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Texas House panel approves abortion measure

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AUSTIN, Texas, July 3 (UPI) -- A Republican-dominated House panel OKd a sweeping bill that would restrict abortions in Texas Wednesday in the second special session called to pass the bill.

After hearing testimony from some of the 2,300 who signed up to speak on the bill, the House State Affairs Committee approved the measure 8-3, with two absences, the Dallas Morning News reported.

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It was the first public hearing on the abortion bill in the special session Republican Gov. Rick Perry called after a Democratic filibuster killed an identical measure during a special session in June.

In testimony Tuesday, Austin physician Bradley Price, an obstetrician-gynecologist, told the panel the abortion bill it was considering wasn't based on sound science and would harm women's health.

RELATED Protests mark return of Texas Legislature to consider abortion bill

"This comes from the politicians, not our profession," Price said. "It would jeopardize women's health care and interfere with medical practice and patient-physician relationships. It would also close most abortion clinics and would decrease the number of doctors who can provide care."

Republican Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, author of the legislation, said when she was explaining the bill her intention was to "to protect the health and safety of women" seeking abortions.

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The bill would ban abortions after 20 weeks, except to save the life of the woman or to terminate a fetus with severe abnormalities, and also would require abortion clinics and doctors performing the procedures to comply with the new requirements, including all abortion clinics to upgrade to surgical center standards.

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Rep. Sylvester Turner, a Democrat, cited predictions the number of abortion clinics in Texas would fall from 42 to five if the standards provision in the bill took effect and asked, "Would women's safety be enhanced if 37 clinics go away?"

Laubenberg did not answer the question directly but said she would not support an amendment offered by Turner that would provide state funding to upgrade the clinics.

Laubenberg acknowledged when the bill passes, as it is expected to during this session, it will face a legal challenge.

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