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AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — The Texas House gave preliminary approval to tighter abortion restrictions involving fetuses with severe abnormalities before withdrawing a sweeping health bill that included the new limits.

The unexpected vote Thursday marked a reignited push by Republicans to further Texas abortion restrictions, which are already among the toughest in the nation.

Abortions are banned in Texas after 20 weeks, except when the fetus has severe health defects. While the Republican-controlled House debated a health agency bill, state Rep. Matt Schaefer successfully tacked on a rider that would end that abortion exception.

The entire bill was later pulled down after Democrats launched technical objections.

Amarillo Republican Rep. Four Price said the bill meant to improve operations at the Department of State Health Services would be sent back to committee for more work.

He added that he withdrew his proposal “to save the life of the bill.”

As he laid out the bill, Price said he wouldn’t accept amendments that were unrelated to the proposal.

Republican Rep. J.D. Sheffield, a physician, urged his House peers to join him in voting against the fetal abnormalities amendment.

“When parents have to make a decision whether their child will have a life, or a life of suffering, why should the heavy, blunt hand of government come into that most heart-rendering decision?” Sheffield asked.

Democratic Rep. Eddie Lucio III said the measure was “wrong, and unnecessary, and strictly to gain political favor.”

But Price and 82 other representatives voted for Schaefer’s fetal abnormalities amendment. Another amendment by Schaefer that would have required abortion facilities to file monthly, electronic reports on abortion procedures also passed.

While awaiting a decision on a point of order, Democrats met behind closed doors and Republicans clustered on the House floor in what appeared to be a prayer circle.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is strongly anti-abortion, but the issue has not been a priority in his first session.

Opponents of the new abortion restrictions have long-claimed the change will send thousands of women across the border to terminate pregnancies.

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