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Jul 01 2013

Stand With Texas Women rally

Today, Jeff, Manda, Lynnea and I went to the Texas capitol for the Stand With Texas Women rally. We heard speeches by State Senator Wendy Davis and NARAL president Ilyse Hogue. The majority of the crowd were women, although a lot of men showed up as well. People showed solidarity by wearing orange shirts. Here are some pictures I got.

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An estimated crowd of 5,000-6,000 people showed up.

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All kinds of signs on display

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Even more signs from people facing the stage

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Inside the rotunda, people packed the balconies on all levels and sang a variation of Amazing Grace.

In case you’ve been missing the details, the Texas Legislature has been trying to ram through some fairly draconian anti-abortion laws, which would effectively shut down most clinics that perform abortions, and criminalize the procedure after 20 weeks, which is long before the Supreme Court determined was constitutional. Last week Wendy Davis filibustered the bill for 13 hours straight, and it failed to pass. The next day Governor Rick Perry announced a new special session to get it done, and denounced the crowd of Davis’ supporters as an “unruly mob.” Many of the signs and speeches referenced this description in a mocking way.

More hearings were held today and they will continue tomorrow.

Latest news: Texas Anti-Abortion Bill Fast-Tracked By GOP

29 comments

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  1. 1
    Lurid

    Was watching the filibuster live on youtube. As a swede with almost no prior knowledge on the US legal system, I found it fascinating, and watched the last 4 hours intensely. (As intense as you can watch legal jargon)
    When the news hit that someone had been tampering with the database to make it look like they passed the vote in time, I almost shook my head off my neck.

    1. 1.1
      Lord Narf

      Yeah, that last bit was so far beyond stupid. I can’t believe they would try to commit fraud with millions of people watching.

      I wonder how these next few rounds will go.

    2. 1.2
      Russell Glasser

      You probably realize that filibustering is not standard practice in US politics. The usual law is that a 51% majority is required to pass a bill. Filibustering is a stalling tactic. In principle the rule exists so that bills can be thoroughly debated before passage. A 60% majority is required to close debate, so one person can just refuse to give up the floor and keep it open until everybody gets bored and gives up.

      However, in the United States Senate, there is apparently some sort of “gentleman’s filibuster” by which the minority party (Republican) says “If you try to pass this bill, we’ll filibuster it” and the majority party says “Okay, no sense trying then.” Thus since Republicans settled on this tactic in 2009 as a routine matter, nearly every bill has been blocked, and the media has taken to saying that “60 votes are required to pass a bill,” which is simply not the intent of the rule.

      The rules for maintaining a filibuster are much stricter in Texas than at the federal level, which is why Wendy Davis had to talk for 13 hours without any substitutions or even a bathroom break. Such a rule COULD be implemented at the federal level, but obviously it hasn’t been.

  2. 2
    Martin Wagner

    Theocratic Republicans love democracy, until the other side speaks up, then suddenly they’re an “unruly mob.”

    1. 2.1
      Lord Narf

      Well, those people were pretty unruly. That was sort of the point.

      It was just really freaking needed.

    2. 2.2
      chris lowe

      Now that Mr. Perry is bowing out of scene, how do you think the evangelical hold on influence and power is going to be effected? Is there enough of a movement away from the GOP to stop the smuggling in of christian sharia law through the constitutional barriers? Or is Texas going to bask in the freedom of having the right wing christians telling them exactly what they can and cannot do and where they can shove their federal constitutional rights? In the name of freedom of course!

  3. 3
    Muz

    Has anyone done a good wrap up of what this legislation might actually do?
    I’m struggling to find something neat. There’s snippits all over the place and it’s tactics that have been used in other states (like the doctors’ admitting privileges thing), but a solid analysis didn’t turn up on the sites mostly visit this time around.
    (i’ve got people saying it reads innocuous so they can’t see the fuss. The bigger picture is hard to illustrate quickly).

    1. 3.1
      Lord Narf

      Well, the conservative media outlets … which is to say most of the ones in Texas, I think … are downplaying it for a reason. Duh.

      What I’ve heard is that it will shut down all of the abortion clinics in the state, except for … 5, I think it is? 7? Something like that … fewer than 10, anyway. There are a small handful in the major cities that will be able to meet the insane requirements of the law. All of the other ones around the state will have to shut, because they don’t have a wealthy patron to buy them millions of dollars worth of unnecessary equipment.

      1. Muz

        Cheers. Is it millions for sure? (again I can’t find a good summary of what it’d mean for the clinics, down to brass tacks)

        1. Lord Narf

          The changes in the law that I heard about essentially require an abortion clinic to be damned near a fully-functional operating room. There’s a bit more date here: http://www.texastribune.org/library/data/sb5-abortion-restrictions/

          1. Lord Narf

            *a bit more data

        2. Lord Narf

          So, in other words, despite my vague verbiage, “fully-functional,” it requires that all abortion clinics be ambulatory surgical centers. It’s not so much that those five (it is five) clinics have donors that could bring them up to code, as much as it is that they’re already ambulatory surgical centers. Larger city, more money, you know? I wouldn’t be surprised if those clinics had deep-pocketed donors, as well, but I don’t know that that’s the case.

          It would leave all of west Texas … you know, the poorer, needier portion of the state … completely un-served, since the only remaining clinics would be in Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.

          Plus, it would cut back the date after which you can’t get an abortion, by a significant margin, in violation of Roe vs. Wade.

    2. 3.2
      Pteryxx

      Muz: there’s no single neat wrap-up because this is an omnibus bill, with multiple abortion restrictions from previous failed legislation all collected into one package for this special session. They also look like retreads from other states’ restrictions because they ARE – the extreme right wing feeds legislation to their state reps to get as many bills passed as possible, which then have to be fought in the courts individually.

      For a summary, see here, and RHR in general: [explanations in brackets are mine]

      rhrealitycheck.org/article/2013/06/13/texas-consolidates-its-most-horrifying-anti-choice-bills-into-one-nightmare-piece-of-legislation/

      If passed in its entirety, SB 5 would:

      – ban all abortions after 20 weeks, with the exception of those “necessary to avert the death or substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman” or if a fetal anomaly “will result in the death of the infant not later than minutes to hours after birth regardless of the provision of lifesaving medical treatment.” [Meaning doctors could face criminal charges if a hospital board thinks the pregnant person wasn't in enough danger: see Savita, Beatriz.]
      – require all abortion-providing doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where the procedure is performed.[This in a mostly-rural state nearly a thousand miles wide, where many hospitals are Catholic and won't extend those privileges.]
      – effectively ban telemedical abortions, requiring doctors to provide the abortion pill (a mifepristol/mifepristone combination) in person and according to outdated 13-year-old Food and Drug Administration regulations that are not only unnecessary, but thought to be potentially harmful in current practice, according to the American College of Gynecologists and the Texas Medical Association.[Meaning many of said rural patients must drive hundreds of miles, to the clinics that remain open, TWICE because of the waiting period already in law]
      – require all abortion providers to be licensed as ambulatory surgical centers, which would reduce the number of sites at which a Texan can obtain an abortion to a total of five, located solely in major metropolitan areas.

      Also note that Texas has already put into law a mandatory 24-hour waiting period between first doctor’s appointment and the appointment at which the abortion can take place; a mandatory and medically unnecessary ultrasound requirement, often vaginal; a requirement that physicians give inaccurate information about abortion risks; a requirement that patients be referred to unregulated crisis pregnancy centers instead of Planned Parenthood clinics; and funding restrictions that have already closed 60 clinics statewide.

      The whole point is to make abortions as difficult and punishing as possible to obtain through the combined effects of all these laws, without actually banning abortion on paper. Note that Louisiana has no abortion providers at all, while Mississippi has only one- and that one is being forced to close due to an admitting-privileges restriction that no hospital in the state will honor.

      1. Muz

        Yeah cheers. It seems difficult to understand for some internationals I’ve talked to, since they haven’t heard the back story to it all. Most of the articles I can remember reading about it were from a couple of years ago even.

        One person said that it’s just a redefining of the clinic code for health and safety so what’s the big deal? If some clinics have to close for a bit to get themselves up to standard so be it. But it’s way more complex than that. Although it’d be nice to find what the surgical centre standard requires exactly and even what it might cost to implement these changes (Certainly it would vary, but numbers are the only things some people understand)
        I had a little look around, but no luck as yet.

        1. Lord Narf

          Yeah, a lot of Europeans in particular don’t understand, because they live in rational societies which provide basic medical care to everyone. I think they assume that the government would also provide money for the insanely expensive upgrades, because that’s what governments do, right? If you don’t go into it understanding that this is the government using an underhanded method to shut down clinics, you can’t see it.

        2. Pteryxx

          Muz: I haven’t found it online yet, but one person giving testimony was the owner of several Texas clinics who discussed the costs of bringing them up to ambulatory surgical center standards. Besides the costs of tearing out walls to widen hallways and storage closets and such, the real crusher would be surgical center-level HVAC improvements to the ventilation systems, which involve installing temperature and humidity regulating equipment capable of hospital-like standards. Except for the very rare, very late-term procedures, abortions in general simply don’t require that level of ventilation control. Many clinics rent their facilities and would be forced to relocate or shut down for years until they could, most likely, find the funding to build a new center from scratch to comply with these regulations. If I remember correctly, the clinic owner estimated the upgrade cost would be hundreds of thousands of dollars per clinic, comparing it to the costs of the urban clinics she owns. Because the rural clinics don’t have that sort of funding, and the state of Texas has cut off both state and federal funding to clinics that are even affiliated with abortion providers, almost all clinics would simply close – hence the oft-cited statistic that this bill would close all but five providers statewide.

          The testimony was livestreamed and is part of the public record, and SHOULD be available online through Texas state records, but I’m sure they won’t manage to get it available before the bill gets decided one way or another.

          Here’s comparable testimony from a court case in South Carolina, challenging a nearly identical TRAP law forcing the upgrade of clinics: Source

          24

          Greenville Women’s Clinic, which has operated in Greenville, South Carolina, since 1978, has two licensed physicians who perform a combined average of more than 2,700 abortions per year. The physicians at the clinic testified that even prior to the promulgation of Regulation 61-12, their clinic operated in substantial compliance with its requirements. They estimated that the additional cost of full compliance would be $22.68 per abortion. The district court found that, prior to the Regulation’s promulgation, the cost of an abortion was between $325 and $480 if the abortion was not complicated and was performed during the first trimester. The court found that the additional cost of full compliance for Greenville Women’s Clinic would be in the range of $23-$32 per abortion.
          25

          The Charleston Women’s Medical Clinic, Inc., which has operated in Charleston, South Carolina, for about 28 years, performs, on average, more than 2,400 abortions per year. That clinic is operated by a licensed physician and a licensed practical nurse. The district court found that compliance with Regulation 61-12 by the Charleston Women’s Medical Clinic would cost between $36 and $75 per abortion.
          26

          Dr. William Lynn, who is a licensed physician, has conducted his practice since 1980 from two locations — in Beaufort, South Carolina (approximately 70 miles southwest of Charleston) and in Greenville, South Carolina. Dr. Lynn performs, on average, more than 900 abortions each year at the two sites. He testified that Regulation 61-12 would require him to undertake costly modifications to his Beaufort facility, and the district court found that his cost per abortion would increase by an amount between $116 and $368. The district court also concluded that the increased costs for Dr. Lynn’s Beaufort facility would “likely force [Dr. Lynn] to cease performing abortions in his Beaufort office.” Greenville Women’s Clinic v. Bryant, 66 F. Supp. 2d 691, 717 (D.S.C. 1999).

          For these three clinics, their estimated upgrade costs to comply with the law would be about 61K (for the clinic already mostly in compliance), 86 to 180K for the second, and 104 to 330K for the third.

          The Texas bill, like the South Carolina bill in that court case, requires all clinics providing ANY form of abortion to conform to surgical-center standards, including those that simply dispense abortion pills.

          1. Pteryxx

            *and those cited numbers are from 1999; current-day costs would probably be higher.

          2. Lord Narf

            Many clinics rent their facilities and would be forced to relocate or shut down for years until they could, most likely, find the funding to build a new center from scratch to comply with these regulations.

            And during that time, the legislature could, with a few hours of debate, pass additional regulations that would make the newly established clinics unsuitable, without massive renovations and possibly another move.

        3. Pteryxx

          Here’s a citation for why the anti-abortion bills in so many states seem almost identical.

          http://sacurrent.com/news/notorious-abortion-bill-appears-inspired-by-draft-legislation-from-national-anti-abortion-group-1.1513910

          When questioned by colleagues about legislation that, if enacted, would destroy abortion access in Texas, bill authors state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (R-Parker) and state Sen. Glenn Hegar (R-Katy) oftentimes fumbled their responses, evaded definitive answers or simply didn’t have the knowledge or data to back them up, making for some cringe-worthy exchanges under the Capitol dome.

          The two lawmakers appeared flummoxed at what most would consider basic facts of the content and context of their legislation as well as the state’s reproductive health care environment altogether — so much so that, in the middle of a series of questions about abortion regulation, an astonished state representative asked Laubenberg outright on the House floor, “How do you not know this?”

          The lack of knowledge had some wondering how authors of a bill with so much weight and such a destating impact could be this unaware of legislation they ostensibly wrote. Perhaps it’s because they may have gotten some help from an ally in the crusade to eradicate abortion, Americans United for Life (AUL). The group touts success in getting model legislation — Mad Libs-style drafts of anti-abortion bills — passed in statehouses nationwide, and the all-in-one Senate Bill 5 reads like a veritable greatest hits of AUL’s 2013 “Defending Life” legislative policy playbook. For instance, part of SB5 (now known as SB1 and HB2 for the second special session) appears heavily inspired by an AUL draft bill called “The Women’s Health Protection Act,” which requires abortion centers to comply with the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers — a costly upgrade that most medical professionals consider unnecessary and in the end harmful to women as the rule would likely shutter 37 out of the state’s 42 abortion clinics upon enforcement. The Act, which mistakes all abortion as “an invasive, surgical procedure,” also says physicians must have admitting privileges at a hospital no further than 30 miles of the clinic, another stipulation found in SB 5.

        4. Pteryxx

          And here’s a reference to the Texas clinic owner’s testimony about the cost of upgrades. IIRC this is the same person, and the same stats, as from the livestream last week.

          http://www.texastribune.org/2013/07/02/house-panel-meets-move-abortion-restrictions-forwa/

          Currently, six of the existing 42 facilities that perform abortions meet the ambulatory surgical facility standards, all of which are located within metropolitan areas.

          Amy Hagstrom Miller, chief executive of Whole Woman’s Health, told the Tribune in March that it cost $300 per square foot, or more than $1.5 million, to set up the ambulatory surgical center they operate in San Antonio. It costs $137,000 a month to operate the ambulatory surgical center, compared with $90,000 a month to operate an abortion clinic, she said.

          1. Muz

            Cheers. I found this summary of the nationwide problem too. It goes into the costs of similar laws in Virginia.

            http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/gpr/16/2/gpr160207.html

            Fascinating that they seem to have dug up the original tactical framework from an anti abortion think-tank up above there

          2. Lord Narf

            Don’t forget North Carolina. Our fucking idiots are busy passing one.

          3. Pteryxx

            Muz: great resource, thanks. Check this provision out:

            Evert also noted that some of the rules apply not just to the medical facilities in a building, but to the building as a whole. As a result, all of the building’s tenants must, for example, inspect fire extinguishers monthly (rather than annually, as previously required) and replace light fixtures that use dimmer switches (which are banned under the rules). These requirements put abortion providers in an untenable position of needing to secure compliance by all the tenants in a building, without having any leverage to be able to do so. This leaves other tenants needing to incur remodeling expenses even though, according to Evert, “they may not have the capacity or feel it’s their responsibility.” As Evert put it, “unless you own the building and you are the only tenant in it, you could easily get blocked. It gives the other tenants in a building veto power.”

            Pressuring the neighbors is a favorite anti-abortion tactic. I heard about a similar problem earlier, with regard to the new clinic in Kansas that opened to honor Dr. Tiller’s legacy. Some of the arguments made for blocking the new clinic by re-zoning were that neighboring medical facilities would suffer crowds and disruption because of the protesters arguing for re-zoning.

            Mr. Gittrich told the City Council that the clinic would create a nuisance for the neighborhood because of the protests it would attract. The planning commission is scheduled to meet this month to consider Mr. Gittrich’s request to rezone the area to prohibit the clinic from opening.

            Operation Rescue, another anti-abortion group, plans to send mailings encouraging residents in the area to ask the Wesley Medical Center not to allow the clinic’s doctors to have admitting privileges there, a potential requirement for them to be able to perform abortions in Wichita. The operation has contacted a plumbing company it believes is working on the clinic to urge it not to work there.

            NYT link

  4. 4
    Raymond

    It seems to me that there are some really important things the various state governments should be working on. For starters, this shouldn’t even be up for debate, but especially in this time of economic instability. When did it happen that the people we elect to government stopped working for the good of the people?

    1. 4.1
      chris lowe

      Jan 20,1973, the second inauguration of Tricky Dick.

  5. 5
    Lord Narf

    Say, is anyone else having FTB go a bit insane on them, lately? I haven’t been able to comment on Aron Ra’s blog for a few days now, and I just got e-mails about a request to manage my subscriptions on two blogs on here that I’ve never been on, to the best of my knowledge.

    1. 5.1
      Pteryxx

      Lord Narf: IMHO, might want to run it by Thibeault as a potential intrusion (or misfire of the intruder-detection). That’s the only similar issue I recall seeing.

      1. Lord Narf

        The Tech Issues button, at the top?

        1. Pteryxx

          *looks* I guess so. Ain’t I observint!

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