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Texas Senators Wrap Abortion Testimony After March, Rally (Photos)

For the first time since State Sen. Wendy Davis' historic Senate filibuster last month, Texas senators revisited the abortion debate at a committee hearing that ended at almost 2 a.m. Tuesday.

There won't be a vote on this bill for now. Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chair Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, says the Senate will wait on the Texas House to approve its version of the bill. The full House is taking up the issue today.

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee heard around 13 hours of testimony. 

More than 2,000 people signed up to express an opinion on Senate Bill 1 – either orally or on paper. State Sen. Nelson laid out the day's plan at 10 a.m.

"One of our challenges is to afford the public a reasonable opportunity to provide input while preserving our ability to conduct business within the 30 days that we have of the session," she said at the beginning of the public hearing.

Everyone who lined up by 11 a.m. could speak – about 475 people. Senators like State Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, would speak first. He questioned whether the U.S. could "endure what some of us consider an American Holocaust of the 30 million plus babies that have been aborted."

SB 1 is a companion to House Bill 2 and would ban abortion after 20 weeks of gestation and require upgrades of the 42 facilities that perform abortions in Texas. 

Nancy Cardenas opposed the bill. She's a first-generation Mexican American and came from near McAllen to testify.

"Legislation drenched in religious dogma has no place in this debate when it comes to the decisions  I am more of capable of making for my own body," she said. "Hidalgo and Cameron County account for the poorest counties in the United States. How exactly do you find it sensible to ban the only resource these women have to affordable health exams and safe abortions?"

Noah Pennington from near Dripping Springs was adopted from South Korea.

"My birth parents perceived me as worthless and an inconvenience due to my disability. So they put me in the foster care system and I was there until I was adopted at 18 months. Had they gotten an ultrasound and found out about my disabilities, I believe they would have gotten me aborted," he said.

The emotions were not confined to the building – protestors on both sides lined up outside as well. At 7 p.m., a crowd of more than 1,500 wearing blue – to signify their support for the bill – gathered by the Capitol’s south steps for a rally. Speakers included Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.

"We will continue to protect life in the great State of Texas," he said to loud cheers. "Thank you and may God continue to praise the great state of Texas."

An hour later, just as many bill opponents gathered by the gates for a march through downtown Austin to demonstrate their opposition. 

The Texas House will meet at 10 a.m. Tuesday and is expected to vote on its version of this omnibus bill. This Senate committee will then vote on the House measure before sending it to the full Senate. 

KUT's Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon was at the Capitol yesterday, documenting rallies on both sides of the abortion debate. Take a look at KUT's photos in the slideshow player below. 

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