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Abortion Bill Gets OK From Texas Senate After Hours of Debate

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

The Texas Senate voted, about 30 minutes before midnight, to pass an abortion bill, Senate Bill 5, with a vote of 20 to 10.

Before debate began roughly 6 hours earlier on the Senate floor, SB 5 got a significant change.

The bill's sponsor, State Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, filed a substitute version, removing the provision that would prohibit abortion after 20 weeks of gestation.

That may be to give other provisions a better chance of passing the Legislature.

The move led other members, including State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, to question Sen. Hegar on the remaining provisions. Sen. Davis focused on the one requiring that abortions be performed only in ambulatory surgical centers -- the stated reason being to protect the patient.

“You also recognize that the incidence of problems that arise from live births is greater than the incidence of problems that arise as a result of an abortion procedure, and yet women don’t have to have the same standard of care forced upon them when they’re making decision about their reproductive rights when it comes to live births," she said. "Why the difference?”

Sen. Hegar replied he did not try to "deal with that in this legislation."

"But if you think it’s important to regulate in those areas, then you can bring that forward," he continued.

Members voted on about 20 amendments. As the debate began to wind down, State Sen Kirk Watson, D-Austin, spoke against the number of abortion bills being considered in the 2013 special session. Among them is Senate Bill 13, also by Hegar. This stand alone measure bans abortions after 20 weeks.

"These are part of a decision that's a part of a political effort,' State Sen Kirk Watson, D-Austin said. "And women are collateral damage. These bills don't offer a solution. Instead, they hurt women. They're part of a political effort being waged for political gain, and Texas women will suffer for it."

That got a rebuke by State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston.

"To suggest that this is about politics, to suggest that we don't value the life of the woman as much as the infant...personally offends me," Sen. Patrick said. "I respect your right to disagree, I respect your right to have a different view. But as a Republican, a conservative, a Christian, a dad....we will remember this day. I don't apologize for that vote."

State Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, gave a speech invoking religion and in support of the bill.

"I can't separate my faith from my decision making," Sen. Lucio said. "I respect the Democrats because they're pro-life and they don't even know it."

Members also gave final approval on Tuesday night to a measure by State Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, on transportation funding -- SJR 2.

The bills are expected to go to the House for its consideration, starting first with the House State Affairs Committee. Also on Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a measure that prohibits abortions after 22 weeks.

Trey Shaar is an All Things Considered producer, reporter and host. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @treyshaar.