The Legislative Cocktail Hour

Women's rights in Texas: Things may get worse before they get worse

Women's rights in Texas: Things may get worse before they get worse

Abortion rally protestors march by Capitol
The battle for women's rights in Texas has gotten national attention. Photo by Jon Shapley

Although one of the most restrictive — and controversial — abortion bills in U.S. history was signed just hours earlier, a trio of Texas state representatives decided it wasn't enough.

It wasn't enough to threaten the shutdown of all but a handful of women's health clinics, effectively cutting off millions of Texan women from their right to healthcare. It wasn't enough to put such intense restrictions on abortions — and the facilities and doctors that supply them — that all but an elite few will have access.

It wasn't enough to expose an entirely new generation of women to the wonders of back alley abortions and flea market pharmacies. So Texas representatives Dan Flynn (R), Geanie Morrison (R) and Phil King (R) got together and wrote a bill that would make it illegal to have an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected — something that usually happens around six weeks.

Regardless of what side of the abortion debate you fall, this part will probably make you cringe. Although most women don't even know they're pregnant at six weeks, for those who do, abortion providers would be mandated to find a fetal heartbeat using a transvaginal ultrasound. That's right: the same vaginal probing device that terrorized all of us in the last legislative session.

On the other side of the aisle, Rep. Harold Dutton Jr. (D) filed a bill that would stop anti-abortion bills from being filed until Texas abolishes the death penalty. In June, Texas executed its 500th inmate. Just last week, two more went down. That's 502 and counting.

Neither bill is projected to go far, but they certainly illustrate the incredibly polarized views of the people of Texas. 

Does this smell funny to you?
In an interview with the Waco Tea Party, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst remarked on the "despicable" protestors who converged on the capital during the July 12 vote on the abortion bill. According to the Huffington Post, Dewhurst said:

I walked over to where they were screening, and they were getting bottles out and smelling them. They were getting water bottles out and smelling and they had urine in it. ... And there were bags they had set aside and were going to put in the trash and throw it out, of feces. Just despicable. Despicable.

Let's just say this is true. What is perhaps more disturbing than people purportedly bringing poop and urine into the Capitol building is that state troopers smelled it. I thought the general rule of thumb is that if something looks like human waste, you err on the side of caution and treat it as such. You don't smell it, and you certainly don't touch it.

In this case, security screeners get the benefit of the doubt. If there is even a chance that something in a water bottle is pee, you get to throw it out. Perhaps Attorney General Greg Abbott should run for governor on this platform. We can certainly all support it. 

Speaking of support, although the abortion bill has received an inordinate amount of coverage, as Texas politicos would like to point out, there is still one big issue this session needs to tackle: the pesky transportation bill. One piece of legislation would hope to put a constitutional amendment in front of Texas voters in the fall to divert about $800 million in oil and gas taxes toward infrastructure.

Although it passed the House on Thursday, no one is expecting it to sail through the Senate this week. And because they have a different plan altogether, it's anyone's guess as to what they'll end up doing. 

At the abortion bill signing, Gov. Rick Perry told lawmakers that he'd like to see them go home and have some great vacation time with their wives and children (yep, he said "wives") and that they could certainly go ahead and do that "as soon as you put a transportation bill on my desk." Given that they have until July 31 to end the session, I'd say chances of this are slim.

Even slimmer are chances that he'd call them back right away, before they reached a deal. So it looks like we may all get a break from the Pink Dome for a while in August. But because Perry has been known to surprise everyone in the past, I'm not laying down any money on it. 

Well, it hasn't been a fun week to be a Texan. The Daily Show yelled profanities at us. The rest of the country keeps talking about how messed up we are. (Didn't they hear about Detroit? Or Egypt?) But we'll get through this. Because things always get worse before they get worse. Then, hopefully, they get better. And then they get great.