Texas house provisionally approves abortion law

Texas house provisionally approves abortion law
Opponents of HB 2, an abortion bill, yell outside the Texas House after the bill passed, Tuesday, July 9, 2013, in Austin, Texas. Photo: AP
Final, formal vote on tough new abortion restrictions due later today
Published: 5:58 PM, July 10, 2013
Updated: 10:20 AM, July 11, 2013
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AUSTIN (Texas) — The Texas House yesterday night (July 9) provisionally approved tough new abortion restrictions, making good on a third attempt to pass the measure this year.

Activists on both sides of the issue from across the state and nation descended on the Capitol building, and the demonstrators erupted into screams, cheers and chants immediately following the vote.

Lawmakers debated for more than 10 hours yesterday, before voting on the Republicans’ signature legislation. They approved the bill mainly along party lines.

A final, formal vote is scheduled for today. The measure will then go to the Senate, where the Republican majority is also expected to approve the bill.

Republican Rep Jody Laubenberg of Parker outlined the bill that would require doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, only allow abortions in surgical centers, dictate when abortion pills are taken and ban abortions after 20 weeks. Exceptions to the ban would only be allowed when the women’s life was in imminent danger.

Democrats and women’s rights activists have protested the bill for weeks. The measure failed to win enough support during the regular session, then died in the first special session due to a 13-hour filibuster by state Senator Wendy Davis, a Fort Worth Democrat.

Republican leaders, including Gov Rick Perry and Lt Gov David Dewhurst, are intent on passing it quickly through the Republican-controlled Legislature in a second special session. Democrats can do little but slow the bill down, attract as much attention as possible and lay the groundwork for a federal lawsuit to block it once it becomes law.

Ms Davis’ successful filibuster put the Texas bill in the spotlight of the national abortion debate. On Monday night, former Arkansas Gov Mike Huckabee spoke to abortion rights opponents. The Planned Parenthood Federation of America announced a statewide bus tour yesterday, dubbed Stand With Texas Women.

“It seems like every time women looked up from doing their laundry of helping children with their homework, the Texas Legislature is right there taking aim at them again,” said Ms Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Over the past few years, more than 50 women’s health centers have been shut down.”

Women from both parties who support abortion rights introduced a series of amendments to water down House Bill 2, hanging coat hangers on the front podium to symbolise illegal abortions, which they say will become more common if the law is enacted. Rep Senfronia Thompson called for an exception to the 20-week ban in cases of rape and incest, but Ms Laubenberg rejected the proposal.

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