‘Rape Kits Clean Out Women’ Says Texas Republican Before Anti-Abortion Bill Passes House

Unless state Democrats are able to successfully filibuster the legislation, it looks like Texas women are all but certain to lose their right to choose. Image @ThinkProgress

Unless state Democrats are able to successfully filibuster the legislation, it looks like Texas women are all but certain to lose their right to choose. Image @ThinkProgress

Unless Texas Democrats are able to successfully filibuster the legislation, it looks like women across the state are all but certain to lose their right to choose. In the wee hours of the morning late last night, Texas House Republicans were able to slam an omnibus anti-abortion bill through the legislature and down the throats of women.

Over 600 Texans showed up to protest the bill, known as SB 5, outnumbering the supporters of the bill by a large margin. But that didn’t slow down Republicans one bit and the bill passed.

If the bill becomes law, all but five out of forty-two abortion clinics across Texas faces shut down. The bill requires doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital no more than 30 miles away, requires clinics to be surgical centers, and bans abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy on the false notion that fetuses feel pain at that stage in development.

The debate throughout the evening was passionate, especially from Democrats, who fought valiantly on behalf of women’s health and rights. Several amendments were offered and summarily rejected by the GOP majority, including one that would have exempted victims of rape from the 20 week ban. That led to one of the most outrageous moments of the night. Arguing against the exception for rape victims, Republican Rep. Jodie Laubenberg absurdly claimed that rape victims can be magically cleaned out at hospitals by emergency rape kits. “In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out,” she said, apparently clueless about what rape kits are actually used for. Rape kits are used to collect evidence of the rape. They do not ‘clean out’ women and they certainly do not prevent pregnancy.

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SB 5 is perhaps the most dangerous assault on a woman’s right to choose in Texas that Republicans in the state have ever tried to pass. Closing down essentially all of the clinics that provide vital care to women across the state basically bans abortion entirely because access to the procedure will be severely crippled. Texas women already have problems accessing the contraception needed to prevent unwanted pregnancies; now they will have little to no access to an abortion clinic as well. That means the state of Texas is forcing women to carry unwanted pregnancies to term, regardless of whether the pregnancy is due to rape or is life threatening.

The 20-week ban is based on the notion that fetuses feel pain starting at that point. It’s a conservative claim that is blatantly false according to multiple studies conducted by major medical and health organizations. Science contradicts the Republican claim, therefore laws shouldn’t be made based on such a notion. The medical and scientific unsoundness of the claim, plus the danger of the bill in its entirety to women’s health, has caused the Texas Medical Association, the Texas Hospital Association and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to voice their opposition to SB 5.

This legislation is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade and the viability clause that prevents states from preventing abortion until 24 weeks unless the life of the mother is threatened. Roe also ended the need for deadly back-alley abortions that claimed the lives of thousands of women when the procedure was illegal. SB 5 would see a return to such desperation. As such, any 20-week abortion ban is clearly unconstitutional. Such laws in Idaho and Arizona have already been struck down by federal courts. It’s highly likely that this bill would also be ruled unconstitutional if it becomes law.

Passage of SB 5 also represents a serious miscarriage of justice and democracy. Since Republicans were unable to pass the individual provisions of the bill during the regular session, the GOP and Texas Governor Rick Perry called a special session to pass all of the provisions in one bill. The rules of a special session allow the Republican majority to ram through legislation at will even if the opposing party and the people are against it. So rather than accept defeat of their attempts to kill a woman’s right to choose in the regular session, Republicans threw a temper tantrum and have chosen to pass the legislation by force. Clearly, Texas women need a better state government that will stand up for their rights and their health. It is said that Texas may turn blue by 2022. If that is true then Texas can’t turn blue fast enough. When it does, Republicans will regret running roughshod over the democratic process and the will of women.