Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) signed a sweeping set of abortion restrictions into law Thursday morning, drawing a wave of revulsion, shock and horror from women's health and civil liberties advocates across the nation.
Chants of "Shame!" could be heard echoing through the Texas Capitol as Perry signed the bill, according to CNN. It seemed the protesters, locked out of Thursday's signing ceremony, could do nothing more than shout after weeks of an intense Democratic mobilization unlike anything seen in Texas for decades.
Despite their efforts, and temporary success in blocking the bill's passage during the first special session, Republicans simply ignored the crowds and outmaneuvered the small minority of Democrats after Perry called the legislature back.
As of today, abortions are now banned in Texas after 20 weeks of pregnancy and all but five of the abortion providers in the state officially face closure by 2014 if the law is upheld in court.
Perry remarked that the law will "cement the culture of life which Texas is built upon," adding: “Children do deserve the respect of simple recognition before their lives are cut tragically short.” Despite his seeming confidence, leading critics of the law were quick to point out that Perry's vision of protecting the unborn will have serious consequences for thousands of women across the state.
“This draconian law will make it impossible for many reproductive health practices to provide care to the millions of women living in Texas today, severely limiting—and in many cases completely eliminating—women’s ability to obtain safe and legal abortion services," Julie Rikelman, litigation director at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in an advisory. “The law will have a particularly devastating impact on women already facing difficult economic circumstances or living in the many vast rural areas of Texas."
The New York Times carried a report on Saturday about a Mexican abortion pill -- misoprostol, usually prescribed for the prevention of stomach ulcers but also used to induce labor -- that's sold openly south of the border and now appears to be gaining popularity in Texas flea markets.
For many lower-income women in the expansive, mostly rural state, that's likely to be the best and only option, as simply traveling hours to just one of the five clinics that meet Texas's new facility standards is a significant impediment. That's especially so taking Texas abortion law into account -- which requires women to undergo an initial consultation, a sonogram and a waiting period of 24 hours before an abortion can be performed.
"The passage of this legislation is a clear example of an extreme minority imposing its will on the majority, all in an attempt to win more supporters in political primaries," Terri Burke, executive director of ACLU Texas, said in an advisory. "As polls of Texas voters have repeatedly shown, the majority of Texans don't want legislators passing more restrictions on a woman's right to have safe and legal abortions. Even after tens of thousands have stood up in the State Capitol and in cities across the state to tell them loud and clear that politicians should not be interfering in a woman's personal and private decision-making, some politicians are still not getting message."
Echoing that message, Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, vowed to see this new law reviewed by a judge and promised a big political backlash in the next elections. “The fight over this law will move to the courts, while the bigger fight for women’s access to health care in Texas gains steam," she said in prepared text. "People are enraged by this law, and it has created a whole new generation of activists who are in it for the long run to elect leaders who will protect women’s health.”
[Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) speaks to the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference. Photo: Flickr user markn3tel, creative commons licensed.]