NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Just minutes ago Governor Rick Perry signed into law a piece of legislation that will make abortions after 20 weeks illegal and essentially will shutter the doors of almost every abortion clinic in Texas.
While the governor’s support of House Bill 2 has been very public, today’s signing ceremony was limited to some 100 Republican lawmakers and invited guests.
“This is an important day for those who support life and for those who support the health of Texas women,” Perry said. “In signing House Bill 2, we celebrate and further cement the foundation on which the culture of life in Texas is built.”
Calling himself a “staunch defender of life in Texas” Perry also detailed other reproductive rights legislation that he has supported, including the ban of tax dollars going to abortion facilities and a law requiring Texas women to have a sonogram before an abortion.
He has signed legislation requiring parents to consent to their minor daughter’s abortion, banning tax dollars from being used to support abortion facilities, and requiring women to have a sonogram before an abortion. The governor has also fought to ensure Texas women get the health services they need, including $100 million in new funding to expand women’s health services and creating the Texas Women’s Health Program.
The abortion restrictions have been the center of attention for weeks. During the first Legislative Special Session Fort Worth Senator Wendy Davis laced up pink tennis shoes and attempted a 13-hour filibuster on what was then Senate Bill 5.
Davis held her own for more than 11 hours before Republicans cited rules violations and brought her marathon speaking session to an end, but chanting crowds in the gallery cried out in opposition. Noise from the crowd ultimately prevented senators ability to vote, ran out the clock, and caused the bill to die.
Just days later Perry called a second Special Session giving legislators another chance to pass the restrictive bill now presented as House Bill 2. Thousands of people flocked o the Texas State Capitol, in protest and support, and signed up to testify before the State House Affairs Committee. Ultimately only a few hundred were allowed to speak. The committee approved bill, by a margin of 8-3.
In addition to the 20-week abortion rule, the law requires that physicians performing abortions have privileges at a nearby hospital, that abortion facilities meet Ambulatory Surgical Center (ASC) standards and restricts use of the abortion inducing drug RU-486.
Republican State Representative Susan King of Abilene also owns an ASC. “If you put the regulations for an abortion facility juxtaposed to an ASC, as far as health and safety which is what has been said is the purpose of that, they’re almost indistinguishable,” she said.
Of the 42 abortion clinics currently operation in Texas only five meet the new requirements.
The Texas Department of Health Services (TDHS) will be in charge of writing the rules abortion clinics will have to meet. Department spokesperson Carrie Williams said the first order of business is determining how the new law effects existing rules. “That’s gonna take a team of people looking at the language, comparing it to our current rules and figuring out what needs to be modified.”
Governor Perry has said the legislation protects women’s health and the rights of the unborn. “It is also our responsibility to improve the quality of care women receive, ensuring that any procedure they undergo is performed in clean, sanitary and safe conditions, by capable personnel.”
The new law goes into effect in October. The new law gives clinics one year to upgrade their facilities or close their business.
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