In the Senate, Democrats led by Wendy Davis filibustered the bill last month, but they will not be able to do that again this time around.
The House passed a new bill Wednesday and debate is underway right now in the Senate.
The bill includes four major changes:
- a ban on abortions past 20 weeks
- more requirements on abortion doctors
- changes to how the abortion pill is dispensed
- a requirement that all abortion clinics upgrade and meet the structural and medical standards of an ambulatory surgery center.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst spoke about the bill at a press conference Thursday:
"For the life of me, I can't understand why people would object to not making for safer conditions when women have abortions."
Senate Democrats say the real intent of the bill is to make abortions harder to obtain.
By requiring clinics to become licensed ambulatory surgery centers, the bill would effectively shut down most of the abortion clinics in Texas, or mandate that they undertake expensive upgrades and construction.
Kathy Kleinfeld is a consultant to abortion clinics across Texas.
She says if the bill becomes law, abortions will only be available in the major cities of Texas, forcing some women to travel hundreds of miles.
"People need to understand and remember the geography of Texas. And how many miles it is east to west, north to south. There will be no abortion providers west of I-35."
Kleinfeld says the cost of an abortion, now about $400, could double or even triple.
"And that's not because of greedy owners. That's because that's the sheer cost of keeping an ambulatory surgery center operational to meet these regulations."
Medical studies show abortion is normally a safe procedure and Kleinfeld says abortions do not require the intense infrastructure of an ambulatory surgery center.
She's worked with abortion providers since 1980.
"None of us were in ambulatory surgery centers...it doesn't require hallways to be of a certain width, or janitorial closets, etc."
The bill would give abortion clinics until September of 2014 to renovate and become an ambulatory surgery center, or shut down.