Texas governor Perry signs restrictive abortion bill into law

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Texas Gov. Rick Perry has signed one of the nation’s most restrictive and controversial abortion bills into law, despite weeks of heated protests in the Lone Star State’s capital.

Perry signed the contentious legislation at a ceremony on
Thursday morning, thereby drastically reducing access to
abortions across the state.  About 20 protesters stood
solemnly outside the Capitol, wearing black instead of their
usual orange t-shirts. The group of activists held sheets of
paper spelling out “S-H-A-M-E.”

But the protesters were barred from entering the capitol
auditorium where Perry signed the measure. The seats were
reserved solely for invited guests, staff members and the press,
many of which commended the bill’s passage. 

“It was truly the hand of God,” Rep. Jodie Laubenberg
(R-Parker), who sponsored the bill, said of the legislation’s
success at the signing ceremony. 

“It is happy, celebratory day,” Perry told the crowd of
more than 100 people. “It is our responsibility to give voice
to the unborn… It is also our responsibility to protect the
health of women.”

The auditorium erupted in applause, but outside the room,
protesters chanted in heated opposition to a bill that has
generated stark controversy for weeks. “Shame!
Shame!”
the activists shouted, which could be heard from
inside the auditorium. 

Abortion rights protesters rally after the state Senate passed legislation restricting abortion rights in Austin, Texas early July 13, 2013. (Reuters/Mike Stone)

House Bill 2 outlaws abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, which
is four weeks earlier than the Supreme Court’s landmark decision
in Roe v. Wade. Previously, abortions in the state of Texas were
legal up to 26 weeks of pregnancy.

New regulations set by the legislation would also close down 37
of the state’s 42 health clinics for women, leaving open just
five clinics in the country’s second most populous state. The
bill requires clinics to become ambulatory surgical centers in
order to perform any abortive procedure. 

State Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) staged an 11-hour
filibuster during the first special session, effectively delaying
the vote. But after Perry called a second meeting to ensure a
vote on the bill, the legislature passed the measure with
majority Republican support. Sen. Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville) was
the only Democrat to vote for the bill. 

Pro-choice advocates held protests for weeks, the most dramatic
of which took place during Davis’ filibuster on June 25.
Pro-choice activists generally wore orange t-shirts, while
pro-life activists wore blue.

Critics argue that by shutting down most abortion clinics in the
state, the legislation would make it difficult for low-income
women to travel to faraway clinics and force them to instead seek
dangerous back-alley abortions. With a limited number of clinics,
the cost of an abortion is expected to triple.

Abortion rights protesters rally inside the State Capitol after the state Senate passed legislation restricting abortion rights in Austin, Texas, July 13, 2013. (Reuters/Mike Stone)

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, on Thursday
condemned Perry for limiting women’s’ ability to acquire an
abortion in the state.

“The bill signed into law by Governor Perry today makes a
terrible situation for women’s health even worse,”
Richards
told the Washington Post. “Already, Rick Perry and other
politicians have cut more than 130,000 Texas women off from basic
preventive health care, including lifesaving cancer screenings
and well-woman check-ups, and this new law will severely limit
access to safe and legal abortion, which will cause women to
resort to desperate and dangerous measures.”

Pro-choice Democrats and reproductive rights organizations,
including Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties
Union of Texas, have vowed to challenge the law’s
constitutionality in court. Lawsuits challenging House Bill
2 would most likely be based on the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court
rulings, which concluded that states cannot create substantial
obstacles to women seeking abortions.

“The next battle is going to be a court challenge.
Immediately. Without question,”
State Sen. Royce West
(D-Dallas) told the Huffington Post last week. “As soon as
it’s signed by the governor, it’s going to be challenged.”

The law is scheduled to go into effect in October.

Republished with permission from: RT