THE Republican-controlled Senate in Texas has voted to ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, ending a high-profile political battle that stirred debate over abortion rights well beyond the state’s borders.
Already approved by representatives, the sweeping bill to restrict abortions now goes to Republican governor Rick Perry, who is certain to sign it and had called a second special session of the legislature to get it through. It makes Texas the 13th US state to pass a 20-week ban.
The 20-week provision is based on disputed research suggesting foetuses feel pain at that point in a pregnancy. Current limits are 26 weeks in Texas.
The Senate passed the measure late on Friday by a vote of 19 to 11 in front of a full public gallery, while protesters yelled and chanted outside the chamber.
The issue has stirred huge attention in part because of an 11-hour filibuster in June against the bill by state Senator Wendy Davis, a Democrat.
Her actions at the time prompted comparisons with the James Stewart film, Mr Smith Goes To Washington.
Despite political support in Texas for the bill, there could be legal hurdles. Courts have blocked the ban in three of the 12 states that passed it, and opponents of the Texas bill vowed to challenge the decision in court.
Thousands of activists for and against the bill gathered at the state capitol this summer for rallies and marches and to testify at public hearings.
“Let’s draw the line and not torture these babies that are aborted,” bill supporter Senator Bob Deuell, a Republican and a physician, said during Friday’s nine-hour debate.
The Texas measure would change standards for abortion clinics in ways that opponents say would cause dozens of the facilities to shut down, forcing Texans to turn to illegal, unsafe means.
“Women in Texas today not only will not be made safer but they will absolutely be at risk of their health,” said Davis.