House committee advances anti-abortion bills, including ones aimed at outlawing the procedure in Texas

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Information and diagrams inside a medical room at a Planned Parenthood in south Austin in 2020. Credit: Eddie Gaspar/The Texas Tribune

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House lawmakers on Thursday advanced a package of restrictive abortion bills that, if passed, could ban abortions as early as six weeks without exceptions for rape or incest, and eventually bar the procedure almost entirely.

Abortion rights advocates and experts say the legislation includes some of the most extreme provisions nationwide, and seems designed to challenge the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that established a legal right to an abortion.

The bills — approved by a House committee after a hearing last week — include proposals to ban some later-term abortions allowed now in the case of severe fetal abnormalities. Others would amount to a “complete ban” on abortions in 2025 or if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. And legal language packed into House Bill 1515 could open the door for abortion providers — or anyone who “aids or abets” someone getting an abortion in violation of state laws — to be hit with an onslaught of harassing lawsuits, critics and experts say.

Unlike most committee hearings, video of the votes was not viewable online, but the actions were confirmed with the office of the committee's chair.

The bills now head to the full House for debate. Versions already passed by the Senate are also pending. Each measure will need to be approved by both chambers before becoming law.

While similar measures sailed through the Senate, provisions — especially those in HB 1515, a “heartbeat bill” — drew incredulity from Democratic lawmakers in the House committee. The legislation could ban abortions at six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant; most abortions are currently prohibited in Texas after 20 weeks.