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Texas House gives initial approval to abortion bill

AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas House on Tuesday night provisionally approved tough new abortion restrictions, making good on a third attempt to pass the measure this year.

Lawmakers debated for more than 10 hours 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 Sen. 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.

Davis' successful filibuster put the Texas bill in the spotlight of the national abortion debate. Activists on both sides of the issue from across the state and nation descended on the Capitol building on Tuesday, and the demonstrators erupted into screams, cheers and chants following the vote.

Supporters of the restrictions insist that they will improve the health care women receive by placing more stringent conditions on abortions. Opponents say the restrictions would effectively ban abortion in much of the nation's second most-populous state by causing the closure of 37 of its 42 abortion clinics.

Texas Democratic Rep. Senfronia Thompson of Houston, second from left, holds a coat hangar Tuesday as she stands with fellow representatives to oppose the abortion bill in the Legislature. The coat hangers were intended to symbolize illegal abortions, which the lawmakers say will become more common if the bill is passed.

Associated Press

Texas Democratic Rep. Senfronia Thompson of Houston, second from left, holds a coat hangar Tuesday as she stands with fellow representatives to oppose the abortion bill in the Legislature. The coat hangers were intended to symbolize illegal abortions, which the lawmakers say will become more common if the bill is passed.

Texas House gives initial approval to abortion bill 07/09/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 3:28am]
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