“In June of 2013, I stood on the floor of Texas State Senate with four of my Republican colleagues from the Texas House of Representatives, watching in agony the closing moments of Wendy Davis’ marathon filibuster against House Bill 5. This historic bill called abortion clinics to uphold the same standard of care for their patients as any other surgeon in the State of Texas. The bill also put a stop to the inhumane slaughter of babies in their third trimester of development based on the scientific proof that these babies feel pain.
With barely 20 minutes left in the first called special session, a third and final Point of Order was sustained against Wendy Davis bringing her filibuster for the right to kill babies to an end. Senate leadership then scrambled to call for a vote. As the clock ticked down to midnight, in an effort to throw the Senate in to complete mayhem and thwart proceedings, Democrats whipped the pro-choice gallery activists in to a frenzy. Democrat Senators and a few Democrat House members stood on the Senate floor throwing their hands in the air whipping the crowd’s pro choice jeers to decibel levels never heard in this chamber before.
As I stared at the Lt Governor who sat on the Dias like a deer in headlights it brought to mind something Wisconsin Senator Leah Vukmir had told me just 7 months earlier. She warned Texas Conservatives that the same group (Occupy Madison) that took over Wisconsin’s Capitol would eventually make its way to Texas. I don’t think that even Senator Vukmir would have thought it would be only 6 months later. Republican Senators and one very brave Democrat, Senator Lucio huddled at the Dias to cast their vote with time running out and the Senate chamber in complete chaos. Wendy Davis had been boasting to state and national media of her intent to filibuster the bill. Everyone under the pink dome knew that timing was the crucial element to success for HB-5.
At midnight we had won but our victory was hollow as the vote had not come in time. We had the votes to carry HB-5 but the Democrat’s mob-rule tactics had drowned out Senate proceedings as the clock struck 12:00 midnight. I stood there in shock and disbelief. How could this happen in Texas? I can understand “Occupy Wall Street” and “Occupy Madison” in those blue states but this is Texas. This isn’t who we are. Republicans held near 2/3 majorities in both chambers but what the Democrats could not win at the voting booth they were now hoping to win through mob rule. Sadly, it worked.
The next morning, Pro Life House Whip, Bryan Hughes petitioned Governor Perry to bring us right back in July for a second called session. No way could we let mob rule and Wendy Davis’s antics win the day for an issue as important as the life of a Texas babies. Thankfully, Governor Perry brought us back but as soon as we took our first step in to the Capitol, the word was that Texas Alliance for Life and Senate leadership were talking about meeting Democrats half way in order to get a bill passed that Wendy Davis could live with. Half way meant eliminating Fetal Pain from the bill. This was the most substantive portion of the bill, stopping the slaughter of third trimester, late term abortions. Lead by Representative Hughes, Pro Life House members had been fighting all Session for this issue only to be stymied by Speaker Straus and Rep Byron Cook who frustrated our efforts at every turn.
Representative Hughes was mortified when he heard that weak-kneed Republicans in the House and Senate were willing to compromise Fetal Pain at the expense of the countless lives that would be lost. Just days before the second called session for life was to begin, Senator Rick Santorum came to Austin to meet with a small group of pro life members. After lunch Senator Santorum, Rep Hughes and myself went to meet with the Lt Governor’s Chief of Staff, Blaine Brunson. Brunson laid it out plain and simple. The Lt Governor was up for reelection and wasn’t willing to take the hit that he had taken last special session that went down in flames so fetal pain had to go.
Rep Hughes, looked at the Lt Governor’s Chief of Staff and said;”No Blain, that’s not how it’s going to go down.We’re not going to reward Wendy Davis and the Democrats for their shameful behavior. In fact we have some additional amendments to make the bill tougher. What’s more, if you weaken this bill by removing fetal pain we will let everyone know it was the lack of leadership on the part of you and GOP leadership that gave the Texas Pro Life community this watered down bill.” Fetal Pain was not negotiable.
Representative Hughes had graciously, but firmly set the tone for the next special session and saved this historic piece of of pro-life legislation. It was still a battle as Conservatives turned back nearly 50 amendments that would have served to weaken the bill. In the House, the biggest battle wasn’t with Democrats, it was with Republicans Byron Cook and JD Sheffield who encouraged other liberal republicans to join them in weakening the bill. One by one, those amendments were defeated. What became known as HB-2 went on to capture a super majority in both chambers with six pro life Democrats joining us in the House. Fast forward six months. A young couple in Houston, who could not conceive held a precious new born baby girl in their arms. At Grace Community Church, Pastor Steve Riggle prayed with her parents as she was dedicated to The Lord. Her mom wanted to end her life but for Representative Hughes and HB-2 her new life was just beginning.