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Texas Democrats aim to run out clock on abortion bill

AUSTIN, Texas — The Republican-dominated Texas Legislature pushed Monday to enact wide-ranging restrictions that would effectively shut down all abortion clinics in the nation’s second most-populous state, and Democrats planned an old-fashioned filibuster to stop the final vote.

After the House easily approved it Monday morning, the legislation was headed to the Senate.

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But with the special session scheduled to end at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, the clock presented a far bigger obstacle than the need to win votes.

The proposal would ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, require doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, limit abortions to surgical centers, and stipulate doctors must monitor even nonsurgical abortions.

‘‘If this passes, abortion would be virtually banned in the state of Texas, and many women could be forced to resort to dangerous and unsafe measures,’’ said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund and daughter of the late former Texas governor Ann Richards.

Texas has a population of about 26 million.

Supporters say the plan will raise the standard of health care for women seeking an abortion.

Governor Rick Perry added abortion to the special session’s agenda and has promised to sign the bill.

The only way Democrats could block a Senate vote is if one senator filibusters it by running out the clock on the special session. The senator would have to speak nonstop, remain standing, and forgo bathroom breaks.

Normally, the Senate does not get a bill until 24 hours after House passage, which would set the Senate debate for Tuesday morning, requiring a filibuster to last 13½ hours.

Republicans could try to suspend the rules to force an earlier vote — and a longer filibuster.

The first requirement of the bill is for all abortions to take place in surgical centers, facilities designed to cope with major surgeries that could lead to life-threatening complications. The majority of abortions are not surgical procedures, and only 37 of the state’s 42 abortion clinics meet that new standard, and many would need to relocate and spend millions of dollars to reach that standard.

Those five remaining clinics are in Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, and two in Houston. A woman near the Mexican border or in West Texas would have to drive hundreds of miles to obtain an abortion if the bill passes. Women who take abortion-inducing pills would be required to take the medication in front of a doctor.

Doctors also would need admitting privileges within 30 miles of the clinic under the measure.

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