Republicans used their majority to cut short debate and give preliminary approval early Monday to some of the toughest abortion restrictions in the country as time was running out on the Texas Legislature's special session.
Many members of the conservative majority had flyers on their desks that read "Psalm 139:13-14," which reads in part, "You covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made."
Democrats gained strength from more than 800 demonstrators who packed the hallways of the Capitol carrying signs reading, "Stop the War on Women" to oppose Senate Bill 5. The measure would ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, require doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and limit abortions to surgical centers.
Supporters say the bill will raise the standard of women's health care, but opponents point out the bill would shut down 37 out of 42 abortion clinics in the state.
"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 Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund and daughter of the late former Texas governor Ann Richards.
Democrats used parliamentary tactics to draw out the debate for 15 hours, pointing out technical mistakes in the process or trying to tack on amendments to fundamentally change the bill. Republicans remained largely silent, until finally passing a motion to stop accepting amendments and force a vote, a highly unusual and partisan move.
"We are willing to have an attack on women in order to have someone's political agenda achieved," Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, said in opposition to stopping debate on the bill. "It may be in the dark of night now ... but the sun will shine on each and every one of us, and we will be held accountable."
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