AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Republicans voted early Wednesday to move forward with new abortion restrictions, after limiting testimony at a public hearing, refusing to consider Democratic amendments and imposing strict security precautions to prevent disruptions from protesting abortion-rights supporters.
On a party-line vote, the Republican majority sent the bill to the full Texas House for a vote next week. Gov. Rick Perry is pushing his allies in the Legislature to move quickly after he called lawmakers back for a second special session to pass the bill, which would limit when, where and how women may obtain an abortion in the state.
More than 3,500 people came to the Capitol and registered a position on the bill, and more than 1,100 signed up to testify. But fewer than 100 people had a chance to express their views because the top Republican on the committee limited testimony to eight hours and refused entreaties to extend it.
“We took testimony in the regular session, in the first special. We’ve taken a lot of testimony,” said House State Affairs Chairman Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, in explaining his decision.
But Rep. Sylvester Turner, a Houston Democrat and among the state’s more senior lawmakers, asked for more time for testimony.
“The people have the right to come here, and they have the right to be heard,” Turner said.
Just before the committee’s vote, Turner tried to offer amendments to the bill, but Cook refused to recognize him or any other Democrat.
“You can bring it up on the (House) floor,” Cook said.
Turner replied angrily to Cook cutting him off, “You know that’s just wrong!”
When the hearing began, the corridors were filled with equal numbers of bill supporters, wearing blue, and opponents, wearing orange, but as the night wore on the orange T-shirts became the majority. In some cases, bill opponents marched in circles around anti-abortion activists. There were no arrests or violent incidents reported.
Local pizza shops delivered hundreds of pizzas and drinks to the crowd, and organizers registered people to vote and collected email lists.