Analysis Law and Policy

The Story of HB 2: How Multiple Failed Bills Became One Bad Law

Imani Gandy

Until now, attempts to track the legislative journey that ultimately led to the passage of one of the most restrictive anti-choice laws in the country would have been a daunting task. With the launch of Rewire’s interactive database, however, a picture of the long road to HB 2 begins to emerge.

In January 2013, during a speech at the Texas Alliance for Life rally, Republican Gov. Rick Perry set an agenda for the legislative session to come. “As supporters of life,” he said during his keynote address, “Texas will continue to take the necessary steps to protect unborn children who are capable of feeling pain, in hopes of one day making abortion at any stage a thing of the past.”

With those words, the 83rd legislative session, which would ultimately signal the death knell for abortion rights in Texas, was off to an inauspicious start.

Emboldened by Perry’s soaring declaration, Republicans, led by Rep. Jodie Laubenberg and Sen. Glenn Hegar—two staunch anti-choicers with ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)—introduced a seemingly relentless deluge of bills restricting abortion access. There were bills banning safe abortion at 20 weeks’ gestation based on junk science related to fetal pain; bills restricting medication abortion and banning telemedicine; bills imposing onerous TRAP (targeted regulation of abortion providers) requirements on providers of safe abortion care; bills banning “coerced” abortion; bills banning putative sex-selective abortions; and on and on.

The number of proposed bills was so staggering that, until now, attempts to track the legislative journey that ultimately led to the passage of one of the most restrictive anti-choice laws in the country, HB 2, would have been a daunting task. With the launch of Rewire’s interactive database, however, a picture of the long road to HB 2 begins to emerge. In particular, the chronology, when viewed in hindsight, suggests that anti-choicers used a strategy of swarming the capitol. They were able to pass this draconian law through a combination of tenacity, disregard of failure, and a belief that if they kept proposing anti-choice laws, eventually one would prevail.

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In addition, our analyses show that the key players in Texas’ path to HB 2 were deeply connected to conservative lobby groups like ALEC and Americans United for Life (AUL), which, as recently reported by Rewire, frequently hosts an exhibitor booth at ALEC conferences and offers a variety of model anti-choice legislation in its Defending Life compendium.

Many of the bills introduced during the infamous 83rd session of the Texas legislature failed and never saw the light of the day. That included a trio of marquee bills—a 20-week abortion ban, a bill to restrict medication abortion, and a TRAP law imposing admitting privileges requirements on doctors who provide abortions and requiring abortion facilities to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers—which were introduced time and again, and failed time and again.

Eventually, however, the provisions in this trio of bills were cemented into law by HB 2, notwithstanding a heroic filibuster by Sen. Wendy Davis, and a powerful surge of grassroots and online activism from pro-choice forces led by passionate Texas activists.

While HB 2 leapt to national attention with Davis’ filibuster in June, our research shows that the road to HB 2 actually began long before the 83rd legislative session was called to order.

In December 2012, Sen. Dan Patrick, one of Texas’ staunchest anti-choice legislators, pre-filed a bill, SB 97, that would require providers of early safe abortion care to follow the inferior and outdated Food and Drug Administration protocol for medication abortion, and would ban telemedicine—a procedure by which physicians use a remote-controlled system to see patients and dispense medication abortion pills.

In that particular incarnation, the bill failed to pass, but it was a harbinger of the oncoming anti-choice free-for-all; a new version of that bill would reappear months later in the midst of the summer melee.

Once the 83rd legislature was called into session, the onslaught of anti-choice legislation began in earnest.

In February 2013, Sen. Bob Deuell, a legislator who had ties to ALEC until he left the organization in 2012, introduced SB 537, a bill that would require abortion facilities to meet the standards of an ambulatory surgical center in order to be licensed by the state. Anti-choice legislators claimed this law was necessary to protect the health and safety of women when, in reality, because legal abortion in the United States is overwhelmingly safe, there is no medically accepted standard of care that requires such facilities for abortion care. That bill also failed, but like the telemedicine ban, it would be back in the near future.

In early March, Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, ALEC’s state chair, and Sen. Larry Taylor, another legislator with ties to ALEC until he left the group in 2012, introduced companion admitting privileges bills (HB 2816 and SB 1198) requiring doctors who provide abortions to maintain admitting privileges at a local hospital. These bills were also touted as necessary to protect the health and safety of women in Texas, though again, according to medical consensus, admitting privileges requirements provide no medical benefit. These bills also failed.

Also in early March, Rep. Laubenberg and Sen. Glenn Hegar introduced the “Preborn Pain Act” (HB 2364 and SB 25), which sought to ban safe abortion at 20 weeks’ gestation despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s clear ruling in Roe v. Wade that a woman has a constitutional right to choose an abortion up until the point of fetal viability, generally recognized as occurring at approximately 24 weeks of pregnancy. Once again, these bills failed to make it out of committee.

By the end of the regular session, nearly 20 anti-choice bills had been proposed. Each would make access to legal, safe abortion out of reach for thousands of women in Texas by imposing medically unnecessary abortion restrictions designed to discourage women from seeking safe abortion care and to make it virtually impossible for abortion clinics to continue providing such care. And while each had failed, they would soon lay the groundwork for a super-bill that effectively made abortion inaccessible—though not illegal—in most of Texas.

Democrats, however, were feeling victorious, believing that they had been able to stave off the passage of these bills.

“Democrats stuck together very well this session and made strong arguments and strong advocacy on behalf of a woman’s right to choose,” said Sen. Kirk Watson in an interview with the San Antonio Express News. “Just this week, I’ve had pressure from leadership pushing to bring up bills in an almost threatening way, and we have stood up to that. … Now we’re at the end of the session, and they’re dead.”

But they weren’t—not by a long shot.

After the end of the regular legislative session, Gov. Perry called a special legislative session to begin on May 27, so that lawmakers could consider redistricting measures. (It was one of three special sessions that Gov. Perry would call by the end of the summer of 2013.) Unwilling to give up the chance to regulate safe abortion care out of existence, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst penned a letter to Gov. Perry, asking Perry to include legislation “protecting the rights of preborn Texans and ensuring access to safe health care at appropriately regulated facilities” in his call for a special session. Gov. Perry obliged.

Undaunted by their failures during the regular session, anti-choice legislators set about reintroducing almost every anti-choice bill that had previously failed.

Rep. Laubenberg and Sen. Glenn Hegar reintroduced the “Preborn Pain Act” under new bill numbers—HB 16 and SB 13—on May 28 and 29, respectively, even though the very same bill had failed just three months earlier. On June 5, Sen. Bob Deuell introduced SB 24, a bill identical to SB 537, his failed attempt to require abortion facilities to meet the licensing standards for ambulatory surgical centers. And on June 11, Rep. Laubenberg introduced HB 57, a repeat of her failed attempt to force doctors to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital.

On June 12, the super-bill emerged: SB 5, a sweeping anti-choice bill authored by Sen. Hegar and sponsored by Rep. Laubenberg, was introduced. The super-bill (and its companion bill, HB 60, authored by Rep. Laubenberg) combined three of the worst of the failed proposed bills—a 20-week ban, medication abortion restrictions, and TRAP law requirements—into one blockbuster multi-subject bill, known as an omnibus bill.

The introduction of SB 5 led to the historic filibuster by Wendy Davis on June 25, during which pro-choice activists gathered at the Capitol rotunda in Austin to provide testimony opposing the bill and to cheer on Davis as she stood against the bill for 11 hours. Despite attempts by Texas Republicans to pass the bill minutes after the first special session had already drawn to a close at midnight on June 25, Democrats in Texas once again emerged victorious. SB 5 was dead.

That victory, however, was to be short-lived.

The next day, on June 26, Gov. Perry announced that he would be calling a second special legislative session. “Through their duly elected representatives, the citizens of our state have made crystal clear their priorities for our great state,” Perry declared. “Texans value life and want to protect women and the unborn.”

On June 28, Rep. Laubenberg introduced HB 2, a bill virtually identical to the one Sen. Davis had thwarted three days prior. A day after that, Sen. Hegar introduced SB 1, a companion bill to HB 2. And three weeks later, on July 18, 2013, Gov. Perry signed HB 2 into law, thus dismantling Texas women’s constitutional right to choose whether to continue a pregnancy.

Gov. Perry called a third special session so lawmakers could consider funding of transportation infrastructure policy. A handful of anti-choice bills were introduced in that session, but none of them passed. Rep. Phil King, who currently sits on ALEC’s board of directors, introduced HB 59, a heartbeat bill that would ban safe abortion after 12 weeks’ gestation. Eddie Lucio Jr., a Democrat and former member of ALEC, introduced a pair of bills that would require women to complete an adoption course before getting an abortion.

While each of those bills failed, no victory for Texas women could be claimed. The damage had been done. Gov. Perry, who had set out to make safe abortion in Texas a thing of the past, was well on his way to accomplishing his goal.

Analysis Abortion

Legislators Have Introduced 445 Provisions to Restrict Abortion So Far This Year

Elizabeth Nash & Rachel Benson Gold

So far this year, legislators have introduced 1,256 provisions relating to sexual and reproductive health and rights. However, states have also enacted 22 measures this year designed to expand access to reproductive health services or protect reproductive rights.

So far this year, legislators have introduced 1,256 provisions relating to sexual and reproductive health and rights. Of these, 35 percent (445 provisions) sought to restrict access to abortion services. By midyear, 17 states had passed 46 new abortion restrictions.

Including these new restrictions, states have adopted 334 abortion restrictions since 2010, constituting 30 percent of all abortion restrictions enacted by states since the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade in 1973. However, states have also enacted 22 measures this year designed to expand access to reproductive health services or protect reproductive rights.

Mid year state restrictions


Signs of Progress

The first half of the year ended on a high note, with the U.S. Supreme Court handing down the most significant abortion decision in a generation. The Court’s ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt struck down abortion restrictions in Texas requiring abortion facilities in the state to convert to the equivalent of ambulatory surgical centers and mandating that abortion providers have admitting privileges at a local hospital; these two restrictions had greatly diminished access to services throughout the state (see Lessons from Texas: Widespread Consequences of Assaults on Abortion Access). Five other states (Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Virginia) have similar facility requirements, and the Texas decision makes it less likely that these laws would be able to withstand judicial scrutiny (see Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers). Nineteen other states have abortion facility requirements that are less onerous than the ones in Texas; the fate of these laws in the wake of the Court’s decision remains unclear. 

Ten states in addition to Texas had adopted hospital admitting privileges requirements. The day after handing down the Texas decision, the Court declined to review lower court decisions that have kept such requirements in Mississippi and Wisconsin from going into effect, and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) announced that he would not enforce the state’s law. As a result of separate litigation, enforcement of admitting privileges requirements in Kansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma is currently blocked. That leaves admitting privileges in effect in Missouri, North Dakota, Tennessee and Utah; as with facility requirements, the Texas decision will clearly make it harder for these laws to survive if challenged.

More broadly, the Court’s decision clarified the legal standard for evaluating abortion restrictions. In its 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, the Court had said that abortion restrictions could not impose an undue burden on a woman seeking to terminate her pregnancy. In Whole Woman’s Health, the Court stressed the importance of using evidence to evaluate the extent to which an abortion restriction imposes a burden on women, and made clear that a restriction’s burdens cannot outweigh its benefits, an analysis that will give the Texas decision a reach well beyond the specific restrictions at issue in the case.

As important as the Whole Woman’s Health decision is and will be going forward, it is far from the only good news so far this year. Legislators in 19 states introduced a bevy of measures aimed at expanding insurance coverage for contraceptive services. In 13 of these states, the proposed measures seek to bolster the existing federal contraceptive coverage requirement by, for example, requiring coverage of all U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved methods and banning the use of techniques such as medical management and prior authorization, through which insurers may limit coverage. But some proposals go further and plow new ground by mandating coverage of sterilization (generally for both men and women), allowing a woman to obtain an extended supply of her contraceptive method (generally up to 12 months), and/or requiring that insurance cover over-the-counter contraceptive methods. By July 1, both Maryland and Vermont had enacted comprehensive measures, and similar legislation was pending before Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R). And, in early July, Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) signed a measure into law allowing women to obtain a year’s supply of their contraceptive method.


But the Assault Continues

Even as these positive developments unfolded, the long-standing assault on sexual and reproductive health and rights continued apace. Much of this attention focused on the release a year ago of a string of deceptively edited videos designed to discredit Planned Parenthood. The campaign these videos spawned initially focused on defunding Planned Parenthood and has grown into an effort to defund family planning providers more broadly, especially those who have any connection to abortion services. Since last July, 24 states have moved to restrict eligibility for funding in several ways:

  • Seventeen states have moved to limit family planning providers’ eligibility for reimbursement under Medicaid, the program that accounts for about three-fourths of all public dollars spent on family planning. In some cases, states have tried to exclude Planned Parenthood entirely from such funding. These attacks have come via both administrative and legislative means. For instance, the Florida legislature included a defunding provision in an omnibus abortion bill passed in March. As the controversy grew, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency that administers Medicaid, sent a letter to state officials reiterating that federal law prohibits them from discriminating against family planning providers because they either offer abortion services or are affiliated with an abortion provider (see CMS Provides New Clarity For Family Planning Under Medicaid). Most of these state attempts have been blocked through legal challenges. However, a funding ban went into effect in Mississippi on July 1, and similar measures are awaiting implementation in three other states.
  • Fourteen states have moved to restrict family planning funds controlled by the state, with laws enacted in four states. The law in Kansas limits funding to publicly run programs, while the law in Louisiana bars funding to providers who are associated with abortion services. A law enacted in Wisconsin directs the state to apply for federal Title X funding and specifies that if this funding is obtained, it may not be distributed to family planning providers affiliated with abortion services. (In 2015, New Hampshire moved to deny Title X funds to Planned Parenthood affiliates; the state reversed the decision in 2016.) Finally, the budget adopted in Michigan reenacts a provision that bars the allocation of family planning funds to organizations associated with abortion. Notably, however, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) vetoed a similar measure.
  • Ten states have attempted to bar family planning providers’ eligibility for related funding, including monies for sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment, prevention of interpersonal violence, and prevention of breast and cervical cancer. In three of these states, the bans are the result of legislative action; in Utah, the ban resulted from action by the governor. Such a ban is in effect in North Carolina; the Louisiana measure is set to go into effect in August. Implementation of bans in Ohio and Utah has been blocked as a result of legal action.


The first half of 2016 was also noteworthy for a raft of attempts to ban some or all abortions. These measures fell into four distinct categories:

  • By the end of June, four states enacted legislation to ban the most common method used to perform abortions during the second trimester. The Mississippi and West Virginia laws are in effect; the other two have been challenged in court. (Similar provisions enacted last year in Kansas and Oklahoma are also blocked pending legal action.)
  • South Carolina and North Dakota both enacted measures banning abortion at or beyond 20 weeks post-fertilization, which is equivalent to 22 weeks after the woman’s last menstrual period. This brings to 16 the number of states with these laws in effect (see State Policies on Later Abortions).
  • Indiana and Louisiana adopted provisions banning abortions under specific circumstances. The Louisiana law banned abortions at or after 20 weeks post-fertilization in cases of diagnosed genetic anomaly; the law is slated to go into effect on August 1. Indiana adopted a groundbreaking measure to ban abortion for purposes of race or sex selection, in cases of a genetic anomaly, or because of the fetus’ “color, national origin, or ancestry”; enforcement of the measure is blocked pending the outcome of a legal challenge.
  • Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) vetoed a sweeping measure that would have banned all abortions except those necessary to protect the woman’s life.


In addition, 14 states (Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah) enacted other types of abortion restrictions during the first half of the year, including measures to impose or extend waiting periods, restrict access to medication abortion, and establish regulations on abortion clinics.

Zohra Ansari-Thomas, Olivia Cappello, and Lizamarie Mohammed all contributed to this analysis.

News Abortion

Pennsylvania’s TRAP Law Could Be the Next to Go Down

Teddy Wilson

The Democrats' bill would repeal language from a measure that targets abortion clinics, forcing them to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical facilities.

A Pennsylvania lawmaker on Wednesday introduced a bill that would repeal a state law requiring abortion clinics to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical facilities (ASF). The bill comes in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking down a similar provision in Texas’ anti-choice omnibus law known as HB 2.

A similar so-called targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) law was passed in Pennsylvania in 2011 with bipartisan majorities in both the house and state senate, and was signed into law by former Gov. Tom Corbett (R).

SB 1350, sponsored by Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) would repeal language from Act 122 that requires abortion clinics to meet ASF regulations. The text of the bill has not yet been posted on the state’s legislative website.

The bill is co-sponsored by state Sens. Art Haywood (D-Philadelphia), Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia), and Judy Schwank (D-Berks).

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Leach said in a statement that there has been a “nationwide attack on patients and their doctors,” but that the Supreme Court’s ruling upholds the constitutionally protected right to terminate a pregnancy.

“Abortion is a legal, Constitutionally-protected right that should be available to all women,” Leach said. “Every member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly swore an oath to support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States, so we must act swiftly to repeal this unconstitutional requirement.”

TRAP laws, which single out abortion clinics and providers and subject them to regulations that are more stringent than those applied to medical clinics, have been passed in several states in recent years.

However, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt that struck down two of the provisions in HB 2 has already had ramifications on similar laws passed in other states with GOP-held legislatures.

The Supreme Court blocked similar anti-choice laws in Wisconsin and Mississippi, and Alabama’s attorney general announced he would drop an appeal to a legal challenge of a similar law.