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AUSTIN, Texas The clock is ticking, and the whole world is watching as the Texas abortion debate takes center stage at the State Capitol.

And one North Texas lawmaker is preparing to be a major player in the ongoing battle over Senate Bill 5.

The Senate will take up the abortion restriction debate on Tuesday morning. It's expected to meet with a 13-hour filibuster from Fort Worth Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis.

Republican senators failed to suspend a 24-hour waiting period after the House passed Senate Bill 5 on Monday morning, a measure that would impose sweeping restrictions on abortion in Texas.

Activists on both sides of the most contentious abortion battle in the nation have flooded Austin.

Opponents of the measure got a surprise visit Monday from Planned Parenthood's national president Cecile Richards, daughter of former Texas Gov. Ann Richards.

We really need to get everyone involved so we can make sure these bills don't make it through the special session, said pro-choice proponent Katy Waters. They didn't make it through the regular session, and we don't want them to get ram-rodded through the special session.

On Tuesday morning, with only hours left on the special session schedule, the Texas Senate takes up the controversial legislation.

If passed, Senate Bill 5 would:

  • restrict abortions after 20 weeks
  • require clinics to be surgical centers
  • mandate doctors have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals

The additional regulations would likely close 37 of the 42 abortion clinics in the state.

Pro-life advocates say the changes have been a long time in coming.

We don't want the bottom-feeders of the medical profession in this state delivering this kind of surgical care for women, said Kyleen Wright of Texans for Life. This is going to make abortion a lot safer for women, and a lot rarer.

Cecile Richards told a small group of pro-choice supporters the whole world is watching. And with an impassioned fight looming, that might be the only thing both sides can agree on.

We did some research on filibusters in Texas politics. A record-setter happened in 1977 when former Sen. Bill Meier, a Democrat from Euless, talked for 43 hours on a workplace injury bill.

The moment he sat down, the bill passed.

His filibuster beat the previous record-holder in 1972 when former Sen. Mike McKool of Dallas talked for 42 hours and 33 minutes.

E-mail jwhitely@wfaa.com

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