Pro-lifers in the United States have applauded the signing of a strict abortion bill by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, with some expressing the hope that the event would aid in changing hearts on the issue.
The Texas Senate on July 13 passed sweeping legislation limiting abortion after several weeks of contention between pro-life and pro-choice advocates.
The bill had been expected to pass on June 25, but a filibuster by Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis and a raucous demonstration in the Senate chambers shut down the vote.
Perry called the legislators into a special session to consider the bill again and he signed the measure, called HB2.
The law bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and severely limits the ability of most of the state's abortion clinics to perform them.
The law states that abortion clinics must have the same health and safety standards as ambulatory surgical centers. It also requires that physicians must have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.
MOST TEXAS ABORTION CLINICS MAY HAVE TO CLOSE
Observers have noted that almost all the abortion clinics in Texas may have to close because they cannot meet the requirements of the measure.
Supporters credited God's will and prayer as Perry signed the bill, The Associated Press (AP) reported.
Opponents shouted "Shame! Shame! Shame!" in the hallway during the ceremony.
Republican Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, who sponsored the bill in the Texas House, said, "It really was the hand of God" and prayer that helped make the signing possible, according to the AP.
Laubenberg told Perry, "Your eternal legacy will be as a defender of life."
"Today's signing builds on our continued commitment to protecting life for more than a decade.
"This is an important day for those who support life and the health of women in Texas," Perry was quoted saying by Life News. "Signing HB2 further solidifies the foundation on which the culture of in Texas is built."
Bill Blacquiere, the president of Bethany Christian Services, an adoption and family services agency, praised the legislation.
"I think it's a great step toward protecting children and saving their lives," he said, Mission Network News reported. "I believe this kind of attention in Texas has made the nation aware of what's going on in abortion clinics.
"This will make other states and pro-life representatives realize that they can push through and get these bills passed."
Sen. Glenn Hegar, a Katy Republican who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said, "This will literally change the lives of millions of Texans, not just today in 2013, but for eternity."
ABORTION DEBATE CHANGING
Conservative Christian broadcaster Janet Parshall suggested that the abortion debate in Texas was changing the heart of American on the subject
In an op-ed in the Christian Post, she said, "Something is happening in our culture today that deserves not only our attention but serves to remind us that some battles are worth fighting.
"Consider what is happening in the state of Texas over abortion."
Parshall cited scientific evidence indicating that unborn babies can feel pain at 20 weeks. She noted that 10 states have passed legislation similar to the Texas bill, which is based on the science of fetal pain.
This legislation and passage of the Pain-Capable Unborn Protection Act by the U.S. House of Representatives in June are reasons for pro-lifers to hope that attitudes are changing on the abortion issue, according to Parshall.
Marie Seale, director of the Diocese of Austin Office of Pro-Life Activities and Chaste Living, said that the support of pro-life citizens who rallied at the state Capitol was crucial to the vote.
"People were wildly upset about what Wendy Davis did to the legislation in the first special session," according to East Texas Catholic. " When pro-lifers saw the vote being taken from them, they riled up."
Seale said that pro-life supporters realized their presence was needed in large numbers and they were moved to take action, according to the newspaper.
"It means being inconvenienced, packing lunches and getting at line early in the morning, "she told the Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Austin Diocese. "That's what really what Christian life is supposed to be: a call to action.
"It's a grass-roots movement, but at the same time I've never seen the laity really answer the call. … This is our faith in action. I'm in awe and praying it doesn't end," Seale said.
SOME PRO-LIFERS HAVE RESERVATIONS
Some pro-lifers had some reservations after the passage of the Texas law.
Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter said that the he is hopeful, but also worried.
He said that "the reasons for hope are obvious," noting that the debate in Texas made people confront the reality of abortion.
"The other reason for hope is that the hypocrisy of the pro-choice movement comes to the surface during these debates," said Winters.
On the other hand, he said he was concerned that states were passing legislation when they had pro-life political majorities without addressing the general uncertainty among the American population on the abortion issue.
"I worry that if we do not spend more time persuading those people who are deeply ambivalent about abortion, which happens to be a majority of Americans, we may face a backlash that washes away the victories we are currently enjoying in various states," he said.
Pro-life activist Randall Terry, who holds the view that aborting an unborn child is tantamount to murder, said on his radio show "Voice of Resistance" that laws preventing abortion after 20 weeks don't go far enough.
Terry said laws like the Texas measure involve "incrementalism," which he said is an attempt to "take what you can get" politically in steps.
"On the one hand, you can have incrementalism, which is saying 'we're coming back for more.' But you always have to say publicly, 'Our goal is to make it a criminal act in all 50 states to kill any human being from conception to birth - the end'."