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Texas lawmakers OK strict abortion rules

AUSTIN, Texas -- Republican lawmakers in Texas passed a bill that would give the state some of the nation's most restrictive abortion laws and force most of its clinics to close, leading Democrats to promise a fight over the contentious measure in the courts and at the ballot box.

More than 2,000 demonstrators filled the Capitol building in Austin to oppose the bill, including six protesters who were dragged out of the Senate chamber by state troopers for trying to disrupt the debate. The Republican majority passed the bill unchanged late Friday -- just before midnight -- with all but one Democrat voting against it.

Gov. Rick Perry, who will sign the bill into law in the next few days, praised the bill.

Democrats promised a legal challenge to the measure, which will ban abortions after 20 weeks, require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and require all abortions to take place in surgical centers.

Only five of Texas' 42 existing abortion clinics meet the requirements to be a surgical center, and clinic owners say they cannot afford to upgrade or relocate.

Democrats proposed 20 amendments to the bill, including making exceptions in cases of rape and incest and allowing doctors more leeway in prescribing abortion-inducing drugs. But Republicans rejected them.

The bill inspired abortion-rights supporters to protest at the state Capitol in numbers not seen in Texas in at least 20 years.

They finished a lengthy filibuster by Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis by jeering for the last 15 minutes of the first special legislative session, effectively killing the bill. That's when Perry called lawmakers back for round two.

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