The Texas House approved a ban on abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy and required facilities that perform the procedure to meet the standards of surgical centers, which would force the majority of clinics in the state to upgrade or close.
The Texas Senate is scheduled to consider the legislation tomorrow. That chamber last week approved a version that didn’t include the 20-week ban. Texas Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, supports the restrictions.
The House measure, approved in a 95-to-34 vote today, might force the closing of abortion clinics that can’t afford to meet standards of surgical standards, according to abortion-rights advocates. The legislation would require abortions be performed in ambulatory surgical centers and require doctors who do them to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles (50 kilometers) of their clinic.
“This is truly about patient safety,” said State Representative Greg Bonnen, a Republican and a neurosurgeon who voted for the measure. “Anyone who says the current status quo is satisfactory is not paying attention.”
Republican-led states increasingly have restricted when and how women can end their pregnancies. Some measures, including 20-week bans that have passed in at least 10 states since 2010, face legal challenges and haven’t taken effect.
“We know that restricting abortions actually harms women’s health,” said State Representative Jessica Farrar, a Democrat. “If this bill passes, we can be sure the state will be subject to costly litigation.”
Courts in Arizona, Georgia and Idaho have struck down or issued injunctions on similar laws including the 20-week restriction, Farrar said.
Of 44 clinics in Texas, six meet surgical-center guidelines, according to an analysis by the Texas Senate Research Center, an arm of the chamber. Texas has more stringent requirements for the centers, compared with abortion clinics, that cover heating and ventilation systems, employee hiring, room size and fire alarms.
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered yesterday and today at the Texas capitol in Austin as the House debated the measure. Many of the protesters wore orange t-shirts reading “Stand With Texas Women.”