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Texas Senate passes new abortion restrictions

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AP

A supporter an abortion bill reads the Bible while in line outside the Texas Senate chambers as he final vote by the Senate is expected to begin, July 12, 2013, in Austin, Texas. The bill would only allow abortions in surgical centers, dictate when abortion pills are taken and ban abortions after 20 weeks.

Updated Saturday, July 13, 2013 | 4:30 p.m.

Texas Abortion Vote

Hundreds wait in line to enter the Senate gallery at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas, Friday, July 12, 2013. The Texas Senate leader, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, has scheduled a vote for Friday on the same restrictions on when, where and how women may obtain abortions in Texas that failed to become law after a Democratic filibuster and raucous protesters were able to run out the clock on an earlier special session. Launch slideshow »

AUSTIN, Texas — Republican lawmakers in Texas passed a bill that would give the state some of the nation's most restrictive abortion laws and force most of its clinics to close, leading Democrats to promise a fight over the contentious measure in the courts and at the ballot box.

More than 2,000 demonstrators filled the Capitol building in Austin to voice their opposition to the bill, including six protesters who were dragged out of the Senate chamber by state troopers for trying to disrupt the debate. The Republican majority passed the bill unchanged late Friday — just before midnight — with all but one Democrat voting against it.

"Today the Texas Legislature took its final step in our historic effort to protect life," said Gov. Rick Perry, who will sign the bill into law in the next few days. "This legislation builds on the strong and unwavering commitment we have made to defend life and protect women's health."

Democrats promised a legal challenge to the measure, which will ban abortions after 20 weeks, require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and require all abortions to take place in surgical centers. Only five of Texas' 42 existing abortion clinics meet the requirements to be a surgical center, and clinic owners say they cannot afford to upgrade or relocate.

"There will be a lawsuit. I promise you," Dallas Sen. Royce West said on the Senate floor, raising his right hand as if taking an oath.

Perry said Saturday afternoon that the bill would withstand court challenges.

"We wouldn't have passed it if we didn't think it was constitutional," the Republican governor said.

Democrats proposed 20 amendments to the bill, including making exceptions in cases of rape and incest and allowing doctors more leeway in prescribing abortion-inducing drugs. But Republicans would have none of it.

The bill is one of many championed in Republican-led states this year by anti-abortion groups set on challenging the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling, which established a woman's right to get an abortion until the point in which a fetus could viably survive outside the womb. A fetus is generally considered viable at 22 to 24 weeks.

Texas falls under the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has shown a willingness to accept more stringent limits on abortions.

By passing the new restrictions, Republicans pleased the Christian conservatives who make up the majority of primary voters. But they inspired abortion-rights supporters to protest at the state Capitol in numbers not seen in Texas in at least 20 years.

Demonstrators packed normally boring committee hearings to voice their anger over the abortion bill and managed to disrupt key votes. They finished a lengthy filibuster by Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis, of Fort Worth, by jeering for the last 15 minutes of the first special legislative session, effectively killing the bill.

That's when Perry called lawmakers back for round two. But opponents said the fight is far from over and used the popular anger to register and organize Democratic voters.

"Let's make sure that tonight is not an ending point, it's a beginning point for our future, our collective futures, as we work to take this state back," Davis told 2,000 adoring supporters after the bill passed.

The Texas Republican Party, meanwhile, celebrated what they consider to be a major victory that makes Texas "a nationwide leader in pro-life legislation."

"As Democrats continue to talk about their dreams of turning Texas blue, passage of (the bill) is proof that Texans are conservative and organized and we look forward to working with our amazing Republican leadership in the Texas Legislature as they finish the special session strong," a party statement said.

Friday's debate took place before a packed gallery of demonstrators, with anti-abortion activists wearing blue and abortion-rights supporters wearing orange. Security was tight, and state troopers reported confiscating bottles of urine and feces as they worked to prevent another attempt to stop the Republican majority from passing the proposal.

Those arrested or removed from the chamber included four women who tried to chain themselves to a railing in the gallery while singing, "All we are saying is give choice a chance." One of the women was successful in chaining herself, leading to a 10-minute recess.

Sen. Glen Hegar of Katy, the bill's Republican author, argued that all abortions, including those induced with medications, should take place in an ambulatory surgical center in case of complications.

Democrats pointed out that childbirth is more dangerous than an abortion and there have been no serious problems with women taking abortion drugs at home.

Cecile Richards, the daughter of former Gov. Anne Richards and president of Planned Parenthood, said Texas Republicans and abortion opponents won this political round — but it could cost them down the road.

"All they have done is built a committed group of people across this state who are outraged about the treatment of women and the lengths to which this Legislature will go to take women's health care away," she said.

The dedication of those activists will be tested during the 2014 elections. Democrats have not won a statewide seat in Texas since 1994, the longest such losing streak in the nation.

Associated Press writer David Warren contributed to this report from West.

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  1. If men and women in this country are suppopsed to have equal rights, then the most basic of those are to decide what to do with their own reproductive organs. When we pass laws that restrict one gender's ability to choose what to do with their own body, then they automatically have less rights than the other gender and are no longer equal. Women become less equal than men. Orwell's Animal Farm becomes real. And the inevitable conclusion is a purely unamerican one and must be avoided. True conservatives that believe in limited governmant and liberty would never agree to governmental seizure of the right to be secure in our own bodies.

  2. Not surprising since dumb Rick Perry made a fool of himself during the presidential campaign. Except for Austin, Texas is Redneck Hell. So think twice before you decide to relocate to Texas. I know, I worked there for 20 years. Your daughters will become knocked up dumbbells and her "boyfriend" will disappear in a heartbeat. Something about the South..

  3. "William Hill what's un-American is killing a baby at 20 weeks."

    chuck -- unless you have a womb or your seed is cooking in one, your post is irrelevant. You should review Roe v. Wade and its spawn for enlightenment.

    "W Hill with all due respect this isn't just about what the woman does with her body. This is about what happens to another life."

    Heretic -- since that's essentially a parasite growing in a woman's body, yes it is. Same advice to you as chuck

    "Not surprising since dumb Rick Perry made a fool of himself during the presidential campaign. Except for Austin, Texas is Redneck Hell."

    doogie -- it's the truth! That entire Republican campaign beginning with Perry's rally was like an extended tent revival

    "In no other case do we make people use their bodies to sustain the life of another."

    ShannonK -- very good point. So many posting on topics like this haven't bothered to read Roe v. Wade. It was about privacy more than it was about abortion.

    "If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament." -- Florynce Kennedy (1916-2000), civil rights activist and attorney

  4. If contraceptives had been dropped over Vietnam, the Catholic Church would have protested vigorously. However, it was only napalm being dropped.

    War is the act of aborting the lives of young adult soldiers and innocent civilians before their lives have come to fruition.

    Look at all the Texans who cheered for the useless Iraq war, who made money off the death of innocents and who now claim they are "pro-life". What a laugh.