While neither ferocious debate nor marathon filibuster could ultimately crush a contentious abortion bill in Texas, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America's President will continue leading dissent efforts across the Lone Star State.
Cecile Richards, a recipient of the Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship, and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, launched the Stand With Texas Women bus tour to speak out against the proposed law. The tour has roamed throughout the state, drawing crowds of orange-clad supporters often more than 1,000-people strong, demanding the coming restrictions on Texas abortions be eased.
House Bill 2, which gripped the national spotlight in late-June after Democratic Texas State Senator Wendy Davis’s 13-hour filibuster, sailed through the state's House of Representatives on Wednesday and moves to the state Senate floor Friday afternoon. Richards reacted quickly and vowed the fight isn't over, tweeting "Tonight the TX House passed a bill that will take women back decades — and we're not going."
The bill imposes severe restrictions on abortions — banning them past 20 weeks (previously 24 weeks), stipulating they be performed only in surgical centers and requiring doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital — that would likely shut the doors of all but five of Texas's 42 abortion clinics. In a state nearly 800 miles long and wide, several-hour journeys could become standard for women seeking the procedure and would inhibit access for others.
Richards fears a snowball effect on further abortion legislation, telling the New York Times that implementing the 20-week mark could mean it's then "on to a ban at 12 or 6 weeks — before a woman even knows she’s pregnant." She also pointed out that the overwhelming majority of abortions, nearly 99 percent, takes place before 21 weeks.
The bus tour, which rolled out of Austin on Tuesday and continued on to Houston, stopped in Fort Worth on Wednesday where Davis took the stage. According to Planned Parenthood, the bill would hamper or eliminate medical care for at least 130,000 women each year in Texas.
In late June, Richards told the Times that "if this passes, abortion would be virtually banned in the state of Texas, and many women could be forced to resort to dangerous and unsafe measures."
Richards was awarded the Puffin/Nation Prize in 2010. The $100,000 prize, which celebrates "an individual who has challenged the status quo through distinctive, courageous, imaginative and socially responsible work of significance," is awarded annually.