Pro-lifers nationwide lauded Texas legislators for passing a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks gestation on the grounds that unborn infants can feel pain at that stage of development.
The bill passed the Texas House of Representatives with a vote of 96 to 49 on July 9, and its companion bill will be considered by the state Senate.
“I do think it is what the people of Texas want, it is what the people of the nation want,” Marilyn Musgrave, vice president for government affairs for the pro-life lobby Susan B. Anthony List, told CNA.
On July 9, Musgrave delivered a petition signed by over 20,000 pro-life activists in favor of the legislation, telling the legislators it was a great “opportunity to do something of such significance."
"You can just feel the tide turning in the country," Musgrave said of the bill's passage. "Polls are showing it, but even more than that, you can sense it.”
The bill includes several pro-life initiatives, including a measure that bans abortions past 20 weeks gestation in order to protect unborn infants who can feel pain, and regulations that require abortion physician supervision of all abortion procedures.
An earlier attempt to pass the bill failed on June 25 at the end of a special legislative session, with Democratic state senator Wendy Davis filibustering for over 10 hours.
While her speech ended before the end of the legislative session, members of the Senate were not able to complete the vote before the session’s midnight expiration, due to a combination of time restraints and protests from citizens in the upstairs gallery.
The following day, the Texas governor called a second special legislative session in order to vote on the measure again. If the bill fails to pass in special sessions, the legislation will not be eligible for re-introduction in a normal session until 2015.
The final day of argumentation before the House bill’s passage was met with ardent support from pro-life advocates from around the state and the country, in contrast to clashes between pro-life and pro-choice supporters earlier in July.
The demonstrations have become “more calm,” said Abby Johnson, a former abortion clinic worker and founder of “And Then There were None,” a ministry dedicated to helping abortion clinic employees receive the aid necessary to change careers should they decide to leave the abortion industry.
She noted that while there were confrontations the week before the vote, in the days leading up to the bill’s passage there has been more discussion. She added that she herself has had many enlightening discussions with pro-abortion supporters about her ministry and on the topic of abortion more broadly.
Johnson also noted a strong rise in pro-life support for the legislation in the state capitol, Austin.
She said that in glancing at the crowds, she saw at least “50 pro-life activists to every one pro-choice activist” in front of the capitol on July 9. She noted that pro-life activists have been wearing light blue shirts to pro-life rallies in Austin in order to distinguish themselves from pro-abortion supporters, who have been wearing orange.
Johnson noted that the demonstrations before the state capital building were calm, and that pro-life advocates demonstrated a “sense of peace” during a potentially confrontational period.
Musgrave called the crowds gathered in the "hot and humid" Austin summer “absolutely incredible."
“I couldn’t even see how far the crowd went down. I'm sure almost to the street, it was on the east and on the west; you could not see the end of the crowd.”
"Being there was overwhelming" and "such a blessing," Musgrave said, noting the "humility and compassion coming from the crowd" as she presented the petition to the state legislature.
"It was one of the most powerful expressions of the pro-life movement in this country and in the state of Texas."