Anti-Choice Democrat Rushes to Bring Abortion Bill to Texas Senate Floor as Protestors Gather Again

An anti-choice Democrat in Texas appears to be taking advantage of the death of one of his colleagues' father in order to suspend a rule that would bring an omnibus anti-abortion bill to the senate floor sooner than expected.

Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) (pictured above) punctuated her amendment by hanging a wire coat hanger on her microphone. Patrick Michels / Texas Observer

Update, June 24, 6:40 p.m. EST: After Sen. Glenn Hegar’s motion to suspend the 24-hour rule failed Monday afternoon—Lucio ultimately did not end up siding with the GOP on the motion—the senate recessed until 7 p.m. CST. SB 5 will be taken up tomorrow morning at 11 a.m. CST, at which point Texas’ dedicated crowd of protestors are asked to show up once again, wearing orange.

Update, June 24, 3:46 p.m. EST: Sen. Eddie Lucio has reportedly said he will no longer pursue the suspension of the 24-hour rule, while Sen. Leticia Van De Putte makes her way back from her father’s wake to Austin. Van De Putte sent a letter to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, president of the senate, asking him to give her an hour and a half’s notice on any votes or motions. Dewhurst replied: I’m sorry for your loss, but nope. We’re still waiting to be notified as to when the senate will return to the floor this afternoon.

See all our coverage of the “people’s filibuster” against HB 60 here.

An anti-choice Democrat in Texas appears to be taking advantage of the death of one of his colleagues’ father in order to suspend a rule that would bring an omnibus anti-abortion bill to the senate floor sooner than expected. The bill would, in part, shut down all but five abortion clinics in the entire state and ban abortion after 20 weeks.

Eddie Lucio (D-Harlingen) is joining his Republican colleagues to suspend the senate’s 24-hour rule in order to bring the bill to the floor this afternoon, which will force Democrats into a lengthier filibuster. Lucio would not be able to suspend the rule if Sen. Leticia Van De Putte were present to vote against the suspension, but her father was killed in a car accident on Friday morning and she is attending to family matters in San Antonio today.

Fervent opposition to SB 5 has rallied Texans over the past few days; hundreds turned out for a “people’s filibuster” on Thursday night but were turned away by the State Affairs Committee chairman who grew tired of what he called “repetitive” testimony against anti-choice and anti-woman bills.

Yesterday, an estimated 1,000 Texans, clad in bright orange, swarmed capitol hallways and the house gallery to protest that body’s hearing of the bill. Of those, hundreds stayed until 3:30 a.m. Monday morning to watch as Democrats proposed amendments aimed at addressing the root causes of unplanned pregnancy (through funding for comprehensive sex education in schools) and reducing the share of uninsured in Texas by adopting federal Medicaid expansion.

Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, the anti-choice bill’s sponsor in the house, rejected those amendments, as well as an amendment from Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) that would make an exception to the bill’s 20-week abortion ban for victims of rape and incest. Thompson punctuated her amendment by hanging a wire coat hanger on her microphone. Laubenberg was unmoved, telling Thompson she couldn’t support her amendment because “In the emergency room, they have what’s called rape kits, where a woman can get cleaned out.”

Horrified opponents of SB 5 are already gathering to raise a wall of orange in the senate gallery this afternoon. They’re running on a few hours’ sleep but ready to stick around until the wee hours if necessary.

As Rep. Dawnna Dukes told protestors who stuck around until after 3 a.m. this morning: a few hours at the capitol is nothing compared to nine months of forced pregnancy.