My daughter Danielle and I spent last week in Austin. So many of you have asked about what happened there that I decided to just write down my thoughts about what we experienced. Those in support of House Bill 2 wore blue, and those who opposed it wore orange. It is hard to describe the intense feelings that we dealt with all week, but I’m going to give it a try.
First, let me describe the Bill for you: House Bill 2 brings the standards of Abortions Clinics up to the level of other Ambulatory Surgery Centers in Texas. Currently the Abortion Clinics are not held to the standards that other places that do surgeries—such as places that put tubes in children’s ears or do eye cataract surgeries. Also in this Bill, Abortion doctors will need to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their Abortion Clinic, so that continued care for their patients would be possible should complications arise. Also, the Bill requires that the Abortion drug RU486 should only be given following the FDA guidelines (these standards of use are ignored now). Finally, the “Fetal Pain” portion of the Bill bans abortions after 20 weeks gestation , with some mother’s life endangerment exceptions.
As we sat through one abortion story after another in the Senate hearings on Monday, it was mostly sadness that enveloped me. We heard from an Emergency room doctor -and also an Emergency room nurse -specific stories of women brought in with severe, life-threating complications from abortions performed in legal Abortion Clinics. We found out from them that there are no Insurance billing codes for complications from abortions, nor are there codes in those hospitals to indicate this on the patient information or charts. There simply isn’t a way to track these incidents. We also heard from many women who had lived to regret their abortions and others who were proud of theirs. It was heartbreaking that a life ended would be celebrated so.
We spent a lot of time in line each day. Monday and Tuesday, we were surrounded by mostly normal people from both sides of the issue, but also some strange folks that were Pro-abortion (including two men in drag, but then again, we were in Austin). Those two days there were more pro-life folks there. Monday night we attended the Life Rally. It was planned to encourage the pro-life Legislators and there was an outstanding turnout.
Tuesday we arrived at the Capitol before 5:00 am and left around 9:00pm after the Second reading passed the House. Included in the other side’s ranks that day was the Head of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards. We spent the entire day in the House Gallery surrounded by far more blue than orange. This day was intense, long, and exhausting, but successful.
Everything changed on Wednesday when the bill was heard for the third and final time in the House. Many of the Pro-lifers had headed home by then to their jobs and families. Again, Danielle and I arrived at the Capitol by 7:20am, and found that the line this time had around 25 or so Pro-abortion folks ahead of us. It was a very different crowd—some of the strangest people I have ever seen both in dress and actions. No friendliness at all, no eye contact, and they were well organized by those in charge. We watched them hand out scripts and instructions to those in their camp. There were 6 or so that were arrested that day, including one that had to be carried out of the gallery. We have that on video, which I posted on my facebook page. Make no mistake: these folks came to be disruptive and to get arrested. It was planned and financed by those in charge.
On Friday we arrived at the Capitol around 7:20am, with a Senate start time at 2:00pm. We sat in line (we were 130 or so back) and finally got into the gallery around 2:20. The line that day went from the third floor Senate Gallery area all the way down to snake around the basement of the Capitol.
On Tuesday and Wednesday’s votes in the House, we could take in food and drink if they were out of sight, but not consume it in the gallery and we could also leave for a short bathroom break and still retain our seats. Not so on Friday: We were told early in the day that there would be no bathroom breaks for those in the gallery. If you left, you went to the end of the line of those awaiting entrance. So we ate the lunch we had brought while sitting in line, and drank knowing that it was a balancing act to be hydrated enough to make it through, but not to need to go to the bathroom once we entered the Senate Gallery.
As we waited we began to hear rumors of what the orange folks had in mind to disrupt the Senate, including throwing urine-soaked towels down from the gallery. The troopers took these threats seriously. I had a backpack and purse that were thoroughly searched and all my paper products including receipts, my notes from Tuesday’s House hearings were thrown away, as was some candy I had and also a small pack of Kleenex. We had already thrown away our drinks and food that we had left over. Danielle even had them throw away business cards from her purse. The normal folks in orange around us were confused as to the new rules for the gallery and we had to tell them the rumors that were going around. Those normal citizens were as disgusted at the prospect as we were. You may have heard that indeed there were feces, urine, used feminine products and a gun confiscated during the searches. They did not search our bodies, so I am glad that those who made it in didn’t have things hidden on their person other than the chains and bloody (painted to look that way) undergarments that they used in their disruption.
By the way, we were also told how to protect our heads and torso if we were attacked, and reminded not to fight back. I can’t tell you how surreal this was in our own State Capitol—a place where I have always experienced peaceful disagreements and polite differences with others who didn’t share my views. I am saddened to think of those families that were there with their little children. I pray they don’t experience nightmares as a result of this experience.
Throughout the Senate’s work on the Bill the noise from the rotunda was constant—a fevered pitch that made you sick to your stomach because we knew that the hatred was aimed at us. It reverberated through the building, and was so loud that the words were understandable most of the time from where we were sitting in the gallery. I have never felt oppression like this before in my life. Only once were they quiet during the entire Senate process—it was when Wendy Davis was speaking and then it was eerily quiet for a short time. That quiet was so abrupt that it was almost unnerving. Then, they went at it all over again.
Honestly, we were afraid to leave when the bill finally passed on the third reading a little after midnight. All 400 of us in the gallery needed to go to the bathroom, and I was concerned about what we would face if we stood still in a line. So we went up a floor instead of heading down—up to the 4^th (it pays to know the Capitol better than those around you sometimes). From there we headed down the elevator to E1 and over to Ken Paxton’s office to congratulate him on the bill.
I can’t say enough about the work of the DPS officers. They were professional, courteous and brave. One escorted us out of the building when we left. I thanked every one of them I could. I am also grateful for the brave Republicans and those few Democrats that stood up for the bill throughout this ordeal. They are heroes for the innocent unborn.
I would encourage us all to pray for our Legislators that face death threats and ugliness in the face of doing right. I would also encourage us all to pray for the courts as this bill comes before them in the day ahead.