Texas finally passes nation’s most restrictive abortion law

Opponents and supporters of abortion rights rally in the State Capitol rotunda in Austin, Texas on Friday, July 12, 2013. The Texas Senate convened Friday afternoon to debate and ultimately vote on some of the nation's toughest abortion restrictions, its actions being watched by fervent demonstrators on either side of the issue. (AP Photo/Tamir Kalifa)

Opponents and supporters of abortion rights rally in the State Capitol rotunda in Austin, Texas on Friday. (AP Photo/Tamir Kalifa)

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.

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

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Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/cltomlinson

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Copyright  © 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Copyright  © 2013 Capitol Hill Blue

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7 Responses to "Texas finally passes nation’s most restrictive abortion law"

  1. Jon  July 15, 2013 at 12:58 am

    Unlimited do-overs with no penalty for failure?

    What’s not to like?

    J.

  2. Sandy Price  July 15, 2013 at 10:53 am

    I need someone to explain to me why abortion is such a threat to so many Americans. I’ve never heard of one women being forced against her will to have a surgical abortion. Birth control is much better and safer these days and the pill taken the morning after a rape should solve the problem.

    Young girls are sexually active at younger times in their lives and should have the birth control to protect them.

    We should never expect the government to take on social laws for women. Men should protect our young little girls.

    • Jon  July 15, 2013 at 10:00 pm

      It’s because pretty much all Christian religion is fundamentally anti-sex, particularly sex for fun.

      No sex outside marriage, and even there only for procreation.

      No abortions, because that means you had sex. No contraception, because that means you had sex. No homosexual activity – That’s sex! Et cetera.

      It’s all about punishing people for having sex.

      J.

      PS – Hi, Hal. J.

  3. Hal Brown  July 15, 2013 at 11:24 am

    This feel like I’m the screaming man trapped in the famous Edvard Munch painting.

    I won’t write the words I’m screaming.

    It seems almost too obvious to bother stating that the result of all these draconian abortion restrictions are unlikely to effect white people unless they are very poor. People who are able will simply get their abortions at the nearest clinic.

    It will be interesting to see what happens if these new state laws aren’t struck down in court. Will there be fewer unwanted pregnancies because women are more careful about contraception?

    Or will more women give birth? If so, how many will keep their babies? How many babies will be born with birth defects due to inadequate prenatal care? How many will be born to mothers with addictions? How many will be abused and neglected?

    How many of these children will end up in the foster care system because families don’t want to adopt non-white children or children born to mothers either with addictions or to mothers and fathers with low IQs?

  4. sherry  July 16, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    A few factoids, which may or may not be of interest to any one.
    Most countries in Europe ban abortions at 12 weeks. This is elective abortions, not those deemed medically necessary. Roe V Wade gives states the ability to regulate abortion, taking into account fetal viability. Babies as young as 22 weeks gestion are surviving.
    Seondly, abortion facilities are being treated as the surgical facilities they are which means they must meet hospital standards. There is no uniform code in most states, which means a facility may not even have a crash cart.
    Inspections are spotty.
    Lord knows I am no fan of Rick Perry and I completely understand his goal is to eliminate abortion completely. He cannot do this of course.
    Recognize that minimum standards for a surgical facility is not a bad thing. Most of these outpatient clinics serve the poorest among us. They deserve good care.
    Late term abortions are just barbaric. It’s not a religious thing. It’s called humanity.
    I have seen these ladies show up in my ER after a complicated abortion. Their anguish is just heartbreaking. More than a few feel as if some how they are being punished by the universe. I guess the clinics are not into counseling once the procedure is over. They are pretty much done.
    They deserve better. They should have it.

    • Anon E. Moose  July 18, 2013 at 2:53 am

      And you think someone using a coathanger in their bathtub will be an improvement?

  5. Sherry  July 18, 2013 at 6:23 am

    So you think under the threat of the coat hanger, we should have no regulations for abortion facilities?
    Sorry. Emotional blackmail doesn’t work for me.
    The poorest among us deserve better, and your comment tells me you don’t care about women or safety. You care about keeping the business as lucrative as possible. Sad.

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