AUSTIN, Texas - Texas lawmakers are poised to cast a final vote on tough new abortion restrictions less than two weeks after the Republican-led Senate failed to finish work on the legislation during a chaotic end to the first special session. Here's a look at the legislation and what's at stake:
-- THE BILL:
The proposed bill includes four restrictions on when, where and how a woman may obtain an abortion. The first provision requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic. Another bans abortions after 20 weeks unless the health of the woman is in immediate danger. If a woman wants to induce an abortion by taking a pill, the state will require her to take the pills in the presence of a doctor at a certified abortion facility. Lastly, all abortions must take place in an ambulatory surgical center.
-- WHY SUPPORTERS SAY THIS IS NECESSARY:
Supporters argue they are increasing the standard of care for women. They say that admitting privileges is a signifier that the doctor is qualified. They also argue that after 20 weeks a fetus can feel pain, an assertion that is disputed by peer-reviewed scientific studies. They also insist that because the original instructions for abortion-inducing medications called for them to be taken in the presence of a doctor, it should be required by law. Supporters also insist that a woman is safer if the abortion takes place in a surgical center rather than in the current state-inspected abortion clinics not certified for surgery.
-- WHY OPPONENTS ARE PROTESTING:
Opponents say the bill is attempting to ban abortions by over-regulating them. Most private hospitals will not grant privileges to doctors who perform elective abortions, either for religious or political reasons, and the requirement will reduce the number of doctors available. They also cite medical evidence that a fetus only feels pain at 24 weeks, the stage at which abortions already are banned. Most doctors currently let women take abortion inducing drugs at home and have adapted the original instructions as they've gained experience and reduced complications. Lastly, abortions are not surgery, and opponents say the surgical center requirement will place an undue financial burden on clinics.
-- THE EFFECT:
According the Texas Department of State Health Services, Texas women undergo about 80,000 abortions a year. Currently, only five out of 42 abortions clinics in Texas qualify as ambulatory surgical centers, and there is some question whether the others can ever meet the infrastructure requirements such as hallway-width and ventilation standards. Most doctors do not have admitting privileges at a hospital, and it's unclear how many have such privileges at the remaining clinics in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin. If more surgical centers do not offer abortions, the remaining five would need to perform on average 43.5 a day to meet current demand.