AUSTIN -- Doctors would be required to conduct a sonogram on a woman seeking an abortion and describe to her whether the fetus has arms, legs or internal organs under a bill passed Thursday by the state Senate.
Senate Bill 16, sponsored by state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, requires that the sonogram be performed at least two hours before an abortion and that the woman have the opportunity to view a sonogram or hear the fetal heartbeat. The bill makes exceptions for cases of rape, incest or where the fetus has fatal abnormalities.
The vote was 21-10 with three Democrats voting for the bill and one Republican against.
The state House must now pass one of four similar bills before it goes to Gov. Rick Perry. Perry gave the bill "emergency" status.
"I commend the Texas Senate for quickly passing SB 16, an important achievement in our efforts to protect life," Perry said in a statement. "We know that when someone has all the information, the decision to choose life becomes clear."
The Texas bill is one of dozens introduced around the country to apply new restrictions on abortions. Three states already require sonograms before abortions, and several legislatures are debating outlawing abortions of viable fetuses after the 20th week of pregnancy.
The bills have a greater chance of passage following dramatic Republican victories in many states.
To allow for a final vote on the same day that debate began, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst adjourned the Senate session and then immediately opened a new one.
"I think this is a great day for women, and a great day for Texas," Patrick said after the bill's passage was assured.
Opponents, including the Texas Medical Association, said the bill interferes with the doctor-patient relationship. If passed and signed by the governor, the law would be the first time lawmakers have dictated when doctors must perform a procedure, and how they do it, according the TMA.
Patrick rejected the criticism.
"This is the only medical procedure [in which] the goal [is] death. There is no patient relationship between that baby and the doctor," Patrick said. "This is God's time to pass this bill."
But Patrick faced fierce criticism from Democrats in a procedural debate that lasted more than two hours.
Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, argued that the bill would "make women do something they don't want to do with their bodies" by requiring them to have a procedure they may not want.
"You're going to require them to go through additional state of Texas red tape in order to do something they've already decided to do," Whitmire said.
Sen. Pete Gallegos, D-Alpine, said he was anti-abortion in his personal life, but not as state senator.
"Once I come onto this floor, I believe it is incumbent on me as a lawmaker not to legislate to a female what to do with her body," Gallegos said. "If a bill was filed that regulated all of the males on this floor, and their bodies, I don't think you'd get the same reaction."
Supporters of the bill, though, said it is about making sure women made informed decisions.
Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, cast the deciding vote on whether the bill would be debated Thursday. He introduced an amendment that added a form to ensure women understood their rights to decline to see the sonogram, and it reduced to two hours the waiting period between the sonogram and the abortion, instead of 24.
"The bill is fundamentally different from SB 16 as it was originally introduced, and I will stand firm against any changes by the House that would force women to provide confidential information about their families or personal lives," Uresti said.