Melissa Harris Perry
updated 3/25/2013 10:20:35 AM ET 2013-03-25T14:20:35

Texas is next in a the line of states trying to significantly diminish the access women have to abortions. In addition to other restrictions in North Dakota, Arkansas, and Kansas, a committee in the Texas Senate advanced a bill Tuesday that would effectively shut down most of the abortion clinics in the state by setting minimum facility standards.

Texas is next in a line of states trying to diminish the access women have to abortions. In addition to other restrictions in North Dakota, Arkansas, and Kansas, a committee in the Texas Senate advanced a bill Tuesday that would effectively shut down most of the abortion clinics in the state by setting minimum facility standards.

The bill is now headed for the full state Senate. In December, Texas Gov. Rick Perry said he wanted abortion, at any stage, to be a thing of the past.

S.B. 537 would require clinics to either close or undergo expensive and extensive facility upgrades to meet the same standards as an ambulatory surgical center. Centers would need to comply with new mandatory regulations about things like the size of operating rooms, the ventilation systems, and janitors’ closets.

Proponents of the measure say abortion clinics should meet the same standards as other surgery centers. State Senator Robert Deuell sponsored the legislation.

SB 537 will force abortion clinics in Texas to put women’s health first.My bill requires same standards as other surgery centers. #txlege

— Bob Deuell (@bobdeuell) February 13, 2013

Great testimony today in favor of my bill SB537 to protect women seeking an abortion.Who is really behind the so-called “war on women?”

— Bob Deuell (@bobdeuell) March 19, 2013

The Associated Pressreported:

Deuell adamantly denied that his bill would deny women access to an abortion, though he acknowledged that out of 38 abortion clinics in Texas, only five would meet the new requirement. The proposed law would only apply to facilities that provide more than 40 abortions a year.

The Texas bill’s requirements include clinics that only dispense abortion pills and don’t perform any actual surgical procedures. If those facilities could not meet these new rules, they would be forced to close, and women would also lose access to other health care services they provided.

“Shutting down the clinics in Texas, this is not chipping away, this is taking a sledgehammer at the right [to choose],” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, on Melissa Harris-Perry Saturday.

“I love my state, but when it comes to reproductive rights, I am ashamed of my state,” said NBC Latino contributor Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, a fellow and adjunct professor at the LBJ School of Public Policy at the University of Texas. “The state of Texas said, ‘we are going to take away money from any clinic that is related to abortion provisions.’ So, Planned Parenthood. Which means women of lower socioeconomic status who need medicaid dollars aren’t just being banned from their rights to an abortion if they so choose, but also all of the other health care that comes with reproductive rights.”

Former Bush-Cheney adviser Robert Traynham noted that although a pro-choice president may have won on the national level, states still have to have the ability to legislate on the local level.

“At the end of the day, that’s how our constitutional system is set up, that states are empowered and should be empowered to make these decisions,” he said.

You can watch the second half of the discussion from Saturday’s Melissa Harris-Perry below:

Video: State lawmakers targeting womens’ rights

  1. Closed captioning of: State lawmakers targeting womens’ rights

    >>> i'm melissa harris-perry. ladies, it is time to gird your loins again. remember that hibt that we dropped to the national republican lawmakers on election day , the one that responded to their attempts to man handle our uterus by a resounding defeat. it seems the friends at the state house level have missed the memo. while congressional republicans finally managed to make nice tw the ladies by passing the violence against women act , state lawmakers have been outdoing themselves in acts of policy violence against women 's reproductive rights and your yut rous should be very, very afraid. this month there has been such unrelenting on slot of state -level attacks against reproductive choice , some of them bray tantly unconstitutional that it inspired mother jones magazine to create their own anti-choice march madness championship brackets. you would think after beginning the month of march with the state passing the most restrictive abortion ban in the country that things couldn't get much worse, but oh how wrong you would be. arkansas kicked things off on march 6 thd when they did something no state has done before. not content with the 20-week ban they just passed in february, arkansas republican voted to override a veto by the state 's governor and pass a law making aborings illegal after just 12 weeks of pregnancy. now that limit violates the standard set by the supreme court in roe v wade , which allows states to regulate abortion after viability, which doesn't occur until at least 22 weeks. in fact. the arkansas law rewrites the definition of viability all together. while the court defined viability as the possibility of life independent from the mother, arkansas draws the line at the point in which a fetal heartbeat can be detected. at 12 weeks a heartbeat with be detected with an ultra sound . you have not escaped the transvaginal probe yet. no sooner did arkansas claim the title of most restrictive abortion law in the land, then north dakota came along and lowered the bar further. north dakota passed it own law to cut off abortions at six weeks into a pregnancy. now mind you the average american woman doesn't find out she's pregnant until the sixth week. so thu new law would in effect outlaw 75% of abortions in north dakota and the bill bans abortions once a heartbeat is detectable using standard medical procedure , and you know what that means, clearly north dakota has learned nothing, absolutely nothing from virginia's failed attempt to force the dreaded probe on women last yore. because at six weeks of pregnancy the only way to detect a heartbeat is with a transvaginal ultrasound . not even the small window of choice before the six week mark is safe from republicans in north dakota . they have also passed two personhood bills through the senate that would amount to a blanket abortion plan in the state . that sounded like a great idea to kansas . the bill just approved in that house would bestow all abortions. the kansas bill is a 70-page piece of legislation that is a grab bag of attacks on reproductive rights . among the worse is the requirement that it could force doctors to tell women that aboring may increase their chances of developing breast cancer . i got to tell you, this is a thinly veiled scare tactic based on junk science that was largely debunked by the national cancer institute in 2003 . they concluded having an abortion or miscarriage does not increase a woman's subsequent risk of developing breast cancer . a very different bill on tuesday by republican legislators in texas includes the same loose interpretation of the truth. and on paper it's about protecting the health and safety of patients of an abortion facility. but in practice it would shut down the 37 licensed abortion clinics. the law would require them to close or undergo expensive and extensive facility upgrades to meet the same standards as a surgery center. but it includes clinics in texas that don't perform any surgical procedures at all. it looks like they are choosing to give women 's history month a new meaning with these historic restrictions on women 's rights. but the aggressive taking away of our rights is a long game in play here. and the goal is nothing less than the complete erosion of productive choice. at the table, nancy northrup. and former adviser to the busch-cheney administration. it's lovely to have you both here. nancy , start by giving us your sense of the motivation behind the new state regulations.

    >> well, as you said, this is a new kind of extreme. we had seen a chipping away at the protections of roe versus wade . you're talking about bans at six weeks, shutting down clinics in texas . this is not chipping away. it's taking a sledge ham ebb. what i think is going on here is no longer satisfied with making it harder and more expensive, is they're going for a new constitutional regime. they want the 40 years of precedent of roe versus wade and have it overturned.

    >> we're looking at the maps because i was saying let's look at the fact that before roe will are states where a woman could access a legal abortion. when you look at the preroad map and then the current map. these are state where there is some access to abortion before roe v. wade in 1973 . then you look at the map today. and you see there are major abortion restrictions in all the same states that were illegal before 1973 . so in many way we're already in a pro re v. wade world.

    >> and it's what we're headed to in the country twochlt sets of constitutional rights . those for women in california and new york and women wo live in the states that you're talking about in texas , mississippi , kansas and north dakota . who have an inferior set of constitutional rights . whether you live in new york or mississippi , we need to draw the line. this is not okay.

    >> i wanted you at the table because i always try to think about this from multiple perspectives. i think there are multiple et positions to take on the question of choice. that does feel different than this legislative chipping away as an established constitutional right. it's one thing to say i'm personally opposed to abortion. i would never seek an abortion. i would work to keep others from having an abortion in the sense of counseling and providing reproductive options. it's another thing to do this kind of -- what feels a back door constitutional thing.

    >> you're absolutely correct. there's to question about it on the surface it seems like womenwomen women 's rights are taking a step back. my understanding with north dakota specifically is if the governor signs this into law, it's still up to the population, meaning the people, to decide if this is constitutional or not. so you're allowing the individuals to make the ultimate decision. granted, this is a woman's right issue, but there's also a moral issue as a conservative that i have issues with.

    >> so let me make this point. if i'm standing on the side of believing that abortion is ethic ethically or morally wrong, then i may not care that the states are beginning to erode. so what there's a second amendment. we want the states to do the best we can to eliminate handguns. but we know. i hear you say there are state and constitutional rights . i cringe. we know the state right language was always about keeping people from having freedom.

    >> you're absolutely right. so it works both ways. you go back to precivil rights. state rights were all about oppression. so it's a very fine line , but at the end of the day , that's how our constitutional system is set up that states are in power and should be in power to make the decisions. the question becomes for a moral standpoint is whether they are so oppressive and demonizing to african-americans and women that the federal government should supersede that.

    >> so nancy , what states and voters can do, voters have turned back amendments every time they have an opportunity to.

    >> well, sure. they have. but we have to that's something the north dakota legislature put there and is on the the desk. and this is what the supreme court said looking at the issue. these decisions about your most personal life , these decisions about treated dignity in making, this is not for the same of north dakota or mississippi to vote away. i mean, the court said it is the promise of our constitutional that there's an area of life that the government may not enter. and decision about women 's body and held and the numbers facing children are part of the decision. sfl and this always feels shocking to me when i hear it from republicans. you want the state out. so why do you suddenly want it in? wii going to stay on this top iblg when we get back. after the break we'll add a couple more voices to this conversation. do


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