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Major abortion restrictions approved

Democratic Senator Wendy Davis

Democratic Senator Wendy Davis

AUSTIN — The Texas House of Representatives approved sweeping abortion restrictions yesterday, including a ban after 20 weeks of pregnancy and tougher standards for clinics that perform the procedure.

The vote of 98-49 came after a full day of sometimes emotional debate. Before the measure can head to the state senate, it needs a final vote from the house, which was expected today.

The house approved the same proposal during a previous special session of the legislature, but it failed to pass in the Senate after Democratic Senator Wendy Davis staged an 11-hour filibuster that gained national attention.

Planned Parenthood, the country’s largest provider of abortions, says the proposed stricter standards for clinics could cause all but six of the 42 abortion facilities in Texas to shut down. Bill author Republican Jodie Laubenberg said no facility would be forced to close.

Texas Governor Rick Perry, a Republican who opposes abortion, called lawmakers back to Austin for a second special session to reconsider the proposal. Most lawmakers in the Republican controlled senate favour the bill.

Since the second special session began on July 1, thousands of Texans have packed the Capitol to testify at hearings, hold rallies and march.

After the vote yesterday, bill opponents crowded the area outside the house chamber, chanting “Defence! Defence!” to cheer on lawmakers who voted against the bill and were emerging from the legislative chamber.

During the debate, Representative Jason Villalba, a Republican whose wife is expecting a baby boy, spoke passionately in favour of the bill while showing his colleagues a sonogram picture of “my son”.

“We fight this fight because of innocent human life,” he said. (Reuters)

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