AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Democrats attempted to prevent Republicans from passing a bill on Tuesday that would give the state some of the toughest abortion restrictions in the country, even as Gov. Rick Perry appeared ready to keep lawmakers in town to give the bill another chance.
The bill would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, require abortion clinics to meet the same standards that hospital-style surgical centers do and mandate that a doctor who performs abortions has admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.
Supporters of the bill, including the governor and other top Republicans, said the measures would protect women's health and hold clinics to safety standards, but women's rights advocates said the legislation amounted to an unconstitutional, politically motivated attempt to shut the clinics. The bill's opponents said it would most likely cause all but five of the 42 abortion clinics in the state to close, because the required renovations would be too costly.
On Tuesday, the Senate took up a version of the bill that the House had passed the day before. But the 30-day special session of the Legislature was set to expire at midnight.
Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth announced she planned a filibuster, and at 11:18 a.m., she began talking. Davis, wearing pink sneakers, stood for hours on the floor of the Senate in an effort to run out the clock before lawmakers could vote on the bill.
Republicans, who control both the Senate and House, would probably have another chance at passage if her filibuster succeeded. Perry might call a second special session and tell lawmakers to consider the bill again.