AUSTIN -- House members began discussing the controversial proposal creating tougher abortion restrictions in Texas around 10:30 a.m today.
So far, the house sponsor -- state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker -- has successfully prevented any amendments from being added to the bill.
At the heart of the heated debate is a proposal to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Other provisions of the bill require abortions to be performed at ambulatory surgical centers and require doctors who perform the procedures to have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of the facilties where they are performed.
Hanging in the balance are three dozen licensed health centers in Texas where women may get abortions, as well as medical services such as family planning and screenings for cancer and sexually transmitted diseases.
If the proposal becomes law, all but a few of those clinics would likely close, leaving facilities only in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio.
There has only been one loud outburst -- applause and cheers -- from Texans watching the proceedings from the crowded House gallery, which drew a quick rebuke from House officials.
St. Rep. Charlie Geren warned the House gallery.
"Sit there quietly and observe or we will ask you to leave," state Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, told the crowd.
Before the House began debating the bill Tuesday, Senate Democrats held a press conference on the Capitol grounds to announce a Stand with Texas Women bus tour that will travel around the state to hear from Texans.
The bus tour will be in Fort Worth at 7 p.m. Wednesday at CWA Local 6201, 421 S. Adams St.
"We are traveling around Texas to hear your stories, to learn about your personal challenges, and to stand with you against a state leadership that has become a very real threat to Texans' rights and the well-being of Texas families," state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, told the crowd.
As the debate continues Tuesday, sizeable crowds continue to grow throughout the Capitol.
At the same time, the number of DPS troopers in the House gallery and throughout the Texas Capitol has increased as well. Some lawmakers say security actually has doubled.
-- Anna M. Tinsley