Democrats remain determined despite Texas Senate passing abortion legislation

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Planned Parenthood Federation of America president Cecile Richards (right) leads a march of pro-choice activits through downtown Austin, Texas on July 12, 2013.

Photo Credit: Guillermo Hernandez | Daily Texan Staff

Moments after the Texas Senate passed abortion legislation and sent a bill to Texas Gov. Rick Perry's desk, undaunted Democratic Senators and opponents of the abortion legislation rallied on the South steps of the Texas Capitol, enthusiastically screaming and chanting the name of Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth.

"Tonight, we've lost the battle," Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, said to the crowd. "But we will not lose this war."

Abortion legislation passed the Texas Senate in a 19-11 vote that was almost along party lines. Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, was the only Democrat to vote in support of the bill. The bill would ban abortion after 20 weeks, increase the standard of safety at abortion clinics statewide and place additional regulation over abortion-inducing drugs. 

Supporters of the bill claimed it would make women's health care safer. Another repeated concern supporters of the legislation raised was research that claims the fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks. However, opponents of the legislation claimed legislation would make abortion much more difficult to obtain in Texas, as it would likely close all but five abortion clinics in the state. Opponents also challenged the science behind the claim that the fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks.

The Senate passed the bill after a nearly 10-hour debate that included 20 amendments. Every amendment was tabled. Some only had a few moments of discussions. Amendments including changes that would make an exception to the 20-week rule in the case of rape or incest and create state appropriations to cover the increased standard of safety. Some amendments struck parts of the bill out entirely.

Immediately following passage of the bill, Texas Gov. Rick Perry issued a statement.

"Today, the Texas Legislature took its final step in our historic effort to protect life," Perry said in his statement. "This legislation builds on the strong and unwavering commitment we have made to defend life and protect women's health care."

But, at a rally that started during the ongoing debate and continued following the vote, Texas Democrats said they were not daunted by the legislation passing.

Cecile Richards, the President of Planned Parenthood and the daughter of former Democratic Texas Gov. Ann Richards, spoke to supporters at a rally downtown and lead a march up Lavaca Street to the Capitol. There, Davis, spoke to the crowd.

"You have inspired every Democrat in the Senate Democratic Caucus," Davis said to a crowd of her supporters on the Capitol's South steps. "…One day, we're going to return the Capitol to the people."

Daivs has been asked repeatedly if she is considering running for governorship in 2014, and there has been mass media speculation. She has not announced an official decision yet, however. 

The second special session was called after Davis successfully filibuster identical abortion legislation in the first special session. The second special session has featured an increased presence of the Department of Public Safety at the Texas Capitol. Earlier on Friday, DPS released a statement claiming officers had confiscated 18 jars of feces and one jar of urine. Many on Twitter challenged this claim, however.

Now that abortion legislation has passed through the Texas Senate, Perry just has to sign the bill into law. In a statement, Elizabeth Graham, director of Texas Rights to Life, said the bill marked a victory for anti-abortion activists.

"...This bill sets forth a model for a state using advanced medical knolwedge to establish a new compelling state interest," Graham said in her statement.

The abortion legislation now awaits Perry's expected signature. The second special session will likely continue, as the legislature still needs to consider juvenile sentencing and transportation funding legislation.

Follow Bobby Blanchard on Twitter @bobbycblanchard.