The emotional battle over proposed restrictions on abortion heated up again at the State Capitol last night, after the Republican chairman of the committee considering the bills refused to allow some 300 people to testify, claiming that their objections to the bill had become 'redundant,' 1200 WOAI news reports.
As Chairman Byron Cook (R-Corsicana) and other members of the committee filed out of the room, state police came in to restore order.
It's the latest controversial move in the controversial bill, which opponents say would make an abortion almost impossible to obtain in Texas and would shut down 38 of the 42 abortion clinics currently operating in the state.
Unlike the measure approved in the Senate, the House version includes the so called 'fetal pain' provision, which would ban abortions after twenty weeks gestation on the argument that after that point, the fetus feels pain in the womb.
The bill would mandate that abortions be performed only by medical doctors who have admitting privileges in a hospital which is closer than 30 miles from the abortion facility. It would also require that all abortion clinics be certified as 'ambulatory surgical centers.'
Many Democrats said the lengthy hearings on the bill are designed to allow Democrats to use their limited power under Special Session rules to filibuster the bill so it will not pass the House before the session ends on Tuesday. Anti abortion groups were urging lawmakers to limit debate, so that won't happen.
The action comes on the heels of Democrat anger over a triumphal Tweet sent out by Republican Lieutenant Governor avid Dewhurst after the bill passed the Senate Tuesday night.
Dewhurst's office sent out a mocking tweet celebrating the fact that an abortion bill passed by the Senate will lead to the closure of abortion clinics, 1200 WOAI news reports.
"When I read that, in spite of the fact that I already believed that that was the case, I felt this was a purposeful deception that was being employed," State Sen. Wendy David (D-Ft. Worth), a potential Democratic contender for Governor in 2014 told 1200 WOAI news.
Senators Tuesday approved a series of measures Tuesday night which they said were to make sure abortion clinics meet strict cleanliness restrictions and to make sure that physicians are on scene at the clinics at all times. Republicans said the measure were to 'protect the health and safety of women' at the clinics.
But Dewhurst last night Tweeted a map which was provided by Democrats showing the locations of 80% of the state's abortion clinics which will be forced to close under the bill and wrote "we fought to pass this through the Senate and this is why!"
Amy Miller, CEO of Whole Women's Health, an abortion services provider, isn't surprised.
"They think this is funny, I think they're amused by it," she said. "They are so disconnected from the majority of Texans, who remain pro choice."
Dewhurst has been struggling to regain his conservative credentials since he was trounced in the 2012 U.S. Senate Republican primary by Tea Party darling Ted Cruz. Dewhurst is facing at least two prominent and well funded challengers next year, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples.
But State Sen. Carlos Uresti (D-San Antonio) says burnishing his conservative street cred this way is not helpful, especially with abortion and the critical issue of highway funding still on the table. The Special Session is set to end on Tuesday.
"The tweet confirms what we have all said," Uresti said. "My exact words were, your theme was improving health care for women, but this bill will have the opposite effect, shutting down these clinics."