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Photos: Over Protest, Senate Passes Abortion Bill; Tampons Confiscated From Gallery Watchers

Update: The Senate has given a final vote to pass House Bill 2, passing it 19-11.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst asked Senators that  "whether you're Christian, whether you're a person of faith, that we not forget to love each other." He said he felt goose bumps by seeing the orange and blue shirts in the gallery.

Update: The fate of House Bill 2 has been decided for now. The Texas Senate voted preliminarily 19 to 11 to pass the measure, without any amendments.

They need to give the bill a final vote before it would go to Gov. Rick Perry's desk for a signature.

In the last stretch of the night, senators gave most of their most impassioned statements when they gave their closing remarks.

  • View a photo gallery of the day's events in the slideshow player at the top of this page.

“The indignant claims and insistent spin that this is about women’s health and safety are bogus,” State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, said. “And I’m sorry to say, sometimes a little bit hypocritical.”
State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, a supporter of the bill, disagreed. “I believe when a baby is destroyed we are destroying the image of God,” he said. 

That prompted State Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, to say Sen. Patrick crossed the line by challenging the faith of those who vote against the bill. “Don’t question the faith of any member on this floor,” he said.

State Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, is the lone Democrat who will vote in favor. "This is not a war on women. This is a war on children," he said.

Chanting outside the Senate chamber is particularly loud.

Update: Some abortion rights protesters are questioning DPS' claim to have confiscated suspected jars of feces and urine. Here's KUT's reporting partners The Texas Tribune with more:

DPS officers outside the Senate gallery and at each entrance to the Capitol told The Texas Tribune they had not seen or found jars containing feces or urine, and multiple officers throughout the Capitol said they had not heard of any jars being found until a reporter mentioned it. Several officers also said they had not heard anything on the DPS radio system about jars of any excrement. On social media and in interviews, abortion rights protesters questioned the report, calling it an attempt by DPS to bolster Republican credibility during a contentious debate that has drawn national attention.

Update: Despite earlier reports tampon and maxi pad confiscation would end for visitors going into the Senate Chambers, the Texas Department of Public Safety has issued a statement saying bag inspections will continue.

DPS says it was tipped off to plans "to use a variety of items or props to disrupt legislative proceedings" today – leading to the bag searches and tampon confiscation. It says "inspections will continue until the conclusion of Senate business." 

Here's a description of what DPS says it's confiscated:

During these inspections, DPS officers have thus far discovered one jar suspected to contain urine, 18 jars suspected to contain feces, and three bottles suspected to contain paint. All of these items – as well as significant quantities of feminine hygiene products, glitter and confetti possessed by individuals – were required to be discarded; otherwise those individuals were denied entry into the gallery.

Update: There are reports that DPS has halted tampon confiscation. Abortion rights organizers Stand With Texas Women credit Austin Sen. Kirk Watson with the reversal. 

The Associated Press has more

State Sen. Kirk Watson of Austin called it a "boneheaded" and "crazy" decision to confiscate tampons as state troopers sought to take away items that could be thrown from the gallery. Watson says he's been assured that the practice will stop.

KUT News has reached out to Watson's office for comment. 

Update: A spokesperson for State Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, says their office has offered to hold feminine products for women after one of their volunteers was shocked by the search.

“They are embarrassed,” says spokesperson Ariana Campos. “We had a woman in our office who showed up in tears because not only the items were not only confiscated but also shown to the rest of the group in line.”

DPS troopers were also asking women to throw away snacks and other items that could be thrown at senators from the gallery. KUT News has numerous calls in to DPS' main office for comment, but our calls have not been returned.

Update: In Austin, Twitter is exploding with reports that Texas Department of Public Safety officers are making women surrender their maxi pads and tampons before entering the Senate gallery. On the scene, KUT’s Veronica Zaragovia confirms that DPS is asking women to do so.

The reasoning? Fear the feminine hygiene products could be used as projectiles, thrown from the gallery onto the Senate floor, during the HB 2 debate. One widely circulated photo shows other personal items, like energy bars, being confiscated as well. 

Original Post: Beginning at 2:30 p.m., the Texas Senate is set to debate and take a preliminary vote on House Bill 2, a measure that would restrict abortion in Texas. Here's an overview: 

  • The last special session ended in a historic filibuster by State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, which some senators say kept them from expressing their opinions.

“There were many of us that really wanted to speak in favor of the bill and opposition to the bill that didn’t get that chance because of the filibuster,” says Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound. “So I think you’ll see several senators, myself included. I want to talk about my support of this bill and why I do. So I think there’ll be a lot of discussion.” 

  • Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, says discussion – not a filibuster – is all his party can do at this point.

“We don’t have the numbers to stop it,” West said. “There’s no way in the world you can filibuster for the rest of the month. It’s just not humanly possible. But you will see, it’ll be a good debate.”
The bill would ban abortion after 20 weeks of gestation and add requirements to clinics and physicians who perform the procedure. Here's more on HB 2's abortion restrictions

What to expect today:  

The body is set to gavel in at 2 p.m., with debate expected to begin soon after.

  • Update: Shortly after 2 p.m., Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst announced the chamber will take up HB 2 shortly after 2:30 p.m.)  

While another Democratic filibuster is out of the question, that doesn’t mean Ds won’t try to stretch out the debate as long as possible. Debate could stretch into Saturday. After passing HB 2 on second reading, senators will have to wait 24 hours to pass it on third and final reading.

  • Update: The senate was able to pass HB 2 on third reading by adjourning after its passage on second reading, and immediately re-convening on a technically new day. 

The scene at the Capitol

Chanting has begun inside the Capitol dome, and the outpouring of emotions for and against HB 2 is expected to continue through the night. More than 1,500 people came to the Capitol by 11 a.m., and more than 200 Texas State Troopers are on hand. 

Some people began lining up at 2:30 a.m. - people like Art Stretton of Houston, who began the drive to Austin at about 11 p.m. last night. He brought with him a protein drink to withstand the hours he'd go today without food while sitting in one of the seats of the Senate gallery. The gallery has roughly 500 seats. 

Rich Deotte from Southlake said he got to the Capitol between 5 and 6 a.m. "We want them to know we're behind them," he said, of lawmakers who will vote in favor of the bill. 

Here’s more from KUT News on HB 2 and the Texas abortion debate.  And view a photo gallery of the day's events in the slideshow player at the top of this page.

Editor's Note: This post orignially contained live video of Senate deliberation over HB 2, powered by KUT's reporting partners The Texas Tribune. As the vote is over, the video has since been removed. 

Credit Gabriel Cristóver Pérez, KUT News
Hundreds of abortion rights demonstrators encircled a group of anti-abortion demonstrators in the Capitol Rotunda, while even more demonstrators from either side watched and cheered from above.

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