Republicans in the Texas House of Representatives have passed some of the severest abortion restrictions anywhere in the country. The new measures include a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, a requirement that doctors have admitting privileges for a hospital within 30 miles of abortion clinics, and abortion clinics meet the standards of surgical centers. There is an exemption if the woman's life is endangered or there are severe fetal abnormalities.
The bill was passed by an overwhelming and largely partisan majority of 97-33. Democrats infuriated by the bill attacked the measures as evidence of the Republicans' "war on women," with Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) saying, "We are willing to have an attack on women in order to have someone's political agenda achieved."
The bill still needs to clear the state senate where Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth), with the support of her colleagues, is intending to filibuster in a last ditch attempt to prevent the bill coming to a vote. The filibuster is to take place on Friday and would need to be a full 13 hours to be successful.
Supporters of the bill claimed that the new restrictions are needed to protect women's health as well as prevent pain to the fetus. Rep. Jodie Labenberg (R-Parker) said during the debate, "Sadly, too often today the back-alley abortion is the abortion clinic because the standards for providers and the facilities are too lax or substandard."
This claim has been strongly disputed by the Texas Medical Association, the Texas Hospital Association and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists who advised lawmakers to vote against the bill.
Pro-choice groups fear that the new measures will lead to the closure of 37 out of the 42 abortion clinics in Texas due to the need to meet the standards of surgical centers, of which only 5 would currently qualify."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 Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards.
40 years after Roe v. Wade support for the Supreme Court's decision is at an all time high and for the first time a majority of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Despite this dramatic shift in attitudes Republican legislators have continued to be strong proponents of stricter limits on abortion at both the state and federal level.
The Texas law follows a similar bill passed by the House of Representatives which would have banned abortion after 22 weeks.