Texas passes abortion restriction bill, governor certain to sign

Texas state Democratic Senator Wendy Davis listens to discussion as the state Senate considers an amendment to Senate Bill 1 (SB1) restricting abortion rights in Texas. Credit: Reuters
Texas state Democratic Senator Wendy Davis listens to discussion as the state Senate considers an amendment to Senate Bill 1 (SB1) restricting abortion rights in Texas.
Credit: Reuters

Texas’ Republican-controlled Senate has voted to ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, ending a high-profile political battle that stirred debate over abortion rights well beyond the state’s borders.

Already approved by the House, the sweeping bill to restrict abortions now goes to Republican Governor Rick Perry, who is certain to sign it and had called a second special session of the legislature to get it through.

It makes Texas the 13th U.S. state to pass a 20-week ban. The 20-week provision is based on disputed research suggesting fetuses feel pain at that point in a pregnancy. Current limits are 26 weeks in Texas.

The Senate passed the measure late on Friday by a vote of 19 to 11 in front of a full public gallery while protesters yelled and chanted outside the chamber.

The issue has stirred huge attention, including internationally, in part because of an 11-hour filibuster in June against the bill by state Senator Wendy Davis, a Democrat. Her actions at the time prompted comparisons with the James Stewart movie “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington”.

Despite political support in Texas for the bill, there could be legal hurdles. Courts have blocked the ban in three of the 12 states that passed it, and opponents of the Texas bill vowed to challenge the decision in court.

Thousands of activists for and against the bill gathered at the state capitol this summer for rallies and marches and to testify at public hearings.

“Let’s draw the line and not torture these babies that are aborted,” bill supporter Senator Bob Deuell, a Republican and a family physician, said during Friday’s nine-hour debate.

The Texas measure would change standards for abortion clinics in ways that opponents say would cause dozens of the facilities to shut down, forcing Texans to turn to illegal, unsafe means. Bill supporters disagree that clinics would have to close.

“This bill is creating a situation where women in Texas today not only will not be made safer but they will absolutely be at risk of their health,” said Davis.

The bill also requires doctors performing an abortion to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion clinic. Supporters of that provision said it was important in case complications arose in an abortion and the woman needed to be hospitalized.

The Texas legislation also calls for stricter guidelines for how doctors administer abortion-inducing drugs, such as the regimen known as RU-486.

PACKED STATEHOUSE

The pink granite statehouse was packed on Friday, with Texans opposed to the bill wearing orange and holding signs that said, “My body, my choice,” some of them jumping, chanting and loudly shouting outside the Senate chamber.

Those supporting the bill wore blue, some carrying Bibles and crosses and holding signs that said things like, “Unborn babies feel pain.”

“What happened here tonight is going to fast-forward change in Texas in the long run, but unfortunately a lot of women will suffer in the process,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Perry called lawmakers back to Austin for a second special session to reconsider the proposal after Davis’s successful filibuster, and this time lawmakers were not fighting the clock. The second special session began July 1 and could last up to 30 days.

“Today the Texas legislature took its final step in our historic effort to protect life,” Perry said in a statement.

The Texas Department of Public Safety increased security for Friday’s debate, searching bags of everyone who entered the Senate gallery. The department said officers found 18 jars containing what appeared to be feces, one jar suspected of containing urine and three bottles of what they think is paint.

“All of these items – as well as significant quantities of feminine hygiene products, glitter and confetti possessed by individuals – were required to be discarded; otherwise those individuals were denied entry into the gallery,” the department said in a statement.

The confiscation of feminine hygiene products sparked an outcry on social media about “tampongate”.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking

Local

K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.

National

Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.

National

Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Movies

Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.

Arts

Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…

Television

Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

NFL

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…

NBA

NBA great LeBron James sends 800 cupcake apologies…

By Kim PalmerCLEVELAND (Reuters) - NBA star LeBron James, whose recent return to the Cleveland Cavaliers in his home state of Ohio sparked a frenzy…

NFL

Jerry Reese confident with Giants, skipping countdown clocks…

Last year, Giants GM Jerry Reese installed a countdown clock in the locker room to inspire Big Blue to play in their own stadium for Super Bowl XLVIII.

Tech

Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.

Tech

Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.

Tech

Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.

Style

Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.