Legal and political challenges are taking shape as abortion-rights supporters prepare to challenge the restrictive abortion bill that passed in the Texas Senate.
“Today the Texas Legislature took its final step in our historic effort to protect life,” Perry said in a statement. “This legislation builds on the strong and unwavering commitment we have made to defend life and protect women’s health.”
The bill, seen as a major victory for antiabortion advocates, would ban the procedure beginning at 20 weeks after conception unless the woman's health was in immediate danger. It would require doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital and for abortions to be done in ambulatory surgical centers.
The bill also requires that a doctor be present when a woman induces an abortion by taking a pill.
None of the 20 amendments proposed by Democrats, including an exception in cases of rape and incest, was adopted.
Abortion-rights activists say the measure will force the closure of all but five of the state's 42 abortion providers. The issue has galvanized abortion-rights activists, with more than 2,000 demonstrators filing into the state Capitol on Friday to protest the bill.
Tanene Allison, a spokeswoman for the Texas Democratic Party, said the party hopes to translate that energy into a political boost for elections in 2014. Texas Democrats found a new star in Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth, whose 13-hour filibuster during a special session of the Legislature derailed the the measure.
In response, Perry called a special session of the Republican-led Legislature, and for weeks thousands of protesters on both sides of the issue have descended on Austin, the state capital, to rally for or against the bill.
Organizations such as Planned Parenthood have also promised legal challenges to the legislation. Most of the measures would go into effect 90 days after the end of the legislative session.
“We believe provisions of this bill are unconstitutional,” Cecile Richards, the daughter of former Democratic Gov. Ann Richards and president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. “Similar provisions enacted elsewhere have been enjoined by federal and state courts.
“We are evaluating litigation options and will take appropriate steps to prevent these provisions from taking effect and endangering the health of women in Texas.”
Carl Tobias, a constitutional law professor at the University of Richmond in Virginia, said he expected the challenges to focus on the 20-week rule and the requirement that abortions be performed in ambulatory surgical centers. One question will be whether the new laws impose an undue burden on providers, he said.
“This has symbolic importance for a lot of people, because Roe came out of Texas,” Tobias said, referring to the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision that established a woman’s right to an abortion.
[For the record, July 13, 6:28 p.m.: An earlier version of this post said state Sen. Wendy Davis' 13-hour filibuster occurred during the regular session of the Legislature. It was a special session.]