AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Republicans on Friday defended a sweeping abortion proposal against Democratic attempts to show the tough restrictions were not only unnecessary, but also unconstitutional.
The Senate’s debate took place between a packed gallery of demonstrators. State troopers reported confiscating bottles of urine and feces as they worked to prevent another attempt to stop the Republican majority from passing a proposal that has put Texas at the center of the abortion debate.
The Senate could vote on the abortion restrictions later Friday or early Saturday, sending the bill to Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who has said he will sign it. The Republican majority is expected to pass the bill, with Democrats left to do little more than enter into the legislative record material that could help defeat it in federal court.
House Bill 2 would require doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, allow abortions only in surgical centers, limit where and when women may take abortion-inducing pills and ban abortions after 20 weeks. Only five out of 42 existing abortion clinics meet the requirements to be a surgical center, and clinic owners say they can’t afford to upgrade or relocate.
Sen. Glen Hegar of Katy, the bill’s author, argued that all abortions, including those induced with medications, should take place in an ambulatory surgical center in case of complications.
Democrats pointed out that childbirth is more dangerous than an abortion and there have been no serious problems with women taking abortion drugs at home. They also introduced amendments to add exceptions for cases of rape and incest and remove some of the more restrictive clauses.
Sen. Rodney West, a Dallas Democrat, asked why Hegar was pushing restrictions that federal courts in other states had suspended as possibly unconstitutional.
“There will be a lawsuit. I promise you,” West said, raising his right hand as if taking an oath.
The bill under consideration mirrors restrictions passed in Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, Alabama, Kansas, Wisconsin and Arizona. Passing the law in Texas would be a major victory for anti-abortion activists in the nation’s second most-populous state. Hegar acknowledged working with anti-abortion groups to draft the legislation and said he monitored how similar bills did in other states. A lawsuit originating in Texas would also likely win a sympathetic hearing at the conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.