Rick Perry confident Texas legislature will pass renewed anti-abortion bill

Republican governor accuses pro-choice protesters of 'mob rule' during Wendy Davis filibuster that stopped bill last month

Rick Perry, the Republican governor of Texas, said on Sunday he was confident of passing a controversial anti-abortion bill within 10 days, as he dismissed landmark protests against the bill in the state Capitol as "mob rule".

Perry called the state legislature back into special session after an 11-hour filibuster two weeks ago by Democratic state senator Wendy Davis. The move prevented the bill's passage and catapulted her onto the national stage as a champion of reproductive rights.

Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Perry said: "Texans want to protect life. And that's the bottom line here. And so calling another special session, we can be in and out of here in 10 days."

Referring to protesters in the gallery during the filibuster, Perry said: "It has never happened before. Never in the history of Texas have they seen that kind of mob rule."

Protesters complained noisily during Davis's marathon speech, particularly after Republicans sought to derail the filibuster accusing her of breaking rules, including going off-topic and getting help to adjust her back-brace, worn to help her stand for 13 straight hours.

The bill, if passed, would see Texas become home to some of the toughest anti-abortion measures in the nation, banning the procedure after 20 weeks of pregnancy and requiring hospital admission privileges to doctors, effectively shutting down most abortion clinics in the state.

Asked to clarify whether he was accusing Democrats who set up the filibuster of mob rule, Perry said: "Not at all … it was the gallery that was literally out of control."

"I think everybody watching would consider it to be mob rule. Rules were followed on the Senate floor. It was the decorum of the senate chamber."

Perry, who has not yet said whether he will run for a forth term as governor nor ruled out whether he plans another run for the presidency, said he plans a "big announcement" in San Antonio on Monday.

In his interview on Sunday, Perry also addressed personal comments he made against Davis, which were widely criticised. He spoke last week of Davis' own history as a teenage mother and suggested it was "unfortunate" she had not learned by her own example.

On Fox News, he said: "Actually, those comments were meant to be a compliment to her for what she had accomplished in her life and you think about where she came from, what she's accomplished."

He then appeared use Davis as an example of how babies born to disadvantaged mothers should not be aborted.

"My point was that saving a life and letting that life come to its fulfilment and all the good things that happened. You never know who's going to be considered to be an extraordinary individual who's going to make that real impact and life. And that was our point that we were making, and nothing else. Nothing more."

He also suggested that a foetus delivered at 20 week is viable; however the viability of a foetus outside a mother's body is generally considered to be 24 week.

While several other states have enacted 20 week abortion bans, several of them have been placed on hold or held up in the courts in protracted legal battles.

In May, Arizona struck down that state's ban on abortions after 20 weeks, stating that the ban violated a woman's constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy before a foetus is able to survive outside the womb.

Measures similar to those contained in the Texas bill in other states have also been subjected to legal challenges.

On Friday, Wisconsin became the latest state to legislate tighter abortion laws after Scott Walker, the Republican governor, signed a bill requiring providers to have hospital admission privileges. The law, which was set to take effect on Monday, was immediately subjected to a lawsuit by Planned Parenthood.

They say the provision requiring admitting privileges could effectively shut down two abortion clinics in the state. Planned Parenthood announced on Friday it would file a lawsuit in federal court to block the law, arguing some women may now have to travel at least an extra 200 miles to have a legal abortion.

Federal judges in Alabama and Mississippi have issued orders stopping similar provisions from being implemented after finding they might cause substantial burdens for women seeking to terminate pregnancies.

The requirement imposed on abortion providers for admitting privileges has been opposed by medical experts including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). The Wisconsin bill was also opposed the Wisconsin Medical Society, the Wisconsin Hospital Association, the Wisconsin Public Health Association, the Wisconsin Academy of Family Physicians, the Wisconsin Association of Local Health Departments and Boards, and the Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health.


Karen McVeigh in New York

The GuardianTramp

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