It only took state Sen. Charles Schwertner ten minutes of listening to testimony against anti-abortion bills before he broke a table.
Schwertner, the Republican chair of the Texas Senate's Committee on Health and Human Services, spent Wednesday morning introducing and defending a bill that would ban most women from donating fetal tissue from their abortions to science. His legislation was bundled with two other anti-abortion bills — one to throw out the safest abortion procedure for second-trimester pregnancies, the other to mandate all abortion remains are buried and cremated — penned by two other GOP senators, Charles Perry and Don Huffines.
After discussing the bills amongst themselves
, the committee opened the floor to three hours of public testimony — which started with a bang.
"I'm here on behalf of all absent women, families and doctors across the state whose lives will be negatively impacted by this bill," began the testimony of Maggie Hennessy, a UT student and intern with NARAL Pro-Choice Texas. She was the fourth person to speak (of more than 50).
Hennessy verbally shredded Sen. Huffines bill against second-trimester abortions. Her voice shook with anger as she scolded lawmakers for openly putting women in danger.
"Ms. Hennessy —" Schwertner interrupted a minute into her testimony. "Your time is done."
But Hennessy went on, saying, "I urge you to all stop playing with reproductive health care like it's your own political puppet." That's when Schwertner dropped the gavel — so hard that he shattered the glass table before him.
"Your time is done," he repeated.
That Schwertner broke a table while trying to silence a woman opposing a bill that would solely impact women is all the more jarring considering the events that grabbed headlines last week. During the February 8 confirmation hearing for now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell used an arcane senate rule to silence U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren's criticism of the former senator (which, perhaps to McConnell's chagrin, made her testimony go viral). Schwertner's reaction, coupled with McConnell's, sends a jolting message to Texas women.
And if Schwertner was really
table-breaking concerned about the time allotted for public testimony, he probably wouldn't have let the first speaker (and dozens after), a representative from the anti-abortion advocacy group Texas Right to Life, ramble on in support for twice as long as Hennessy was allowed to speak.