Texas Senate Republicans insist proposed new restrictions on abortion facilities are designed to protect women's health, but a tweet Wednesday from Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst suggested supporters of the measure hope to close clinics and all but ban the legal procedure in the state.
Senate Republicans shoved aside Democrat objections late Tuesday night to pass sweeping new regulations on Texas clinics that critics warn would force most facilities to close.
Over several hours of debate, Republican supporters acknowledged they hoped to reduce the number of abortions -- about 78,000 in Texas annually -- but insisted they were trying to raise the standard of health care for women seeking the procedure.
The latest news from around North Texas.
Less than 12 hours after the bill was sent to the House, Dewhurst tweeted a map from the Stand With Texas Women abortion rights campaign showing the locations of clinics that would likely be forced to close along with a warning the Senate plan "would essentially ban abortion statewide."
Within two hours of the first tweet, Dewhurst's media relations office tweeted a follow-up:
A telephone message left with Dewhurst's office was not immediately returned.
The Senate plan would allow abortions in Texas only in surgical facilities, and place more restrictions on doctors and abortion-inducing medications.
Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, introduced his bill for debate by calling it the "pro-life" bill of the 30-day special session and said it "raises the standard of care, protects life."
The changes would force many clinics to upgrade their facilities to be classified as ambulatory surgical centers. Doctors would be required to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles.
Abortion rights groups complain that the upgrades are expensive and unnecessary and say the many religious hospitals deny admitting rights to doctors who perform abortions.
Sen. Kirk Watson of Austin, leader of the Senate Democrats, criticized the bill as an attempt to all but ban abortion in Texas 40 years after the landmark Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision that established a woman's right to have the procedure.
The bill is "a back-door effort to overturn something that has been established law for decades," Watson said.
The abortion restrictions failed to pass in the regular session when Democrats successfully blocked them from coming to the floor for debate. But Republicans, led by Dewhurst, urged Gov. Rick Perry to put abortion on the agenda of the special session when the Senate GOP majority could use different rules to dilute Democratic political power.
With Senate Democrats unable to stop it, the abortion bill passed 20-10 a vote that broke almost directly along partisan lines. Sen. Eddie Lucio of Brownsville, who said his Catholic faith influenced his support for the bill, was the only Democrat to vote with Republicans.
"It is obvious that the real goal of this bill is to make it harder, even impossible, for women to elect a procedure that is perfectly legal," said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio.