Reporting Elizabeth Dinh
AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM/AP) - After many hours of often-heated debate, the Texas House overwhelmingly approved legislation early Monday morning that would tighten restrictions on abortion across the state. The final vote was 97 to 33. But the issue is still not entirely resolved.
The preliminary vote to pass the bill came at around 3:00 a.m. Monday. Both supporters and critics of the legislation stayed at the State Capitol in Austin until late into the night. Abortion rights supporters shouted “shame, shame” after the final votes were tallied.
“The United States of America is about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” abortion rights supporter Chris McNatt said before the vote took place. “Whether I disagree or agree with abortion is irrelevant. A woman has the right as an American to make that choice.”
If the bill passes, it would be among the toughest abortion laws in the nation. It requires all abortions to take place in a surgical center, places new restrictions on where and when women can take abortion-inducing pills, and makes it harder for a woman to receive an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
It is also estimated that 90 percent of the state’s abortion clinics would be closed as a result of this bill. Supporters said that the new measures are intended to protect women’s health, but opponents call them needless regulations to make abortions more difficult to obtain.
Politicians and activists spoke on both sides of the controversial issue prior to the early morning vote. “Governor Rick Perry is one of my friends,” said Rep. Senfronia Thompson, “and, as one friend to another, I want to put you on notice, Governor, that women are tired of being bullied.”
“But if you believe that it is a human being, then that human being also has rights, and we must protect that baby’s rights,” then argued Rep. Jodie Laubenberg.
Democrats used parliamentary technicalities on Sunday to halt all debate for hours. But Republicans then responded by postponing all other legislation. The bill advanced despite more than 800 women’s rights demonstrators packing the State Captiol, imploring lawmakers not to approve any abortion-related bills.
One day must pass before the Texas Senate can look at the bill. Time is tight for lawmakers to approve bills before the 30-day special legislative session ends Tuesday at midnight.
(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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