Posted on July 12, 2013 at 6:11 PM
Saturday, Jul 13 at 2:37 AM
AUSTIN -- Opponents in orange, supporters in blue all sat quietly in the Texas Senate gallery as Texas Department of Public Safety troopers stood watch.
The day began with a stern warning not to replicate the outburst that drowned out a vote on the same legislation after a day long filibuster by state Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) at the end of the last special session.
"As the governor said, we will not tolerate any outburst in the Senate," cautioned state Sen. Kevin Eltiffe. "We will maintain decorum this entire session."
With Democrats well out of filibuster range and a Republicans with the votes needed for passage, it was the final debate over a controversial bill banning abortions after 20 weeks and imposing strict new standards on abortion providers and clinics.
"Those that don't meet that standard would close," Davis told state Sen. Glenn Hegar (R-Katy), the Senate sponsor of House Bill 2 and author of Senate Bill 5 during the first called session of the 83rd Texas Legislature.
"I've never believed that they all would close, because there was a time period to allow them to come up to those standards," Hegar contended.
Democrats offered a total of twenty amendments, such as exceptions to the 20 week ban for rape and incest.
"I could go the rest of the evening giving you horror stories," state Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) said during an emotional exchange with Hegar. "We know that this is a reasonable amendment, and if it's not accepted it's only pure politics and that makes me sick at my stomach because we can do better."
"If that makes you sick I'm sorry, but I'm going to stand here today as the author of this bill and I'm going to defend it on what I believe is right," Hegar replied.
Republicans struck down each amendment, ensuring a final vote would go directly to the governor. After nearly ten hours of debate, it was on its way with a 19-11 vote. As hundreds of protesters gathered at the capitol steps afterward, Senate Democrats vowed the fight would continue.
"My friends, we're going to keep standing," Davis said. "We're going to stand not just for Texas women, we're going to stand for Texas school children. We're going to stand to seek justice for those who are treated with injustice in this state."
While both sides acknowledge the legislation is likely headed to a fierce court battle, Republicans voiced confidence in the law's constitutionality.
"We make sure before we bring it to the floor we believe it will hold constitutional muster," said state Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston). "We looked at what other states do, where other states have made mistakes, where other states have been successful. We try to avoid their mistakes, we try to take a look at the things they did successfully and follow and then we do it our own way."
For now, the debate is over.