Texas abortion law fracas not over

The tough new abortion restrictions signed into law Thursday by Texas Gov. Rick Perry will almost certainly be challenged in court, the American Civil Liberties Union promised, and are already fueling a movement to unseat the lawmakers who supported the measure, angry pro-choice leaders said.

"People are enraged by this law, and it has created a whole new generation of activists who are in it for the long run to elect leaders who will protect women's health," said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

A Texas Planned Parenthood official said the abortion industry giant will close three facilities in the state in August due to budget cuts and a "hostile environment."

Pro-life groups, however, cheered Mr. Perry, a Republican, and his legislative allies for stepping up protections for unborn children and their mothers.

"In signing House Bill 2 today, we celebrate and further cement the foundation on which the culture of life in Texas is built," Mr. Perry said at the signing ceremony in Austin, which was attended by some 100 state lawmakers.

"Rick Perry is a brave man for standing up to the mob tactics of the abortion lobby and has earned the respect of pro-life women and men across the country," said Ashley McGuire, senior fellow with the Catholic Association.

"Abortion clinics should not be held to a lower standard of care and regulation than other medical facilities, and those who break the law should be held accountable for jeopardizing the health and safety of women," said Elizabeth Graham of Texas Right to Life.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said other state and national politicians should take a similar stand against "the barbarism of late-term abortion."

"Remaining silent on this — especially in the aftermath of Kermit Gosnell and other abortion-clinic horrors — would be both a moral and political mistake," said Ms. Dannenfelser, referring to the former Philadelphia abortionist who is now serving life in prison for murdering newly born children.

Texas' abortion law was passed in a special legislative session after Democrat state Sen. Wendy Davis filibustered an earlier attempt to pass the bill in a performance that became an Internet sensation.

The new law bans most abortions of fetuses 20 weeks and older — a time when some believe the unborn child can feel pain. It also requires doctors to personally administer abortion-inducing drugs, rather than having it done remotely or by other medical staff.

Its most sweeping impact is likely to be in the new health and safety rules: Abortion clinic doctors will now be required to have local hospital-admitting privileges, and abortion clinics must meet the standards of out-patient or ambulatory surgical centers.

Only five of Texas' 42 abortion clinics currently fulfill the new requirements. After the law goes into effect in October, clinics will have a year to upgrade, take other steps to come into compliance or face closure.

Pro-life groups say stricter clinic regulations are needed in light of the grisly clinic conditions that were highlighted in the Gosnell murder trial and are emerging elsewhere in testimonies from former abortion-clinic workers.

But opponents of the law said it showed that politicians still cannot resist meddling with women's constitutional right to choose abortion rather than bear a child — and there will be a political price to pay.

"The Texas measure is part of an orchestrated, nationwide plan to outlaw abortion clinic by clinic, state by state," said Jennifer Dalven, director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. "We won't sit quietly by while politicians take away our right to make our own, personal and private medical decisions just to score political points."

The ACLU is involved in lawsuits against state abortion laws, including those in Wisconsin and Alabama, and Ms. Dalven said Thursday she would be "very surprised" if the new law wasn't challenged in court.

"Abortion is at the forefront of the 2013-2014 elections," said Terry O'Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, noting that her group has a "We're Not Fooled" abortion-rights campaign. Political ally NARAL Pro-Choice is launching a "Stand Up" campaign, which plans to "go after every governor, every member of Congress, and every state legislator who tries to get between a woman and her doctor," according to the group's leader, Ilyse G. Hogue.

A public opinion poll, released Thursday, found that people are divided on new abortion laws.

Forty-four percent of likely U.S. voters favor a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, while 41 percent oppose it, said a Gallup poll. Another 15 percent said they're undecided.

In Austin, thousands of protesters for and against the bill came to the state Capitol in recent weeks to lobby on the bill.

Pro-choice allies cheered when Ms. Davis stopped the law in June by talking nonstop for more than 11 hours, to run out the legislative clock on a special session called in part to pass the abortion measure. But Mr. Perry immediately called for a second special session, and this time the Republican-dominated Legislature passed the measure.

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill to ban most abortions past 20 weeks gestation; it is now in the Senate.

Several other states have enacted bans on abortion of "pain-capable children," but some measures are tied up in court.

— Ben Wolfgang contributed to this article.


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