Capital Tonight: Looking ahead to the fight over abortion law

Now that the attorney general’s office has filed a motion to reverse a federal court’s ruling against tighter abortion restrictions, the next decision is in the hands of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In Tuesday’s Capital Tonight, we look back at the state’s record of success with the appeals court, and look ahead to where the fight is likely headed from there. 


New fundraising numbers are out this week from groups working to get the word out about Proposition 6. The Water Texas PAC has raised a total of $2.1 million, adding more than a million to what it raised in the last filing period.

It’s a good sign for supporters of the ballot initiative, but some groups are raising questions about where the support is coming from and why. We sat down with Andrew Wheat with the watchdog group Texans for Public Justice to look at the bigger picture.


Conservative business owners, faith leaders and policymakers met Tuesday in Washington to try to revive immigration reform efforts. We checked in on where the issue stands now.

Reaction mixed over abortion ruling

The political reaction was quick to today’s court ruling that parts of the state’s abortion law are unconsitutional.

Republican Gov. Rick Perry indicated the abortion debate does not end with Monday’s decision.

“Today’s decision will not stop our ongoing efforts to protect life and ensure the women of our state aren’t exposed to any more of the abortion-mill horror stories that have made headlines recently,” the governor said in a press release. “We will continue fighting to implement the laws passed by the duly-elected officials of our state, laws that reflect the will and values of Texans.”

Democratic State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio also issued a statement soon after the ruling.

“I’m grateful that a Texas court agreed today that House Bill 2 would have had harmful effects on women’s access to care and affirmed that the Republican-controlled Legislature went too far in its attacks on women” she said. Van de Putte is considering a run for lieutenant governor.

Judge: Parts of Texas abortion law unconstitutional

A federal judge has ruled that parts of the state’s new abortion law are unconstitutional, meaning they won’t go into effect Tuesday as planned.

District Judge Lee Yeakel made the ruling today.

His decision follows a three-day trial over the law, which requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and regulates the way doctors can administer abortion-inducing drugs. Lawyers for Planned Parenthood argued that the regulations would shut down a third of the abortion clinics in Texas. The state has argued that the law protects women and the life of the fetus.

The attorney general’s office is expected to file an appeal to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Capital Tonight: High-profile hearings reflect larger political battles

A Texas House panel has begun hearing witness testimony in an investigation that could lead to the first impeachment of a non-elected official in state history. The transparency committee is investigating University of Texas Regent Wallace Hall, following accusations from lawmakers that he overstepped the authority of his office in an effort to oust UT Austin President Bill Powers.

Meanwhile, a hearing of a different sort continued in federal court. Women’s health groups are suing the state to stop the enforcement of some provisions of a new, stricter abortion law.


Both cases tie into longstanding political battles — whether it’s abortion, the upcoming governor’s race or the power struggle over UT Austin’s leadership. Our Capital Commentators, Harold Cook and Ted Delisi, joined us to talk about the larger implications.



New unemployment numbers are out from the Labor Department, and while they show slight improvement, many economists worry they’re a sign of a sluggish economy. Plus, our Washington bureau checks in on impending cuts to food stamp programs.

Capital Tonight: Voter ID, abortion laws face new tests

One of the most controversial laws passed this legislative session saw its first day in court Monday. Women’s groups are challenging House Bill 2, which enacts some of the strictest abortion laws in the country.

In Monday’s Capital Tonight, we heard from the plaintiffs about why they believe the law should be put on hold, and why state attorneys say their case is strong. Plus, we spoke to county election officials about how the newly implemented voter ID law will work at ground level.


We’ve talked a lot about the water initiative known as Proposition 6 leading up to the Nov. 5 election, but there are other measures to consider, including one constitutional amendment that could drastically change the process of home ownership among our aging population. We sat down with Scott Norman of Texans for Proposition 5 about why he supports the measure.


The government shutdown is over, but another federal hangup continues. The website where people can shop for health insurance is still seeing heavy delays, a problem for which President Barack Obama says there’s no excuse. We heard from the president about what’s being done to fix it, and got an update from local enrollment organizers about how the effort is going closer to home.

Women’s groups sue over abortion legislation

More than a dozen women’s health providers are suing to block key provisions of a controversial new abortion bill. Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed their challenge Friday in an Austin federal court. The plaintiffs claim stricter regulations enacted last legislative session are unconstitutional and “dramatically reduce women’s ability to access safe and legal abortion in Texas.”

The plaintiffs are attempting to specifically block two provisions of Texas House Bill 2. Those include a requirement that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and restrictions on the use of abortion medication. This lawsuit does not challenge the requirement that abortion clinics be upgrades to surgical center standards or the ban on abortion after 20 weeks.

In a statement, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said:

“We’re in court today to stop a terrible situation for women in Texas from getting even worse. Politicians are interfering with the personal medical decisions of women who already have the least access to birth control and preventive health care. If this law goes into effect, there is no doubt it will end access to safe and legal abortion for many women, leaving some to resort to desperate and dangerous measures. We won’t let that happen.”

Attorney General Greg Abbott has not yet responded to the lawsuit.



Wendy Davis responds to abortion bill signing

Shortly after Gov. Rick Perry signed a controversial abortion bill into law, Sen. Wendy Davis released a statement calling the move a potential turning point for voters.

“When Governor Perry signed the bill, he signaled a clear break with Texas families. Governor Perry and other state leaders have now taken sides and chosen narrow partisan special interests over mothers, daughters, sisters and every Texan who puts the health of their family, the well-being of their neighbors, and the future of Texas ahead of politics and personal ambitions.”

Sen. Davis played a key role in delaying the bill during the first special session. Her nearly 11-hour filibuster helped push a final vote past the midnight deadline, forcing Gov. Perry to call a second special session.

Planned Parenthood calls abortion legislation ‘devastating’

Planned Parenthood and other women’s groups have been staunchly opposed to the new abortion regulations. Cecile Richards, who is the President of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, traveled to Austin to attend several of the protests and to observe the action on the House and Senate floors. She issued this statement: 

“The bill signed into law by Governor Perry today makes a terrible situation for women’s health even worse. Already, Rick Perry and other politicians have cut more than 130,000 Texas women off from basic preventive health care, including lifesaving cancer screenings and well-woman check-ups, and this new law will severely limit access to safe and legal abortion, which will cause women to resort to desperate and dangerous measures. These relentless attacks on women’s health have a devastating impact on women who already have the least access to health care.

“Doctors oppose this law because they know it will hurt their patients, and the public overwhelmingly opposes these attacks on women’s health. In Texas alone, 80 percent of voters oppose special session passage of the bill Governor Perry signed today, which is why the governor and his allies had to break the rules and shut down the democratic process to push this through the State Legislature.

“The fight over this law will move to the courts, while the bigger fight for women’s access to health care in Texas gains steam. 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.”


Perry signs controversial abortion reform bill

Gov. Rick Perry has signed into law new stricter abortion regulations. Among other things, the law will ban abortion after 20 weeks and require upgrades to existing abortion clinics.

Clinics have until September of 2014 to transform their operations into surgical centers. Opponents say the expensive upgrades, along with a component of the bill requiring doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, will force all but five of the state’s 42 existing clinics to close.

Supporters of the legislation have maintained that the regulations will help improve safety and women’s health. “This is an important day for those who support life and for those who support the health of Texas women,” said Gov. Perry.

The abortion legislation has sparked weeks of protests at the State Capitol. Lawmakers failed to pass the bill during the first special session. Sen. Wendy Davis’ 11 hour filibuster and outbursts from the Senate gallery pushed the vote past the midnight deadline. Republicans were able to easily push the through legislation last week. The law officially takes effect in October.


Capital Tonight: Legal challenge brewing on eve of abortion bill signing


Gov. Rick Perry has announced he will sign stricter abortion regulations into law Thursday, just plans for legal ramifications are taking shape.

Terri Burke of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas says the group is considering including Texas as part of its nationwide response to abortion legislation. We spoke to Burke about what the legal action might look like.


The State Board of Education is meeting this week for the first time since lawmakers passed new curriculum and testing changes. We spoke to SBOE Vice Chair Thomas Ratliff about how the board is dealing with the changes and what they plan to do about the loss of CSCOPE.


And in Washington, lawmakers are taking the first steps toward updating the Voting Rights Act. Click the image below to hear the latest on their efforts, plus commentary from two former lawmakers about its impact here at home.