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Texas Gov. Rick Perry was right to call another special session of the state legislature in response to boisterous pro-abortion protesters who disrupted the end of the previous session in a strategy to kill pro-life legislation, according to State Sen. Brian Birdwell, who also defended the bill as beneficial to women and babies.
Perry called a second special session for lawmakers after a chaotic end to June’s special session. Democratic State Sen. Wendy Davis held an 11-hour filibuster that Republicans were finally able to end through procedural measures before the deadline at the end of the session.
However, the final vote on the bill was delayed by persistent protests from pro-abortion activists in the gallery. The vote to pass the bill was not finalized before the midnight deadline.
“Kind of like a visiting team coming into Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, the noise can be so loud that you’ve got to use hand and arm signals,” Birdwell said in an interview with Greg Corombos of Radio America. “So you have noise level and conduct akin to Occupy Wall Street sitting in the gallery that prevented us from concluding the legislative business that we had been gathered to do.”
Perry wasted little time in ordering a second special legislative session. Birdwell says it had to be done.
“I was certainly very pleased he did and even more pleased that he did so the next day. This type of mob rule was not going to be tolerated. We’re going to come back and take another swing at it,” said Birdwell.
Most of the attention in the debate has been on the push to ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, but there are three other critical provisions that Birdwell clarified.
First, he says the legislation requires any doctors performing abortions to have hospital admitting privileges to a facility with an OBGYN department. The purpose, he says, is to give access to emergency care to women if necessary and to a child who survives an abortion.
The bill also mandates higher standards for abortion clinics and requires them to meet the same guidelines as an ambulatory surgical facility, another upgrade Birdwell says can only be beneficial to women.
“Today, there’s a higher standard for the medical care provider to remove tonsils at an ambulatory surgical center than there is to perform an abortion. This would raise it to that standard for an outpatient surgery center,” said Birdwell.
In addition, doctors who administer the abortion drug RU-486 to their patients will be required to maintain contact with the patients through the course of the treatment due to the risk of heavy bleeding. The final component of the legislation addresses the limits for how late an abortion can legally be conducted.
“The bill prohibits, with certain exceptions, instead of at six months or later in the third trimester, it moves it from six months to five months because that is the delineation of the child feeling pain in the womb,” said Birdwell.
So how does Birdwell interpret the ferocious pro-abortion opposition to the plan?
“I think it’s just any restriction, any at all, it viewed as territory that that side of the aisle doesn’t want to cede, even though we know that life begins at conception. All these standards that we’ve put in place were for the life of the mother, the health of the mother, and, should there be a complication, the health of the child who is born alive,” said Birdwell, who adds that a woman’s choice is not impacted by this legislation and neither is any provider so long as they meet the new standards within a reasonable amount of time.
Davis says she will not filibuster the bill in the new session, in part because she would have to filibuster for an entire month this time. That means the legislation is very likely to pass.
“I would assume and agree that a filibuster is very much a long shot. I would always be very guarded against guaranteeing something will happen. I think the probabilities that this will pass are very strong,” said Birdwell.
If passed, the law would take effect Sept. 1.
Listen to the interview: