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State House ready for crowd & abortion bill vote

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AUSTIN (CBS 11 NEWS) – Thousands of people may converge on the Texas State Capitol once again next week. Next Tuesday the full House is expected to vote on House Bill 2, the bill enacting harsh abortion restrictions.

Men and women on both sides of the abortion issue poured their hearts out as they testified about proposed abortion restrictions before the House State Affairs Committee until midnight Wednesday.

Elisa Feinberg, a pro-choice activist from Arlington urged lawmakers to reject the bill. She spoke about the emergency abortion she needed.  "If it wasn't for an amazing women's health practitioner, I could have lost my tubes, if not my life."

Susan Stack, a pro-life activist from Denton, urged lawmakers to approve the measures. She spoke of their hope years ago to adopt a baby, only to find out the birth mother had an abortion.  "This bill would save many children from a brutal death."

After hours of the emotional public testimony, tensions only intensified when  committee chairman, Representative Byron Cook (R-Corsicana) called for a vote on abortion restrictions.

Democratic Representative Sylvester Turner of Houston objected, "Now, Mr. Chairman, I asked you whether we were going to vote tonight because I have amendments to put forth." Cook responded,  "Bring it up on the floor." Turner answered, "Now Mr. Chairman, you know you are wrong with that."

Representative Helen Giddings (D-Dallas) objected as well saying, "Mr. Chairman, I had questions." Cook responded, "We already started the roll call.  Eight ayes, three nays, two absent, motion prevails."

If approved by the full House and Senate, and signed by Governor Perry, abortions wouldn't be allowed after 20 weeks, and providers would face additional requirements, including obtaining privileges from a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic. Opponents say the bill would force many clinics to close.

Democrats criticized Republicans after more than 1,000 people who signed up to speak, weren't allowed to.

Representative Jessica Farrar (D-Houston) said, "The process was unfair. The process was a farce, and I don't even know why we're here." Republican Representative Bill Zedler of Arlington said, "A lot of times in the special session, they didn't even have a hearing because they had hearings in the regular session.  So it is not mandatory to have hearing after hearing."

Both Democrats and Republicans referred to last week, when a vocal crowd in the upstairs gallery kept the State Senate from voting on abortion restrictions bills before the midnight deadline. Rep. Turner said, "The other night we had people talk of the mob mentality.  Well, you tell me what's worse.  When those in point refuse to let people to come here to testify and then same something through.  The process must always he protected."

Rep. Ron Simmons (R-Carrollton) responded, "The conversation on the processes of the House, I totally agree with. However, some of our members were a part of the disruptions in the Senate last week the very thing they're trying to protect today they were part of encouraging in the Senate last week."

On Wednesday night, Governor Perry tweeted that on Monday morning, the State Senate Health & Human Services Committee will hold a hearing at the Capitol on SB 1, which proposes abortion restrictions.

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