Governor Rick Perry asked the Texas legislature to ban abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy after at least 10 other states approved similar measures in recent years.
The proposal backed by Perry, a 63-year-old Republican, wouldn’t apply if a woman is facing “substantial and irreversible” physical harm.
“The horrors of the national late-term abortion industry are continuing to come to light, one atrocity at a time,” Perry, who leads the second-most-populous state, said today in a statement. “We have an obligation to protect unborn children, and to hold those who peddle these abortions to standards that would minimize the death, disease and pain they cause.”
In the past three years, Republican-led states increasingly have restricted when and how women can end their pregnancies. Twenty-week bans have been among the most popular, passing in at least 10 states since 2010. Some of the measures are facing legal challenges and haven’t taken effect.
In May, an Arizona law that made it a crime for doctors to perform abortions after 20 weeks was struck down by a federal appeals court. The ruling said the measure violated the precedent set by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which granted the right to an abortion until a fetus is viable, typically considered to be around 24 weeks.
Both the Texas House and Senate, which are meeting in a special session, have anti-abortion Republican majorities, said Heather Busby, executive director of the Texas chapter of NARAL Pro-Choice America, a Washington-based group that opposes restrictions.
Texas law prohibits abortions after 28 weeks, though in practice there are few after 24 weeks, Busby said.
Republican legislators proposed measures similar to the new bill that didn’t gain traction during the regular legislative session that ended May 27.
Supporters cited research suggesting a fetus can feel pain by 20 weeks. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says the claim isn’t based on “sound science.” Women commonly get ultrasounds at 20 weeks to screen for fetal anomalies.
More than 60 Republican lawmakers signed a letter asking Perry to add abortion bills to the special-session agenda.
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