AUSTIN, Texas —
The Texas Senate convened Friday afternoon to debate and ultimately vote on some of the nation’s toughest abortion restrictions, its actions being watched by fervent demonstrators on either side of the issue.
The circus-like atmosphere in the Texas Capitol marked the culmination of weeks of protests, the most dramatic of which came June 25 in the final minutes of the last special legislative session when a Democratic filibuster and subsequent protest prevented the bill from becoming law. Abortion-rights advocates dressed in orange Friday, some carrying gynecological devices and signs, while anti-abortion activists wore blue and held images of fetuses and Bible verses.
The Senate’s leader, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, is determined not to let anything — or anyone — derail a vote again. Senators began debate on House Bill 2 on Friday afternoon, with a vote to follow in the evening or possibly early Saturday morning.
The bill could shut all but five abortion clinics in Texas and would be a win long-eyed by conservatives who make abortion a key campaign issue, but the raucous debate has also given Texas Democrats newfound momentum. The Republican majority is expected to ultimately pass the bill, with Democrats left to do little more than enter into the legislative record material that could help defeat it in federal court.