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Texas' attack on abortion advances to state Senate

The Texas House of Representatives early Monday passed Senate Bill 5, which restricts women's access to reproductive health services and abortion, after nine ho
Credit: AP Photo/, Rodolfo Gonzalez
Credit: AP Photo/, Rodolfo Gonzalez

The Texas House of Representatives early Monday passed Senate Bill 5, which restricts women's access to reproductive health services and abortion, after nine hours of debate. The special-session vote was ordered by Republican Governor Rick Perry.

Republicans in the State Senate have until midnight Tuesday, when the special session ends, to pass the bill—Democrats in the chamber said they intend to filibuster.

Introduced by Republican State Representative Jodie Laubenberg, Senate Bill 5 is an omnibus "fetal pain" bill that would ban abortions in Texas after 20 weeks and require any and all abortion doctors to be able to admit patients to nearby hospitals. The bill, likely to be signed by Governor Perry should it pass the House and Senate, would also limit abortions to surgical centers.

Also at stake are House Bills 16 and 60, which Laubenberg postponed until after the end of the special session on Tuesday.

In what the Associated Press characterized as a "a highly unusual and partisan move," the House Republicans rushed to a 95-34 preliminary approval vote on the bill. When word broke of the House passage, protesters mobilized against the bill sent the word out via social media on Monday afternoon to show up to the state Capitol to protest.

(Update: Republican state senators put forth a motion Monday afternoon to suspend its normal 24-hour waiting period to consider House changes, but that motion failed on 19-11 vote. That is significant because as Democratic state senator Wendy Davis noted on Twitter shortly after that motion failed, the "amount of time needed to filibuster just shortened significantly.")

Laubenberg came under particular criticism early Monday from Davis among others regarding her confusing statement about rape kits, which are used to collect evidence in the wake of a sexual assault. Responding to a Democrat who had proposed an exemption in Laubenberg's bill for women who had become pregnant due to rape and/or incest. Laubenberg said:

In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out...The woman had five months to make that decision, at this point we are looking at a baby that is very far along in its development.

Erroneously likening rape kits to a form of contraception earned Laubenberg quite a bit of ridicule on social media. More than 800 protesters, many dressed in shirts that read "Stand With Texas Women," posted updates through the night.

Democrats insist that the abortion bills under consideration could cause the closure of 37 of Texas' 42 abortion clinics. NARAL Pro-Choice Texas executive director Heather Busby told msnbc Monday in a statement that "this is not over" and that the number of protesters who showed up "is a sign that Texans are ready for a change in their government."

Saturday on "Melissa Harris-Perry," the massive "people's filibuster" staged by protesters against these bills was a topic of discussion. Click here for our earlier reporting, and see the video of the discussion below.