Texas passes restrictive abortion bill

2013-06-26 08:18
(AP, File)

(AP, File)

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Austin — Texas Republicans have passed new abortion restrictions expected to close almost every abortion clinic in the second most populous US state.

The Republican-controlled Senate voted for the bill while hundreds of protesters screamed from the gallery. Reporters and Democrats saw the voting begin after midnight, but Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst said it began just before.

Texas' special legislative session ended at midnight, and Democrats spent most of the day using procedural manoeuvres to delay a final vote on the bill. Republicans cited rules to eventually force a vote on the legislation.

The bill bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and requires that all procedures take place in a surgical centre.

Doctors who perform abortions would also need admitting privileges at a hospital within 48km. The surgical centre requirement would shut down 37 of Texas' 42 abortion clinics.

Reuters reported on Wednesday that a Texas state Democrat spoke for several hours on Tuesday in a bid to block the Republican drive for the sweeping abortion restrictions.

Texas State Senator Wendy Davis sought to derail the proposal by speaking until midnight (01:00 EDT), when a 30-day special session expires.

Davis, who began her verbal diatribe at roughly 11:15 local time, was prevented by procedural rules from deviating off topic or taking a break by eating, leaning against her desk, sitting down or using the rest room.

Dewhurst, the Senate president, suspended the filibuster after ruling that Davis meandered off topic.

UPDATE:   While initial reports said the bill had been passed, it has been confirmed that Senate Republicans missed the Tuesday midnight deadline for voting it in.  Read the story here.

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