Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed the nation’s toughest set of abortion restrictions into law Thursday, declaring a major victory for abortion opponents after weeks of divisive political debate.
The bill passed over the strong protests of Democrats and abortion-rights supporters. Abortion-rights activists and clinic operators say the measure will force the closure of all but five of the state’s 42 abortion providers.
In a signing ceremony at the state Capitol in Austin attended by more than 100 Republican lawmakers, the Republican governor praised the measure as a landmark in protecting unborn children and women’s health.
“This is an important day for those who support life and for those who support the health of Texas women,” Perry said.
The new law bans abortions 20 or more weeks after conception. It requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital and for abortions to be done in ambulatory surgical centers.
The bill also requires that a doctor be present when a woman induces an abortion by taking a pill.
In late June, Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis successfully derailed an effort to pass the bill during a special legislative session with a 13-hour filibuster. Perry responded by calling a second special session to move the measure through the Legislature.
About two dozen protesters stood outside the signing ceremony chanting “Shame!” Thousands of protesters had flooded the State Capitol in Austin last week.
Opponents, such as Planned Parenthood, are expected to file lawsuits.
“We believe parts of this law are unconstitutional and are working to stop it from taking effect,” Cecile Richards, daughter of former Democratic Texas Gov. Ann Richards and president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, wrote on Twitter.
The law is set to take effect in October. Healthcare providers required to meet the same standards as outpatient surgery centers will have to do so by September 2014.
Since January, laws containing 52 line items restricting abortion have been enacted in 19 states, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a New York-based research group that supports abortion rights.
Measures similar to that adopted in Texas have encountered legal roadblocks in other states. In March, a federal court overturned an Idaho ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
On Wednesday, a federal judge refused to lift a temporary restraining order blocking enforcement of a Wisconsin law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. The judge extended the order for an additional two weeks.