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Dewhurst: Texas abortion bill won’t fail again

Posted Saturday, Jun. 29, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst promised Saturday that a bill toughening abortion restrictions will not be derailed again after screaming protesters drowned out state senators last week and ran out the clock on a vote.

As for Sen. Wendy Davis, the Fort Worth Democrat whose 11-hour filibuster delayed the vote on the special session’s final day and put her in the national spotlight, Dewhurst said: “No human being can talk for two weeks. This bill is going to pass.”

He told reporters that he will move quickly on the bill to keep it out of “filibuster range.”

In a new special session that starts Monday, lawmakers will take up the abortion bill again after failing to pass it by midnight Tuesday. Political rivals have questioned Dewhurst’s leadership in the Senate and blamed him for the bill’s collapse — a chaotic scene broadcast over the Internet.

After speaking at the National Right to Life Convention, Dewhurst said Saturday that next time he’ll move to throw protesters out if they become disorderly. He tried to get them out Tuesday, he said, although outnumbered troopers in the Capitol were not seen removing most protesters until the early hours of Wednesday.

“Believe me,” he told reporters. “I have spent most of my time between about 4 a.m. on Wednesday morning and through yesterday making sure that when I give the order … to clear the gallery, it gets done.”

The bill would place new restrictions on abortion clinics and ban the procedure after the 20th week of pregnancy.

In his speech, Dewhurst ripped the crowds opposing a vote as driven by “hatred” and “mob rule.” He called on anti-abortion activists to fill hearing rooms and galleries — as their opponents have done — and to use social media to broadcast their support using the hashtag “#stand4life.”

Gov. Rick Perry added abortion regulations to the first special session well after it had begun, limiting the time that senators had to act on the matter, Dewhurst said.

Dewhurst also backed down from comments — published Friday on the conservative website Hot Air — that he had heard that reporters in the Capitol were inciting protesters. He told Hot Air that he would “take action” against any reporters who were driving the crowd.

On Saturday, he said that he respected reporters and that “the case is closed.”

Dewhurst has been lieutenant governor since 2002, and he is running for re-election next year. But a year after he was soundly beaten in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate by Ted Cruz, he faces rivals who used Tuesday’s episode to question his ability.

Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson said in a letter that Dewhurst “has lost his grip on the reins of the Senate.” And Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, who has also joined the race, said the Senate needs new leadership.

Asked about his opponents, Dewhurst said, “I know it’s harder to stay on top than get on top, and I’m going to make sure this state keeps moving forward.”

Dewhurst was flanked Saturday by two women from groups that oppose abortion: Texans for Life Coalition President Kyleen Wright and Elizabeth Graham of Texas Right to Life.

Both said they continue to support the lieutenant governor.

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