Interview: Texan Kicked Out of Abortion Hearing After Calling Anti-Choice Lawmaker an Ophthalmologist

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Interview: Texan Kicked Out of Abortion Hearing After Calling Anti-Choice Lawmaker an Ophthalmologist

Andrea Grimes

A Houston woman was kicked out of a Texas abortion hearing Monday night after pointing out that one of Texas' anti-choice state senators is an ophthalmologist and not a reproductive medicine specialist. She says she was booted because Texas anti-choice lawmakers "can't take a job performance review."

Read all of Rewire‘s coverage of the recent fight for reproductive rights in Texas here.

“This is a farce! The Texas legislature is a bunch of liars who hate women!” Those were some of 28-year-old Sarah Slamen’s final words to the Texas senate’s Health and Human Services Committee Monday night, as four state troopers escorted the furious Houstonian out of a hearing room at 11:15 p.m., just after she called committee chair Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) a “fraud.”

Slamen told Rewire that, more than 12 hours into yet another night of testimony on Texas’ omnibus anti-abortion bill, she had had enough of Sen. Nelson’s “good cop” persona.

“By refusing to remain in the context of their debate and their decorum, it was the way to get to them,” Slamen said by phone from Brenham, Texas, where she’s staying with relatives. Slamen described Nelson’s handling of the meeting as “fake smiley Texas nice,” which would allow Nelson to say she’d given opponents of the legislation plenty of time to be heard.

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Slamen didn’t buy it, especially in contrast to what she called Rep. Byron Cook’s “bad cop” behavior. Cook (R-Corsicana), chair of the house State Affairs committee, went back on his word last Tuesday to take a surprise midnight vote to push forward HB 2, which would shut down all but five abortion clinics in Texas, and shut down the June 20th “people’s filibuster” after he grew tired of what he called “repetitive” testimony.

Nelson, who joked early in the hearing that her “teacher’s bladder” would help her sit through hour after hour of testimony, commended witnesses on their decorum throughout the night.

“If we all licked their boots all day,” said Slamen, “[Nelson] was going to say, ‘I let every single one of you speak.'”

Slamen said she watched her fellow orange-clad bill opponents, who’d “spoken factually, spoken eloquently, spoken about painful shit, real personal stuff,” be called promiscuous murderers by anti-choice witnesses in blue, while Nelson and the rest of the committee did nothing to stop their accusations.

“They let it go,” said Slamen. “It wasn’t called out once. I was not going to be quiet about it.”

Slamen had intended to address every committee member personally, but only got to (accurately) call Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) an ophthalmologist with no expertise in reproductive medicine before Nelson signaled for the state troopers.

“We can give you all the kids with chlamydia and herpes in their eyes, since we don’t have sex ed in this state,” Slamen told Campbell, before moving on to SB 1’s author, Sen. Glenn Hegar (R-Katy), getting as far as, “You are about as helpful as—” before Nelson’s gavel came down.

Slamen continued talking, this time directly to Nelson: “This is how big of a fraud I knew you were, for being so proud of these proceedings all night. It’s a low bar that you hold yourself to, that you simply allowed us to speak.”

Slamen didn’t stop yelling until troopers brought her into the hallway, where she was greeted by a cheering crowd that walked her all the way out the east doors of the capitol along with her state trooper escort.

“I didn’t curse. I didn’t call anybody a murderer. I didn’t throw my shoe,” said Slamen. She says she was kicked out of the hearing because Nelson and her committee “can’t take a job performance review.”

Watch the incident here: