Republicans revive bill to severely curb abortion rights in Texas

Two weeks after Democrat State Senator Wendy Davis's filibuster, her opponents have regrouped

She stood, she talked and she conquered but barely two weeks after Democrat State Senator Wendy Davis filibustered to death a bill in the Texas legislature to severely curb abortion rights for women across the state, Republicans have regrouped and are rapidly pushing a revived version of the law towards passage.

After scenes of near pandemonium in the halls and galleries of the state house in Austin with supporters of both sides in the debate hurling invectives at one another, the new draft was approved at committee level and is set to be debated and almost assuredly passed by the full House next week. The Senate takes up its version also on Monday.

Victory for Senator Davis tasted sweet after she spoke non-stop for eleven hours on the House floor on the topic until midnight came and the year's session of the legislature was gaveled out. But it turned sour when Governor Rick Perry, remembered nationally for his hapless run last year for the Republican presidential nomination, simply ordered the legislature back for a special July session with the abortion bill the only order of business.

There seems little chance of Ms Davis successfully playing her David against the Republican Goliath again. If passed, the new bill will outlaw abortions in Texas beyond 20 weeks and impose new restrictions on abortion clinics that could force all about five of them to close. Currently there are about 42 clinics dotted across the state.

Before taking its vote, the House Committee organised hearings with testimony from both sides of the debate. Outside the hearing room, frustrated pro-choice protesters dressed in orange at one point began chanting 'Hail Satan' as their blue-clad pro-life antagonists broke out singing 'Amazing Grace'. When the vote was taken finally, Democrats complained that the Republican majority had unfairly and prematurely shut down debate.

Republican Sylvester Turner, a Houston Democrat and among the state's more senior lawmakers, was among those infuriated. “The people have the right to come here, and they have the right to be heard,” he said.

Texas is one of a handful of Republican-led states taking steps to narrow the access that women have to abortion that was made legal in the US by a Supreme Court ruling four decades ago.  Opponents of the new bill say it would expose women to dangerous back-street procedures if the existing network of clinics is closed down.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists this week voiced its own opposition to the proposed legislation, saying that it is “plainly intended to restrict the reproductive rights of women in Texas through a series of requirements that improperly regulate the medical practice and interfere with the patient-physician relationship”.

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