On Monday, Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana) warned that he would end testimony on House Bill 2, the sweeping anti-abortion bill, at midnight tonight no matter how many people wanted to testify. He said the House Committee on State Affairs might vote on the bill. And that’s exactly what happened.
Shortly after midnight, Cook put the bill to a vote and it passed on a 8-3 vote. More than 1,000 people who had signed up to speak were cut off. Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) was left sputtering that he had amendments he wanted to propose to the committee. “You know you’re wrong,” he said to Cook. But the Republican plan for this second special has been obvious: Use their large majorities in the House and the Senate to muscle the bill through and avoid another star-making moment like the Wendy Davis filibuster.
Tonight’s hearing was theater. The author of HB 2, Republican Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, studiously stuck to her script, reading from prepared remarks or responding to questions from Democrats on the committee with terse responses focused on “the health and safety of the woman.” There wasn’t going to be any “rape kits” goof tonight.
Testimony on the bill ranged from the heart-breakingly personal to the completely bizarre. (One man said he knew of a woman’s get-rich-quick scheme whereby she would encourage high school girls to get pregnant and then provide them with abortions. Her goal was to make $1 million at a rate of $25 profit per abortion. Another man, in favor of HB 2, established his bona fides by telling the committee that he was a “professional juggler” and “sidewalk angel.” Yet another man complained that his sister getting an abortion deprived him of the chance to be an uncle.)
Meanwhile, anti-abortion activists and some Republican lawmakers worried that Satan had gotten personally involved in the debate.
All in all, though, it was a pretty tame and carefully stage-managed night considering the high drama of the past week. That’s almost certainly a win for the Republicans, who would like to pass House Bill 2 with as little drama as possible.
Up next: HB 2 goes to the full House for a vote.