advance during the regular session to the docket for a special 30-day session. His decision comes after weeks of pressure from the state’s Republicans, who have repeatedly pushed the governor to use a special session to revive the abortion issue. Anti-choice groups believe that their agenda has a better chance of advancing during the 30-day session because Texas’ Lieutenant Governor has indicated that he will “suspend Senate procedural rules that give Democrats a strong voice in legislative debates.”
Specifically, the GOP governor wants to give the legislature another opportunity to consider banning abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, requiring abortion clinics to make costly and unnecessary renovations, and imposing additional restrictions on abortion providers that could force most of the clinics in the state to shut down. If the abortion clinic restrictions become law, an estimated 80 percent of the clinics in the state will have to close their doors.
State Rep. Carol Alvarado (D) — a lawmaker who unsuccessfully fought against some of the abortion restrictions that passed during the 2011 session — told the Texas Tribune that focusing a special session on abortion issues represents a “major departure” from the regular session, when politicians on both sides of the aisle reached somewhat of a truce and worked together to get things done. Republicans even agreed to work to restore some of the family planning funding that has been cut over the past two years.
“I think we have so many other priorities,” Alvarado explained. “We’ve been able to compromise. We’ve keep those wedge issues off the House floor, and this is going to change what progress we’ve made with a bipartisan take-care-of-business attitude.”
The governor, however, may not have other priorities. Right before the most recent session began, Perry confirmed that outlawing all abortion is his ultimate “goal.”