Hard questions and emotional testimony at Texas House abortion hearing

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Hundreds of advocates are packing a Thursday evening hearing on an omnibus Texas House bill that would place additional restrictions on obtaining an abortion if passed.

HB 60, authored by state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, require doctors performing abortions at hospitals within 30 miles of an abortion clinic to obtain permission to admit patients and add other language regulating how doctors administer medication and meet practice standards.

The bill is similar to a Senate bill that passed last week, SB 5, although the authors of the bill dropped the 20-week clause in the interests of ensuring a passing vote.

During prolonged questioning directed to Laubenberg, state Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, questioned the veracity of the bill’s claim that fetuses experienced pain at 20 weeks and thus were a compelling interest for increasing regulation.

Laubenberg said it was not her attempt to close abortion facilities in Texas by excessively adding regulation, to which Farrar responded by mentioning a recent tweet by Gov. David Dewhurst indicating such an outcome would be a victory for Texans.

State Rep. Rene Oliveira, D- Brownsville, complained there was no language in the bill exempting late abortions in the case of rape or incest.

“If my daughter gets raped, she will have to have that baby, under your big brother statutes?” Oliveira said.

Public testimony from students, doctors, religious leaders and civil rights activists is ongoing and expected to continue late through the night. As of press time, more than 500 persons had signed up to be called for testimony.