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Texas Republicans pass sweeping abortion restrictions

Measure will close almost all clinics in state

Senator Wendy Davis wore pink tennis shoes to prepare for nearly 13 hours of standing.Eric Gay/Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Republicans passed new abortion restrictions expected to close almost every abortion clinic in the nation’s second most populous state.

The Republican-controlled House voted for the bill while hundreds of protesters screamed from the gallery.

Reporters and Democrats saw the voting begin after midnight, but Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst said it began just before.

Texas’s special legislative session ended at midnight, and Democrats spent most of the day filibustering the bill. Republicans cited rules to force a vote to end the filibuster.

The law bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and requires that all procedures take place in a surgical center.


Doctors who perform abortions will also need admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. The surgical center requirement would shut down 37 of Texas’ 42 abortion clinics.

Dewhurst suspended a senator’s filibuster against wide-ranging abortion restrictions late Tuesday, but Democrats moved quickly to appeal the decision and set off a parliamentary fight over the rules.

Dewhurst determined that Senator Wendy Davis, a Democrat, strayed off the topic during her filibuster when she talked about a sonogram bill passed in 2011 and how the new abortion restrictions only compounded the antiabortion laws in Texas.

Democrats immediately appealed the decision and set off a heated debate. Senator Kirk Watson, an Austin Democrat, appeared to be positioning himself to launch a new filibuster on Dewhurst’s decision.

Wearing pink tennis shoes to prepare for nearly 13 consecutive hours of standing, Davis began with a one-woman filibuster to block a GOP-led effort to impose stringent abortion restrictions across the nation’s second-most populous state.

The filibuster began at 11:18 a.m. Tuesday and continued until 10:03 p.m., less than two hours before the midnight deadline marking the end of the 30-day special session.

Rules stipulate she remain standing, not lean on her desk or take any breaks — even for meals or to use the bathroom. But she must also stay on topic, and Republicans pointed out a mistake and later protested again when another lawmaker helped her with a back brace.


Senator Donna Campbell, a Republican, called the third point of order because of Davis’s remarks on the sonogram law. Lawmakers can vote to end a filibuster after three sustained points of order.

The measures will close most abortion clinics in Texas, a state 773 miles wide and 790 miles long, with 26 million people. A woman near Mexico or in West Texas would have to go hundreds of miles for an abortion if the law passes.

In opening, Davis said she was ‘‘rising on the floor today to humbly give voice to thousands of Texans” and called Republican efforts to pass the bill a “raw abuse of power.”

Democrats chose Davis, of Fort Worth, to lead the effort because of her background as a woman who had her first child as a teenager and went on to Harvard Law School.

Women’s rights supporters wore orange T-shirts to show their support for Davis.

Davis tried to stay comfortable by shifting from hip to hip and slowly walking around her desk while reading notes from a large binder on her desk.

“This is really about women’s health,” said Senator Bob Deuell, who introduced a requirement that all abortions take place in surgical centers.

Davis had read testimony from women and doctors who would be affected by the changes, but who were denied the opportunity to speak in a Republican-controlled committee.