A Texas anti-abortion bill giving new meaning to the word omnibus — one that would, like so several others passed by state legislatures and the U.S. House of Representatives this year, ban abortions after 20 weeks and, in a drastic move, cut the number of abortion clinics in the state from 42 to five — gained preliminary approval in the Texas House early this morning. The vote arrived after more than 13 hours of debate, during which the bill's sponsor revealed that she had little to no idea what rape kits are, telling everyone in the statehouse they're used so women "can get cleaned out" and prevent pregnancy.
Usually, elected officials have at least some idea about the particulars behind the bills they sponsor. Maybe they don't agree with you, but at the very least a citizen should hope politicians have a basic grasp of the issue at hand. Enter SB 5. The bill, which passed by a vote of 99-73, would not only enact an unconstitutional ban on abortions after 20 weeks but would also make abortion clinics meet the standards of surgical centers. That sounds like a good safety measure, but it's actually an end-around on abortion access: Only a handful of the 42 clinics in Texas would be able to reach those standards, and Planned Parenthood estimates the measure would leave Texas with 37 fewer places for women to go.
SB 5 was introduced by Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (left), a Republican with a history of proposing to remove women's health programs in the state, sometimes under the guise of fiscal responsibility. Laubenberg is, of course, entitled to her views and is representing the view of her constituents in District 89, deep in the heart of Dallas and Plano. But during last night's debate, which lasted until Laubenberg's final appearance at around 3:20 a.m., a Democrat had proposed that there be an exemption made for women who were victims of rape or incest, as so many abortion bills have over the past year when they seem to pop up in statehouses every few weeks. Laubenberg then explained that there was no need for such an amendment, because Laubenberg erroneously believes that rape kits eliminate the possibility of conception through rape and incest. Laubenberg said:
In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out ... The woman had five months to make that decision, at this point we are looking at a baby that is very far along in its development.
The Associated Press reports that Laubenberg continued, "comparing the procedure to an abortion." Rape kits, of course, are the set of tools used by medical personnel to determine if a woman has been raped — swabs, combs, evidence-collection sheets, and more. There are stories about how the kits go untested for decades, which is a different kind of outrage on its own. Basically, when the general public refers to rape kits, they're not referring to contraceptives. But Laubenberg implies that a woman who didn't get "cleaned out" by her fictional version of rape kit has waited too long "to make that decision."
"Laubenberg, who has difficulty debating bills, then simply rejected all proposed changes to her bill without speaking until the end of the debate," reads the report from the AP. Huh? Isn't a politician "who has difficulty debating bills" not unlike a doctor "who has difficulty diagnosing diseases?" In 2011, when it was pointed out to her by a budget expert that women's health programs actually save the government money because there would be fewer babies born under the state's Medicaid program, Laubenberg accused the Legislative Budget Board of using "government math."
In 2003, Laubenberg voiced her opinion on an abortion bill that proposed that women wait two hours before obtaining an abortion. That's a relic of the past now that Texas requires a mandatory trans-vaginal sonogram and a 24-hour waiting period for women who want to have abortions, but that 2003 bill would have forced doctors to explain things like the "liability of the father to pay child support, medical assistance for prenatal care, childbirth and neonatal care," the AP reported at the time. Laubenberg said it was an affront to women's intelligence: "A woman in that situation is frightened and confused and not thinking straight," she said. District 89's representative could just as well have been describing herself on Sunday night and Monday morning.
Texas's Senate Democrats have said they will try and stage a filibuster on Tuesday to try and block Laubenberg's bill. Long week down there.