Texas House passes restrictive abortion measure

Story highlights

Measure would require abortion clinics to become ambulatory surgical centers

It also would ban abortions past 20 weeks of gestation

State Senate panel to vote on whether to advance measure Thursday

Senator tried to kill the bill two weeks ago, but governor called special session to take it up

CNN  — 

The Texas House of Representatives approved a measure Wednesday that would place broad new restrictions on abortions in the state.

A state Senate committee is scheduled to vote Thursday on whether to send its version of the bill to the full Senate.

The legislation would ban abortions past 20 weeks of gestation, require abortion clinics to become ambulatory surgical centers, tighten usage guidelines for the drug RU486 and require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic at which they’re providing abortion services.

The House’s move comes two weeks after state Sen. Wendy Davis tried to block the bill with a filibuster, talking for more than 10 hours in an attempt to run out the clock on the legislative session.

Gov. Rick Perry called a special session so the legislature could take up the measure again.

The measure passed the House on Wednesday with a 98-49 vote after hours of debate over proposed amendments.

In Texas, fetal pain factors into abortion debate

Critics said the measure would shut down most abortion clinics in Texas, denying access to many in rural communities, and force women to seek dangerous back alley abortions. Many Democrats, like Rep. Mary Gonzales, felt the motives for the legislation were less than pure.

“Is this bill more about women’s health or political futures,” she asked Tuesday.

But for Republicans like Rep. Jason Villalba, the bill’s passage was intensely personal. Holding up a sonogram of his 13-week-old son, he voiced his support.

“I will fight, and I will fight, and I will fight to protect my baby,” he said.

Proponents say that the bill is necessary to raise the standard of care for women in Texas and will protect 20-week-old babies at the point that they begin to have the ability to feel pain.

On Tuesday, Davis conceded to CNN the abortion legislation was likely to pass this time around.

“It will be very difficult because unfortunately the voices that have been here crying out against this bill are not going to be heard,” Davis told CNN.

“But I don’t think it’s the end. It’s the beginning of a battle line,” she added.

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