On Wednesday, Texas State Senator Charles Schwertner accidentally smashed a glass table with his gavel while attempting to silence an intern from NARAL Pro-Choice Texas during her testimony against an anti-abortion bill.
Maggie Hennessy, the 24-year-old intern, was testifying against Senate Bill 415 which would limit physicians’ abilities to perform dilation and evacuation procedures (also known as D&E, but referred in the bill as “dismemberment”). This procedure is the safest form of second-trimester abortion and is used in almost all cases.
“Senate Bill 415 is not designed to protect women’s health and will have the result of harming women in Texas,” Hennessy said in her two-minute testimony. “A vote in favor of this bill is a vote against women’s health... Considering Texas has the highest maternal mortality rate in the United States ― a rate so high that it is even comparable to rates in countries where abortion is illegal ― I have to ask how, how will this bill do anything but further increase that rate?”
Hennessy was finishing her testimony ― a few seconds over the time limit ― with a powerful message: “I urge you all to stop playing with reproductive health care as if it’s your own political puppet.”
Sen. Schwertner attempted to stop her by thanking her and telling her her time was up.
As Hennessy finished her statement, Sen. Schwertner slammed his gavel so hard he cracked the glass table. The entire room went silent and the Senator gave Hennessy a stern look.
The smashed glass is not visible in the video of the hearing, but Communications Director of NARAL Texas Alex Garcia-Ditta, who was at the hearing, tweeted a photo of the table.
Sen. Schwertner appeared to reserve his irritation at those going over the allotted testimony time for Hennessy. Other testimonies went over time, but the senator did not use his gavel and even allowed the president of Texas Alliance for Life to extend his statement.
A spokesperson for Sen. Schwertner told Cosmopolitan that the senator hit the table accidentally because he was simply trying “to run an orderly meeting,” and, “the reality is he’s got a little gavel block, and he hit the glass instead of hitting the sounder.”
In a statement sent to The Huffington Post, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas Heather Busby reflected on the hearing and what the three anti-abortion bills, if passed, would mean for women.
Today’s hearing revealed once again that anti-choice politicians continue to rely on ideologues and scare tactics to peddle these baseless measures. The hearing also revealed no regard for the dignity of pregnant Texans or the legal system. All of the bills heard by the Senate today are thinly veiled attempts to ban abortion. Banning the safest methods of abortion does nothing to enhance patients’ health and safety; in fact, banning abortion methods puts people’s lives at risk. There is no room for politicians in the exam room.
“I don’t know why he banged [the gavel] so aggressively,” Hennessy told Cosmo. “He just clearly was rattled by it... I’m not scared by it. It encourages me to keep fighting this good fight.”
The Huffington Post reached out to Schwertner’s office but did not hear back by the time of publication.
Watch the full hearing here.