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Thousands Rally As Texas House Prepares For Abortion Vote

The steps of the state Capitol were awash in orange and blue Monday night as the Texas House prepares for the abortion bill to come to the floor Tuesday.

After pro-choice activists packed the Capitol and helped kill abortion restrictions two weeks ago, the right-to-life crowd is leaving nothing to chance.

Monday night some 4,000 blue–clad warriors rallied on the Capitol steps.  Chanting and waving signs, they wanted to show support for the abortion restrictions bill headed to the House floor Tuesday. 

Opponents of the  bill, decked out again in orange, weren’t far away.

Though she knows the Republicans have the votes to pass new limits on abortions, Melissa Scott of Austin said it’s important the opposition be heard. 

“I feel I still have a right to stand up for what I believe in,” Scott says. “I’m pro-choice.  I don’t think anyone should tell me how to live my life or anyone else.”

Center stage in the debate Tuesday will be a petite, blonde woman from North Texas.

No, it’s not Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth, who led the filibuster and gained national fame.

It’s Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, a Collin County Republican who has been in the House for a decade.

“I think this is by far the most important bill I’ve ever introduced because of the implications of it,” Laubenberg says.

Her bill is the same one stopped by the filibuster and raucous crowd of protestors.  It bans most abortions after 20 weeks, claiming fetuses can at that point feel pain. It requires abortion clinics meet the safety standards of surgical centers and doctors performing abortions must have privileges at nearby hospitals.

Is the goal to shut down abortion providers?

“It’s not going to prevent someone who wants to get an abortion from getting an abortion,” Laubenberg says. “The only part of the bill that stops abortion is the five-month ban. A woman who wants to have a medical abortion is going to go in and she can have the RU-486.  The woman who goes through a clinical abortion will continue to have that option.”

Laubenberg also claims the more stringent standards for clinics and doctors won’t result in their closing as opponents have warned.

“I think that’s a cry-wolf attitude,” she says. “Why would they not want to raise the standard of their clinics?”

Laubenberg says her bill is modeled after others in states where abortion restrictions have been enacted. 

But she admits, both sides in this battle are dug in and her legislation will probably be challenged in court.

Former KERA staffer Shelley Kofler was news director, managing editor and senior reporter. She is an award-winning reporter and television producer who previously served as the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.