AUSTIN, Texas -- The Texas House Tuesday night provisionally approved tough new abortion restrictions, making good on a third attempt to pass the measure this year.
Activists on both sides of the issue from across the state and nation descended on the Capitol building, and the demonstrators erupted into screams, cheers and chants immediately following the vote.
Lawmakers debated for more than 10 hours yesterday, before voting on the Republicans' signature legislation. They approved the bill mainly along party lines.
A final, formal vote is scheduled for today. The measure will then go to the Senate, where the GOP majority is also expected to approve the bill.
Rep. Jody Laubenberg (R-Parker) outlined the bill that would require doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, only allow abortions in surgical centers, dictate when abortion pills are taken and ban abortions after 20 weeks. Exceptions to the ban would only be allowed when the woman's life was in imminent danger.
Democrats and women's rights activists have protested the bill for weeks. The measure failed to win enough support during the regular session, then during the first special session on June 25, the state Senate didn't meet the voting deadline after an hours-long filibuster by Wendy Davis, a Fort Worth Democrat.
Republican leaders, including Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, are intent on passing it quickly through the GOP-controlled Legislature in a second special session. Democrats can do little but slow the bill down, attract as much attention as possible and lay the groundwork for a federal lawsuit to block it if it becomes law.
Opponents of the bill say it would effectively ban abortion in much of the nation's second most-populous state by causing the closure of 37 of its 42 abortion clinics.