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Texas Senate prepares final vote on abortion bill

It will be a Friday night fight at the state Capitol. Controversial abortion legislation cleared a major hurdle Thursday and a final floor debate is now scheduled to take place in the Texas Senate.

There were only a few minor distractions as members of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee discussed the HB2/SB1 abortion bill.

"That's a warning," said Committee Chair Jane Nelson when people in the room started humming during the discussions.

Despite that warning, a few individuals continued to make mocking comments while Senator Larry Taylor spoke. And when it came time to vote, the pro-choice supporters stood up and marched out in song.

"No, we're not going to take it ... we're not going to take it anymore," sang several women as they left the committee room.

The vote in the committee went down party lines, and the Senate vote Friday is pretty much expected to end the same way.

Earlier during the Committee hearing two attempts to amend the bill failed. As a result, the legislation will hit the Senate floor still requiring doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. Restricting abortions in surgical centers remains in the wording, abortions after 20 weeks are banned and women who want the abortion pill will have to make two doctors' visits. Currently the second pill is taken at home.

Committee Chair Jane Nelson suggested the debate eventually should become a broader discussion.

"We need to invest in preventative care and we need to invest in family planning and one of my prime goals is during this interim for this whole committee is to work toward that goal," said the Republican from Flower Mound.

While Nelson is looking to the next Regular Session, committee member Royce West said he is thinking about what may happen after the Friday Senate floor debate.

"The next battle for this bill is going to be in the court. If we look at some of the other states, I believe a preliminary injunction will be granted on the implementation of this bill," said West (D) Dallas.

Lt. Governor David Dewhurst meanwhile is trying to prevent a repeat of history. Last month's Senate Chamber meltdown prevented the abortion bill from winning passage. This time Dewhurst promised a Friday night victory as well as order.

"Because this is a Democracy, we're not going to be interrupted in doing the people's work by unruly mobs," said the Lt. Governor.

Considering what happened at the Thursday committee hearing, Friday night could still see a few confrontations.

A former Presidential candidate has added his voice to this debate. Rick Santorum is currently heading up a group that promotes conservative causes. He stood with Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and other Texas conservatives as the Senate prepares for the Friday abortion debate.

During a morning news conference, Santorum blasted Democrats describing them as members of an extreme party.

"So this is an important moment for everyone to recognize where the abortion debate really is in America today, these people are courageous because even within their own party they're not celebrated."

Santorum was also critical of State Senator Wendy Davis. The Fort Worth democrat gained national attention for a filibuster last which was instrumental in killing the abortion bill during the previous special session.

"On the other side you have a radical small group ... here in the Texas Senate … who blocked this bill and the person who blocked it is lionized by the media," said Santorum.

Meanwhile Senate Democrat Royce West said his party must find a way to carry this fight to the next election.

"I think it's time for Democrats to reassess where we are," said Senator West, who went on to say, "Democrats have got to understand and appreciate, in order for us to be competitive; in order for us to make sure our view points are considered we've got to have more people in this office."

When asked if his call to arms includes him and he will try to seek a statewide office in the 2014 election, Senator West avoided the question. The fight, he said, is not about him. For now, the Dallas Democrat wants to stay focused on getting ready for the upcoming debate.

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