The Texas Senate approved SB 5, a measure that would tighten restrictions on abortion clinics, late on Tuesday night. The legislation now heads to the GOP-dominated House. If SB 5 becomes law, the vast majority of the abortion clinics in the Lone Star state will be forced to close their doors — potentially dropping the state’s abortion providers down from 47 to just five.
Texas’ legislative session is actually already over. But lawmakers are currently considering SB 5 because Gov. Rick Perry (R) forced a vote on the anti-abortion bill in a special session. SB 5 combines several different pieces of anti-abortion legislation that failed to advance during the regular session into one omnibus bill.
In a lengthy debate over the legislation on the Senate floor, state Sen. Kirk Watson (D) pointed out the anti-choice provisions in SB 5 lost traction during the regular session because, under the two-thirds rules, the Senate didn’t have enough votes to consider the legislation. But Texas’ Lieutenant Governor suspended that rule for the special session, giving lawmakers a better chance of being able to rush through SB 5. “It’s wrong to try to resurrect them now through a loophole,” Watson sad. “If this is going to be our new process — using the special session to ram through any partisan red meat that fails in the regular session — it makes a mockery of the traditions that so many on this floor brag about.”
Lawmakers dropped the provision in SB 5 that would have criminalized abortions after 20 weeks. But the legislation still seeks to impose unnecessary, burdensome requirements on abortion clinics throughout Texas. Clinics would be required to obtain admitting privileges from local hospitals, make costly updates to their buildings, and administer the abortion pill with a doctor present. Similar laws have forced health clinics in other states to either shut down or stop offering abortion services.
“This bill will reshape the abortion landscape in Texas,” Elizabeth Nash, a state policy analyst at the Guttmacher Institute, told Bloomberg News. “This would make it much more difficult for women to have access to women’s health care, because longer distances mean more time off for work and more challenges in arranging child care.”
During the general session, lawmakers reached a tentative truce on women’s issues, and Republicans even agreed to work to restore some family planning cuts that were approved last year. But that hasn’t proved to be the case for the special session, which goes until June 25. SB 5 is expected to pass the House, where 95 of 150 members are Republicans.