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Texas abortion law won't go through if 13-hour filibuster succeeds

Texas abortion law would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and require abortion doctors to have visiting rights at nearby hospitals. The state is one of many trying to tighten restrictions.

By Chelsea B. SheasleyCorrespondent / June 25, 2013

Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) speaks as she begins a filibuster in an effort to kill an abortion bill, Tuesday, June 25, in Austin, Texas. The bill would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy and require abortion doctors to have visiting rights at nearby hospitals.

Eric Gay/AP

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Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) must speak nonstop for 13 hours – without bathroom breaks or leaning on anything – if she wants to halt passage of a major abortion bill that would solidify Texas’ status on a growing list of states passing restrictive abortion measures.

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Chelsea Sheasley is the Monitor's Asia Editor, overseeing regional coverage for CSMonitor.com and the weekly magazine.

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Senator Davis and fellow Texas Democrats are seeking to thwart a bill passed by the Texas House on Monday that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and require abortion doctors to have visiting rights at nearby hospitals. While supporters say the bill protects women’s health, critics reply that the bill will effectively close 37 of the 42 state abortion clinics. 

Davis’s filibuster caps several days of legislative drama that will end Tuesday night at midnight with the expiration of a special legislative session – after which no further laws may be passed. 

"We want to do whatever we can for women in this state," state Sen. Kirk Watson, leader of the Senate Democrats, said Monday.

Texas joins several states including Alabama, Arkansas, North Dakota, Virginia, and Pennsylvania that have passed or proposed restrictions on abortion. Critics say the Texas legislation is particularly notable because it would become the most stringent set of abortion laws to affect the largest number of people in the United States.

In addition to banning abortion after 20 weeks, the bill limits abortions to surgical centers and requires doctors to monitor nonsurgical abortions. Opponents say a requirement that doctors have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles is problematic because most hospitals in Texas do not grant privileges to doctors who perform abortions – either for religious reasons or for fear of becoming the target of protests. 

"If this passes, abortion would be virtually banned in the state of Texas, and many women could be forced to resort to dangerous and unsafe measures," said Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and daughter of the late Ann Richards, a former Texas governor. 

“The woman had five months to make that decision. At this point we are looking at a baby that is very far along in its development,” said state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (R) in the legislation's defense on the House floor. Ms. Laubenberg stopped participating in her chamber's debate after comments about the use of rape kits to prevent abortion drew fire for inaccuracy.

The measure passed the Texas House Monday by a vote of 95 to 34, with the support of four Democrats. House Democrats, mindful that a 24-hour waiting period was needed after passage in their chamber, had delayed their vote until 11 a.m. Monday after a rowdy debate Sunday. Senate Democrats then looked poised to kill the legislation in their chamber with Davis’s filibuster. 

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