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Texas Senate Gives Strict Abortion Bill Final Passage

Ryan Poppe
Texas Public Radio

It took lawmakers ten hours of debate to pass the strictest abortion legislation Texas has ever seen on a vote of 19 to 11 Friday night.

Democratic lawmakers in the Texas Senate tried 21 times to change the bill by adding resolutions but none of those attempts were successful. Sen. Judith Zafarinni, D-Laredo, was one of those who tried to change the bill.

"As a pro-lifer I tried mightily to amend this bill to prohibit the abortion of an unborn child after 5 months," Zafarinni said. "Please remember that 11 Democrats voted for that amendment today."

Throughout the night, floor debates and votes on an amendment stirred up those in the audience to speak out during lawmaker discussions.

One of those women arrested had snuck in a heavy chain and locked herself to the Senate gallery’s railing. During the entire 10 hours of debate you could hear the constant drumming and chanting coming from the hallway and capitol rotunda.

Senate Democrats weren’t the only ones weighing in on the bill. At one point Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, spoke out, saying that those who would vote against the bill would be voting  against God.

"The bible tells us we are born in the image of God and I really think when we destroy a baby’s life we are destroying the image of God," Patrick said.

The Dean of the Senate, Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, said those comments had no place in the Texas Senate.

"Senator Patrick, I can’t sit here and let you question my faith as it relates to my position on this piece of legislation," he said. "The proponents of this legislation have no monopoly on their faith. I didn’t have to put it ingrained in our chamber to continue my belief and I really think you probably crossed the line."

Later in the debate, Patrick said: "Do you think if the mother had a conversation with the baby and said, 'You know, this just isn’t really convenient give birth to you right now, do you mind dying.'"

That comment stirred a women in the gallery to rise up and say, "I just can’t take it anymore, that is just offensive."

DPS troopers working at the capitol say they detained 12 people who spoke out during the Senate's floor debate.

As the night wound down and all the amended changes to the bill were rejected, Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy,the bill's sponsor, called for a final vote on the bill.

Senate Democrats met thousands of abortion rights supporters on the south steps of the capitol immediately following the bills passage, with Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth leading the charge.

"We’re going to stand not just for Texas women, we’re going stand for Texas schoolchildren, were going to stand to see justice for those who are treated with injustice in this state. We are going to stand as Governor Ann Richards said when she ran for the governorship of this great state: For the principal that this capitol belongs to the people of Texas and one day, hopefully soon, we are going to return it to the people of the State of Texas," Davis said.

The bill now awaits Gov. Rick Perry’s signature, who promised at the start of the session that he would swiftly sign the abortion bill soon after its passage.

Ryan started his radio career in 2002 working for Austin’s News Radio KLBJ-AM as a show producer for the station's organic gardening shows. This slowly evolved into a role as the morning show producer and later as the group’s executive producer.