Published July 13, 2013
Texas Democrats vowed to fight one of the most restrictive abortion bills in the nation passed by the state legislature late Friday in front of more than 2,000 protesters.
"There will be a lawsuit. I promise you," Dallas Sen. Royce West said on the Senate floor, raising his right hand as if taking an oath.
Democrats offered 20 amendments to the bill, which will ban abortions after 20 weeks, require abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and require all abortions to take place in surgical centers. They ranged from exceptions for rape and incest to allowing doctors more leeway in prescribing abortion-inducing drugs. But Republicans would have none of it.
The Republican majority passed the bill unchanged just before midnight with all but one Democrat voting against it.
The bill has sparked protests across Texas with thousands of abortion rights supporters flooding the Capitol to draw out committee hearings and disrupting key votes. Protesters finished a filibuster started by Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth by jeering for the last 15 minutes of the first special session, effectively killing the bill.
That’s when Texas Gov. Rick Perry called lawmakers back for round two. But opponents say the fight is far from over and used the popular anger to register and organize Democratic voters.
“Let’s make sure that tonight is not an ending point. It’s a beginning point for our future, our collective futures, as we work to take this state back,” Davis told supporters after the bill passed.
Friday’s debate took place between a packed gallery of demonstrators with anti-abortion activists wearing blue and abortion-rights supporters wearing orange. Security was tight, and state troopers reported confiscating bottles of urine and feces as they worked to prevent another attempt to stop the Republicans from passing the proposal.
Four women who tried to chain themselves to a railing in the gallery were arrested. One woman was successful in chaining herself, prompting a 10-minute recess.
When debate resumed, protesters began loudly singing, "Give choice a chance." The Senate's leader, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, told officers to remove them.
Outside the chamber, the crowd grew so loud that troopers were being issued orange earplugs. Protesters were shouting, "Shame! Shame! Shame!" as senators gave their closing statements.
State troopers reported confiscating "significant quantities" of tampons and feminine pads from protesters before they were allowed in, according to MyFoxDFW.com. Bottles of suspected urine, feces and paint were also confiscated.
Cecile Richards, daughter of former Gov. Anne Richards and president of Planned Parenthood, said Texas Republicans and abortion opponents won this political round – but it could cost them down the road.
“All they have done is built a committed group of people across this state who are outraged about the treatment of women and the lengths to which this Legislature will go to take women’s health care away,” she said.
Meanwhile, Republicans celebrated the bill as a victory.
“Today the Texas Legislature took its final step in our historic effort to protect life,” Perry said. “This legislation builds on the strong ad unwavering commitment we have made to defend and protect women’s health.”
“As Democrats continue to talk about their dreams of turning Texas blue, passage of HB2 is proof that Texans are conservative and organized and we look forward to working with our amazing republican leadership in the Texas Legislature as they finish the special session strong,” a party statement said.
Sen. Glen Hegar of Katy, the bill’s Republican author, argued that all abortions, including those induced with medications, should take place in ambulatory surgical center in case of complications.
Democrats pointed out that childbirth is more dangers than an abortion and there have been no serious problems with women taking abortion drugs at home.
Perry will sign the bill into law in the next few days.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.