By RAMIT PLUSHNICK-MASTI
HOUSTON (AP) -- Gov. Rick Perry threw his support Tuesday behind legislation that would ban abortion in Texas after 20 weeks, the point at which he and other anti-abortion activists say a fetus can feel pain.
The Legislature, which will reconvene Jan. 8 for a 140-day session that occurs every two years, also will consider a bill that would require physicians who perform abortions to have an agreement with a nearby hospital, allowing them to admit a patient in case of an emergency, Perry said.
Perry said he would like "to make abortion at any stage a thing of the past," but since that isn't possible under federal law, the Legislature has an "obligation to end that kind of cruelty" when an unborn child can feel pain.
NARAL Pro-Choice Texas called the proposed legislation -- which has not yet been submitted -- "a cruel attempt by anti-choice extremists to curb access to care for women in the most desperate of circumstances."
"The reality is that while most women welcome pregnancy and can look forward to a safe childbirth, for some, pregnancy can be dangerous," the group said in a statement.
The proposed bill, however, should have widespread support in Texas' largely Republican Legislature, which passed several laws in its 2011 session that made it more difficult to get an abortion, including a law that requires women to have a sonogram before going ahead with the procedure and putting in place a 24-hour waiting period between the time she sees a doctor and has the abortion.
Forty-one states already have laws banning abortions after 20 weeks, unless the woman's health is in danger. Texas' law would include a similar exception, said Elizabeth Graham, director of Texas Right to Life.
"We cannot and we will not sit idly by as we put our unborn through the agony" of ending their lives, Perry told a crowd of anti-abortion activists in Houston, where he announced his support for the bills.
Backed by the crowd's occasional "Amens" and other praise, Perry vowed lawmakers would make every day of the 140-day session count when it comes to protecting life.
The legislation that would require physicians to have an agreement to admit patients to a hospital within 30 miles of their facility is designed to ensure abortion clinics are held to the same standard as all other medical centers in the state, Perry said.
The law would help strengthen audits and inspections of the clinics and help ensure all laws are being enforced, Graham said.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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