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Texas Republicans finally pass new abortion limits

By Chris Tomlinson and Will Weissert

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 07:00 a.m. HST, Jul 13, 2013

AUSTIN, Texas » Republicans in the Texas Legislature passed an omnibus abortion bill that is one of the most restrictive in the nation, but Democrats vowed today to fight in the courts and at the ballot box as they used the measure to rally their supporters.

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 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.

"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.

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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Kahu Matu wrote:
They have more guts to stand up for and truly care for children than most politicians in other states. Honestly, 20 weeks (5 months)? That still seems too late to kill a child as well, but at least it's a start. If only our politicians would take as much responsibility to care for our keiki, but children do not have the voice adults do and they certainly can't contribute money to a campaign.
on July 13,2013 | 06:22AM
Ronin006 wrote:
Liberals have no compunction about killing human fetuses but adamantly oppose endangering or destroying sea turtle eggs, and have made it a felony to do so. Completely senseless.
on July 13,2013 | 08:18AM
allie wrote:
The real power behind the horrible Republicans is the super rich. They could not care less about abortion or the Christian right. The Evangelicals are boobs who are easily used by the rich for the purposes of the rich. Follow the money folks...
on July 13,2013 | 07:51AM
krusha wrote:
Ironic that these politicians care about these fetuses, yet after they are born, they don't give a crap about them...
on July 13,2013 | 07:54AM
kolohepalu wrote:
Yet another round of "moral" legislation from the right. Abortion is an issue between a patient and her physician- period. Self-righteous legislators like these need to worry about balancing budgets and keep their so-called morals at church (which incidentally is supposed to be separate from the state). Not to mention they are hypocrites- wait until one of these fine (white) conservative politician's 16 year-old daughter gets impregnated by a rapper- then we'll see how anti-abortion they are.
on July 13,2013 | 08:42AM
Paulh808 wrote:
Kolohe makes me want to Palu, with his defense of this barbaric law, too bad he/ she wasn't aborted. It would have saved the world from one more liberal black soul.
on July 13,2013 | 08:55AM
kolohepalu wrote:
Defense of the law? You seem a little dim- try reading again. Yeah, us pesky liberals- always annoying you with facts. Why don't you move to your red state of choice?
on July 13,2013 | 12:50PM
ISCREAM wrote:
As you make a "moral" judgement on people whose values you do not even know...you are the hypocrite...what about the fathers of these unborn who have no say in an abortion...where are their rights...what about the rights of the being that is living in the mother??? Who is representing them?
on July 13,2013 | 09:04AM
kolohepalu wrote:
The fathers of these "unborn" don't have a womb- so they don't get final say. That so hard to figure out? And I would wager you don't have a PhD in developmental biology- why don't you leave the definition of life to people who actually have knowledge of such things?
on July 13,2013 | 12:58PM
Pacej001 wrote:
"Abortion is an issue between a patient and her physician- period. " No it isn't. There's a baby involved, so I 'm told. Also, it is legal for States to set limits on abortion, most do and the Supreme Court back those restrictions. And this "(white) conservative" statement is flat out racists. And what is it about 20 weeks that you don't understand? That limit allows FIVE months for the prospective mother to decide whether or not she wants to dispose of the baby and permits her to do so legally. ------- Here's what's really striking about this whole business in Texas, the moral vacuum the anti-abortion crowd lives in.
on July 13,2013 | 03:18PM
kolohepalu wrote:
Uh, no. There isn't a baby involved- that's the whole point. There is a mass of cells incapable of living independently of the mother involved. That is why it is called abortion and not infanticide. Who should make the decision of what constitutes biological life? People far smarter than you, and no, they won't use the bible to do it. No political entity or bunch of self-righteous religious freaks has the right to tell a woman what to do with her body.
on July 13,2013 | 07:36PM
Ronin006 wrote:
kolohepalu, it is a felony to harm or endanger a sea turtle egg, so why do you believe it is alright to kill an unborn baby for any reason?
on July 13,2013 | 03:53PM
kolohepalu wrote:
What I would ask you is what constitutes a baby? And I wager you would give me some crapy religion-based definition that holds no water scientifically. You are entitled to believe what you want, but if you try to legislate it, show me the evidence- and not from the piece of historical fiction known as the bible.
on July 13,2013 | 07:39PM
ISCREAM wrote:
Funny how when Dems pass a bill without Repubs it is the Congress or Legislature passing a bill...and when the Repubs pass a bill without the Dems it is the Repubs passed the bill...Journalism isn't unbiased anymore...pays to be critical in our reading...
on July 13,2013 | 09:00AM
Ronin006 wrote:
It is a felony to harm or endanger a sea turtle egg, yet it is perfectly legal to kill an unborn baby based on a woman's right to choose. It does not make sense.
on July 13,2013 | 03:50PM
kolohepalu wrote:
A sea turtle egg doesn't require a living, breathing human being with an already existing life to birth it and nurture it. How's that for starters?
on July 13,2013 | 07:41PM
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