The Texas House of Representatives on Tuesday opened up a new round of debate on a restrictive abortion bill, legislation that has galvanized activists on both sides of the issue statewide and nationally in recent weeks.
House Bill 2 would ban abortion after 20 weeks, require doctors performing the procedure to have hospital admitting privileges within 30 miles, require abortions to be performed in ambulatory surgical centers and regulate abortion-inducing drugs, among other restrictions.
The measure failed in regular session late last month after Sen. Wendy Davis led a headline-making 13-hour filibuster to derail a Republican vote. But Gov. Rick Perry immediately pledged that the Legislature would pass the restrictions during a 30-day special session, which began July 1.
On Monday, demonstrations shook the State Capitol as several thousand people wearing either blue (anti-abortion) or orange (pro-abortion rights) met to rally or march. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was among those who addressed the blue-clad supporters of the bill.
The Associated Press reported that more than 2,000 people registered to testify or post a position on the bill during a hearing Monday by Senate Health and Human Services Committee. The hearing stretched into the night, ending before 2 a.m. Tuesday. The committee did not vote on the bill, opting to wait until the House approves its version of the bill before deciding whether to send the measure to the Senate floor.
The House hearing began at 10 a.m. local time. Local media reported crowds lining up outside the doors of the Capitol on Tuesday morning and a packed gallery to watch the proceedings.
Wire coat hangers and knitting needles were among the props brought to the floor by legislators who support abortion rights. Democratic state Rep. Senfronia Thompson proposed an exception to the 20-week ban in cases of rape or incest, but State Rep. Jodie Laudenberg, the author of the bill, rejected the amendment.
The Texas Tribune is live-streaming the House debate. Watch it here.