Skip to main content

Texas GOP skirts law on anti-abortion bill

By Ilyse Hogue, Special to CNN
updated 6:09 PM EDT, Thu July 4, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ilyse Hogue: Texas is trying every trick in the book to get an anti-abortion bill passed
  • Many oppose bill that would shut 90% of abortion clinics in state, she says
  • Hogue: GOP couldn't pass this bill in regular session, so governor called special session
  • Hogue: Texas bypassed legally mandated public hearings, tried to change time stamp of vote

Editor's note: Ilyse Hogue is president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. Watch her appearance this weekend at 8:30 AM ET on CNN's New Day Saturday.

(CNN) -- State Sen. Wendy Davis' stand in Texas was the "filibuster heard round the world" -- suddenly everywhere you look, you see news about one state or another rolling back reproductive rights.

Even as all eyes were on resumed hearings in Texas late Tuesday night, the North Carolina legislature was busy sneaking anti-choice measures into an unrelated bill, and Wednesday that bill passed the state Senate over the fierce objections of North Carolina women.

But the more I read about what is happening to women's rights, the less I see about how anti-choice lawmakers are passing these bills.

We're taught as kids that cheaters never win, but that lesson didn't sink in with Republican leaders in Texas and in many other states where these rights are under attack. Instead they've decided that if you don't have the people with you to pass a bill, you can just change the process.

Ilyse Hogue
Ilyse Hogue

Take the Texas bill: a hodgepodge of arbitrary restrictions, it would close nearly 90% of the clinics that perform abortions in Texas, making it impossible for women across the state to access all sorts of medical care they need and deserve. It would also ban all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, which compromises the moral and medical autonomy of women who need care.

Following on 12 other states that have enacted the unconstitutional ban, Texas Republicans are trying to put in place costly restrictions to solve a problem that doesn't exist: The number of abortions after 20 weeks is tiny (less than 2%) and are most often sought by women in desperate circumstances, exactly the kind of cases that require close attention by doctors, not sweeping prohibitions by ideological politicians.

Showdown over abortion in Texas
Perry: Filibuster senator was a teen mom

The Republicans couldn't pass this bill in regular session -- Texas law requires a two-thirds Senate majority for these measures, and the GOP simply didn't have it. So instead of building support the old-fashioned way for this radical legislation, Gov. Perry decided he'd just change the rules. He called a special session after the end of the normal legislative period, and his friend, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, declared they no longer needed a super majority vote.

What they didn't count on was opposition from citizens who knew the rules and wouldn't stand by while Republicans cheated. In the House, GOP committee members shut down legally mandated public hearings when witness after witness testified that they resented this intrusion into private, personal medical decisions; then committee members voted on the bill in a private room where the public couldn't see what they were doing.

And finally, in the move that earned them national disdain, they tried to use every dirty trick in the book to shut down Davis' historic talking filibuster in the final hours of this widely watched session.

They challenged the content of her speech. They cried crocodile tears about her receiving assistance to don a back brace. They ignored Democrats who were raising legitimate procedural questions. Republicans presiding over the debate recognized their fellow Republicans when Democrats had the floor.

One senator, Leticia Van de Putte, even had to ask: "At what point must a female senator raise her voice or hand to be recognized over the male colleagues in the room?"

And then, after Texans watching in the gallery erupted in jeers at the strong-handed tactics Republicans were using, the GOP leadership held a vote after midnight, after the special session had officially ended. They then changed the time stamp on the official record of the vote, only changing it back after they were caught red-handed. That meant the bill was dead, so Gov. Rick Perry did what cheaters do when they lose -- he called for a do-over.

I wish I could say the tactics in Texas were the exception, but Republicans are using underhanded ploys like these to pass anti-choice bills all over the country.

In Ohio, Republicans sneaked a requirement for unnecessary ultrasounds into a budget bill, without holding public hearings. In North Carolina, they shut out testimony from pro-choice activists late in the night to move their draconian measures to the floor for a vote.

On Monday, I stood in the hot Austin sun with thousands of fellow Texans who share my outrage at this attack on our fundamental rights. But they didn't just cheer for Davis' stand to protect women's rights and health. They were there to celebrate the rule of democracy, rules that Republicans have shown they will change if it suits their political ends.

But changing the rules doesn't change the truth. I don't know what will happen at this next special session in Texas, but I do know that if Republicans cheat their way to victory in this battle, they are going to lose the war for the confidence of the people they seek to represent.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ilyse Hogue.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 4:47 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jim Bell says NASA's latest discovery support the notion that habitable worlds are probably common in the galaxy.
updated 2:17 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jay Parini says even the Gospels skip the actual Resurrection and are sketchy on the appearances that followed.
updated 1:52 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Graham Allison says if an unchecked and emboldened Russia foments conflict in a nation like Latvia, a NATO member, the West would have to defend it.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
John Sutter: Bad news, guys -- the pangolin we adopted is missing.
updated 8:52 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Ben Wildavsky says we need a better way to determine whether colleges are turning out graduates with superior education and abilities.
updated 6:26 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Charles Maclin, program manager working on the search and recovery of Malaysia Flight 370, explains how it works.
updated 8:50 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jill Koyama says Michael Bloomberg is right to tackle gun violence, but we need to go beyond piecemeal state legislation.
updated 2:45 PM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
updated 9:28 AM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Steve Israel is right: Some Republicans encourage anti-Latino prejudice. But that kind of bias is not limited to the GOP.
updated 7:23 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Peggy Drexler counts the ways Phyllis Schlafly's argument that lower pay for women helps them nab a husband is ridiculous.
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Rick McGahey says Rep. Paul Ryan is signaling his presidential ambitions by appealing to hard core Republican values
updated 11:39 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Paul Saffo says current Google Glasses are doomed to become eBay collectibles, but they are only the leading edge of a surge in wearable tech that will change our lives
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman say read deep, and you'll see the federal Keystone pipeline report spells out the pipeline is bad news
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT