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Texas Republicans on verge of passing abortion law

Monday - 6/24/2013, 7:12pm  ET

Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, wields a hanger from podium of the House floor as she defends her attempt to add an amendment to create an exception for victims of rape and incest in Senate Bill 5 during debate on abortion at the State Capitol in Austin, Texas, on Sunday, June 23, 2013. Speaker, State Rep. Linda Harper-Brown watches from rear. If passed, the bill would ban abortions after 20 weeks, require that they take place in surgical centers, and restrict where and when women can take abortion-inducing pills_and force 37 out of 42 abortion clinics in Texas to close and undergo millions of dollars in upgrades. (AP Photo/Statesman.com, Rodolfo Gonzalez)

CHRIS TOMLINSON
Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- The Republican-dominated Texas Legislature pushed Monday to enact wide-ranging restrictions that would effectively shut down abortion clinics across the nation's second most-populous state, and Democrats planned an old-fashioned marathon filibuster to stop the final vote.

After the House easily approved it Monday morning, the wide-ranging package of anti-abortion measures was headed to the Senate. But with the special session scheduled to end at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, the clock presented a far bigger obstacle than the votes to win approval there.

Although Texas is just the latest of several conservative states to try to enact tough limits on abortions, the scope of its effort is notable both because of the combination of bills being considered and the size of the state. The proposal would ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, require doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, limit abortions to surgical centers and stipulate doctors must monitor even non-surgical abortions.

When combined in a state 773 miles wide and 790 miles long and with 26 million people, the measures become the most stringent set of laws to impact the largest number of people in the nation.

"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.

Supporters, though, insist it will only raise the standard of health care for women seeking an abortion. Gov. Rick Perry added abortion to the special session's agenda and has promised to sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

The only way Democrats could block a vote when it goes to the Senate is if one senator filibusters it by running out the clock on the special session. Under the rules, the senator would have to speak non-stop, remain standing, restrain from bathroom breaks or even lean on anything.

Normally the Senate doesn't get a bill until 24 hours after House passage, which would set the Senate debate for Tuesday morning, effectively requiring a filibuster to last 13
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