On Friday night the Texas state senate passed an important piece of pro-life legislation. The bill would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and hold abortion clinics to the same standards as hospital-style surgical centers. The bill will very likely be signed into law by Texas governor Rick Perry. A similar piece of legislation was under consideration in June, but failed to pass because of the filibuster of Senator Wendy Davis and the disruption that followed. However, the bill was reconsidered in a special session and passed with comfortable majorities in both chambers of the state legislature.
The legislation sparked intense debate as many pro-lifers and supporters of abortion rights assembled at the State Capitol to watch the proceedings. Security was tight as Department of Public Safety officers significantly increased their presence. Department officials released a statement saying that their bag searches had turned up jars “suspected to contain” urine, feces and paint.” As the bill neared final passage, some supporters of legal abortion became disruptive. One group of protesters attempted to chain themselves to the railing of the senate gallery. Late in the evening, some pro-lifers were even advised by law enforcement to seek refuge in the offices of sympathetic state legislators for their own safety.
As the dust settles, it is clear that pro-lifers continue to make impressive progress at the state level. Texas is the 13th state to ban abortion at 20 weeks — when there is evidence that unborn children can feel pain. While a legal challenge to the Texas law is likely, it should be noted that a majority of the 20-week abortion bans have not been challenged in court. The Guttmacher Institute reports 2011 and 2012 were the two most productive years on record, in terms of the number of pro-life bills passed. Furthermore, the number of bills passed thus far in 2013 is already approaching the number passed in 2012. Despite, mainstream-media spin to the contrary, incremental pro-life laws remain popular in Texas and across the country.
— Michael J. New is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Michigan–Dearborn, a fellow at the Witherspoon Institute, and an adjunct scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_J_New.