Austin: Republicans in the Texas Legislature passed an omnibus abortion bill that is one of the most restrictive in the US, but Democrats have vowed to fight in the courts and at the ballot box as they used the measure to rally their supporters.
More than 2,000 demonstrators filled the Capitol building in Austin on yesterday to voice their opposition to the bill, including six protesters who were dragged out of the Senate chamber by state troopers for trying to disrupt the debate.
The Republican majority passed the bill unchanged just before midnight Friday, with all but one Democrat voting against it. "Today the Texas Legislature took its final step in our historic effort to protect life," said Governor Rick Perry, who will sign the bill into law in the next few days. "This legislation builds on the strong and unwavering commitment we have made to defend life and protect women's health."
Democrats promised a legal challenge to the measure, which will ban abortions after 20 weeks, require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and require all abortions to take place in surgical centres. Only five out of 42 existing abortion clinics in Texas meet the requirements to be a surgical center, and clinic owners say they can't afford to upgrade or relocate.
"There will be a lawsuit. I promise you," Dallas Sen. Royce West said on the Senate floor, raising his right hand as if taking an oath. Texas Governor Rick Perry said yesterday that the abortion bill awaiting his signature is constitutional and will withstand court challenges. A spokesman for Perry said the bill could be signed midweek.