With a few dozen protesters chanting outside and a Capitol auditorium full of supporters on hand, Gov. Rick Perry signed House Bill 2 — the omnibus abortion legislation — into law Thursday morning.
The signing occurred in a ceremony open to members of the media and invited bill supporters — both legislators and lobbyists. The group included several Republican state legislators and Democratic Sen. Eddie Lucio, Brownsville, who was the only senator from his party to vote for the bill.
“This is a bill that protects unborn babies after the fifth month of a pregnancy,” Perry said, calling HB 2 “reasonable” and “common sense.”
HB 2, which was filibustered by Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, in the first special session, passed in both the House and Senate last week during the current second special session. The law, which would impose several new regulations on abortions and abortion providers, has drawn criticism from abortion advocates and incited demonstrations from both sides.
HB 2 would ban abortions after 20 weeks of gestation, impose new regulations on how the abortion drug RU-486 is administered, require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and require all abortion facilities to meet the regulatory standards for ambulatory surgical centers.
“Today’s signing definitely builds upon our continued commitment to protecting life in the state of Texas,” Perry said.
Speakers joining Perry included Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and HB 2’s House and Senate authors, Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, and Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy.
“There has been no other piece of legislation that I have ever worked on — nor any that I will ever work on — that has weighed so heavy on my mind, on my heart and literally on my soul,” Hegar said.
Outside the auditorium, a couple of dozen abortion rights activists clad in black held up posters that read “shame” and “abort patriarchy, reproduce dignity.” Some carried hangers as a symbol of the illegal abortions they say HB 2 would produce in the state.
"They're trying to control people's personal lives," said Carl Deckard, one of the protesters. "They're all for the liberty of a big company to rape the earth" but not for women's health, he added.
The protesters chanted “shame” throughout the speakers' addresses and as Perry signed the bill, audible for the duration of the ceremony.
“For those who may be outside chanting, for those who don’t agree with us, we love you,” Dewhurst said in response to the crowd outside. “We love you just as much as we love those unborn babies.”
Several groups — such as the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas — have said they are considering litigation against the state to attempt to block the law.
"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," said Planned Parenthood national president Cecile Richards in a statement.
But Ashley McGuire, a senior fellow with the national group the Catholic Association, said she believes most Americans support the legislation, calling HB 2 "a good step forward for women's safety."
With reporting by Elizabeth Koh.