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Senate Hearings on TX Abortion Bill Recommence, Anti-Choice Protesters Allegedly Bused In

Monday morning, the State Senate's Health and Human Services committee, chaired by Sen. Jane Nelson, began meeting in the Senate Finance room to hear testimony on SB 1, the latest and least-greatest iteration of the Republicans' back-door abortion ban in Texas.

Pro-choice advocates asked folks to arrive as early as 7:00 a.m., in order to have enough people seated in the hearing and witnesses signed up to testify early in the hearing — in case it is cut off.

Additionally, emails have been going around that claim that if you are not testifying, you should not show up. This is not true. Anyone who can come by the Capitol tomorrow to sign a paper card against this bill is encouraged to do so. It won't take even an hour of your time.

If you're attending the hearing, expect a long wait, a crowded room, and a bunch of anti-choicers looking to cause problems. As Shelby Alexander detailed over the weekend, the anti-choice crowd is busing people in from out of state.

How long will the hearing last?

Good question! It's not clear. The Senate rules say that everyone must be given a "reasonable opportunity" to speak, but that's not defined. If hundreds of folks sign in, Chairwoman Nelson could let them all talk, or she could curtail testimony at some point. I've heard rumors that she's just going to let it go as long as people want to talk.

Let's be clear: there are still over two weeks left in this special session, so there's no reason the GOP needs to speed this up. Shutting down citizen testimony gets really bad press and angers people. She may let it go all night.

Will witnesses be called in any sort of order?

Again, the answer here isn't clear. I'd go with "Yes, sort of." Invited testimony will go first, and then usually witnesses are called in the order in which their cards were turned in. However, there is no rule that requires this.

Where can I sit?

There will be overflow rooms for anyone who cannot get into the main hearing room. They are the Capitol Auditorium, E1.004, E1.012 (Hearing Room), E1.016 (Hearing Room), and E1.028 (Hearing Room).

What do I fill out to register my opposition to SB 1?

Instead of using an online registration system like what was used in the House, the Senate uses paper cards. Here's an example of what one looks like and how to fill it in if you are submitting oral and written testimony:

 

There will be orange-clad volunteers there to help if you have questions.

What should I say?

Heather Busby, the ED of NARAL Texas, posted this helpful advice on Facebook:

1. Be respectful.
2. Keep it to 2 minutes (they're strict about that). Practice in advance.
3. Speak from the heart.
4. Lead with "My name is __ and I live in _____, TX and I'm here to testify against SB1." Other than that, don't waste those precious 120 seconds on personal details about yourself. Get to the point right away!
5. Finish your sentence when your 2 minutes are up and say "thank you."
6. Bring 20 copies to turn in if you have to leave before you're called/you miss your name being called & get skipped. You can also just submit written testimony.

If you cannot wait all day to speak, you can also print and bring 20 copies of your testimony to turn in, in order to register your opposition.

What's Up With Those Anti-Choice Folks? Are They Trying to Cause a Ruckus?

I don't know what's up with them, BUT there are reports that the anti-choice contingent will be looking to start altercations with pro-choice folks to disseminate to the media to make their opposition look bad.

Again, from Heather Busby:

We would also like to ask that, if you're going to be joining us at the Capitol on Monday, please treat the opposition with as much neutrality as you possibly can. A lot of these folks are going to be veterans at counter-protesting, abortion clinic picketing, and other practices designed to get under our skin and make us react in ways that don't help us represent our cause. They will be there to try to control the story, but we don't have to let them!

If anyone is upsetting you or seems to be acting out of the ordinary, look for folks in orange t-shirts with yellow arm bands and alert them. Try to avoid walking around alone — practice the buddy system.

Most importantly, pay attention to your gut — if something doesn't "seem right," tell a volunteer or organizer.

The Austin chapter of NOW also has a really great explainer on how to handle the opposition tomorrow.

Bottom line: don't engage them. Don't take their bait.

What Else Can I Read To Prep For Today?

Jessica Luther has the best explainer on this that I've seen so far. It is super thorough.

Non Sequiteuse has a great post about why it's not worth our time to try and engage the other side. (Ask yourself, can they change YOUR mind?) 

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