Texas Senate debates abortion bill

Legislation restricting abortion in Texas passed the state Senate early Saturday morning by a 19 to 11 vote, heading to Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) for his signature.

"Tonight is not an ending point but a starting point," state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) told the crowd of protesters after the vote, "as we work to take this state back."

Just before the vote, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R) thanked both supporters and opponents and “even the press” for being there and asked for everyone “to love each other, as Christ loved the church, as we love all of those unborn babies.”

Dewhurst had vowed that protests would not derail the vote as they did two weeks ago. Protesters largely kept their chanting to the Capitol Rotunda, off the Senate floor. But when the vote neared late in the evening, four singing protesters were escorted out after attempting to chain themselves to the railing.

After the vote, protesters who launched a sit-in at the Capitol will carried out by state troopers.

Davis and her Democratic allies, who filibustered the legislation in a previous special session, had no hope of stopping it a second time. But protesters turned out in droves. Late in the evening the Capitol Rotunda was so packed with protesters that no one else was allowed in.

And opponents also rallied outside:

The Washington Post Grid: Tweets, instagrams, and more from the Texas abortion vote. 

The bill passed the state House earlier this week. It would ban abortions 20 weeks after fertilization, require abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital, require abortions to be performed in ambulatory surgical centers, and require a woman to visit a doctor three times when using an abortion pill.

Only six of the state's 42 abortion clinics meet the new requirements, and opponents say the legislation will make it nearly impossible to obtain an abortion for many Texas women. Democratic state senators questioned the utility of the restrictions in the bill, while state Sen. Glenn Hegar (R), the bill's author, argued that they would not cause any clinics to close. Other Republicans joined him in saying that the legislation's purpose was health care, not ending abortion.

"This bill is about health care," said Sen. Dan Patrick (R) declared. "This bill is about improving the safety of the woman having the abortion."

Hegar said he would not accept any amendments, because the bill would then have to go back to the state House. State Sen. John Whitmire (D) at one point got so worked up over his amendment to include rape and incest exceptions in the ban that Dewhurst banged his gavel and called for him to lower his voice.

"We can do better," Whitmire said heatedly, relating "horror stories" about the sexual abuse of young children.

Amendments to increase sex education, to fund clinics' efforts to comply with new regulations, and make exceptions for women's health were also rejected quickly. The length of the debate was clearly taking a toll on some, with Hegar and Dewhurst both expressing confusion during the amendment process.

Observers were initially being stopped at the door to the State Capitol in Austin and told they can't bring in tampons or condoms -- for fear those objects would get thrown at senators' heads.

Tampons were eventually allowed after Sen. Kirk Watson (D) spoke with the sergeant-at-arms. According to a statement from the Texas Department of Public Safety, a jar "suspected to contain" urine and several jars of what was believed to be feces were also taken from people entering the building. But the Texas Tribune has talked to officers posted throughout the Capitol and none had seen or heard of the jars.

Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.
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