By Chris Tomlinson
AUSTIN, Texas: A proposal that would make Texas one of the nation’s toughest places to get an abortion won swift approval Wednesday in the state House, sending it on to the Senate where a filibuster and raucous protests derailed Republican efforts to pass it nearly two weeks earlier.
There is little Democrats can do to stop the measure this time in the GOP-controlled Legislature, but they’re seeking to create a legislative record that opponents can use to challenge it in federal court on constitutional grounds. Democrats also hope to use women’s health issues to win more seats in 2014.
It was the third time the House had passed the limits on where, when and how women can obtain the procedure. Gov. Rick Perry called lawmakers back into a second special session after the bill failed to reach the full Senate during the regular session and a filibuster there kept it from becoming law in the first special session.
All but one Republican voted for the bill, along with four Catholic Democrats. Protesters both for and against the measure have marched on the Capitol, filling marathon committee meetings and floor debates. Opponents wore orange, while supporters wore blue, and national activists from both sides of the abortion debate staged rallies on the statehouse steps.
“The tremendous outpouring of support for this legislation has demonstrated how Texas stands for life, and I commend everyone who wore blue, turned out and spoke up in support of life in our state,” Perry said in a statement Wednesday. “Now is not the time to waver, however, as the Senate continues its important work in support of women’s health and protecting the lives of our most vulnerable Texans.”
The Senate could cast a final vote as early as Friday.
Lawmakers spent more than 10 hours debating the measure Tuesday, and Republicans rejected all amendment attempts.
The bill requires doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, only allow abortions in surgical centers and ban abortions after 20 weeks.
It’s unclear if the Texas restrictions could survive a court challenge. Federal courts have suspended aspects of bills enacted by other states. On Monday, a federal judge blocked enforcement of a Wisconsin abortion law requiring admitting privileges.