13 Jul 2013

Controversial abortion bill passed in Texas

8:53 pm on 13 July 2013

Texas legislators have passed a contentious bill banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The legislation, which was debated in the state Senate after passing in the House, will also shut down most of the state's abortion clinics.

Republicans had moved quickly to pass the bill after a Democratic senator originally blocked it with a marathon delaying speech.

Governor Rick Perry has vowed to sign the bill into law amid large protests.

The Texas legislation mirrors a series of state laws recently passed in Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, Alabama, Kansas, Wisconsin and Arizona.

The US Supreme Court legalised abortion nationwide in 1973, but about a dozen states have enacted laws in recent years limiting access to the procedure. Some of that state legislation is tied up in court battles, the BBC reports.

The bill came near to passage last month but was blocked in the state Senate when Senator Wendy Davis spoke for nearly 11 hours - in a delaying speech known as a filibuster - in an attempt to run out the clock on the legislative session. The filibuster drew nationwide attention and made Ms Davis a heroine of the US abortion rights movement.

The following day, Mr Perry, a Republican who opposes abortion, called a special session to take up the abortion bill and other legislation.

Anti-abortion and abortion rights protesters have rallied in Austin in large numbers since the second special session began.

In addition to banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, the bill will require all abortion procedures to be performed at a surgical centre, and mandate all doctors performing abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital within 48 kilometres of the clinic.