Rick Perry signs Texas abortion bill into law

Texas Governor Rick Perry speaks at the abortion bill signing in Austin, Texas 18 July 2013 Rick Perry said the bill would cement the pro-life culture in Texas

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Amid protest and counter-protest, Texas Governor Rick Perry has signed one of the most restrictive abortion bills in the US.

Supporters prayed while critics chanted "Shame!" at the ceremony to sign the bill, which bans abortion after the 20th week of pregnancy.

The Republicans who backed the law say its aim is to improve healthcare.

But critics have vowed to fight the measure, which could force most abortion clinics in Texas to close.

Under the law, abortions can only take place at surgical centres by doctors with hospital admitting privileges.

Only five of the 42 clinics in Texas meet those requirements.

'Intentional chaos'

The rest will have a year to upgrade their facilities or shut down after the law takes effect in October.

Opponents of the abortion bill protest at the signing in Austin, Texas 18 July 2013 Opponents chanted "Shame! Shame! Shame!" at the signing

"Today, we celebrate the further cementing of the foundation on which the culture of life in Texas is built," said Gov Perry as he signed the bill amid demonstrations at the capitol building in Austin.

"It is our responsibility and duty to give voice to the unborn individuals."

But the law was condemned by Democratic state Senator Wendy Davis, who spent more than 12 hours speaking on the legislature floor last month in an effort to block the bill.

She said in a statement on Thursday: "When Governor Perry signed the bill, he signalled a clear break with Texas families."

But Lt Gov David Dewhurst, who oversees the Senate, said "intentional chaos created by the radical left" was to blame for the hurdles the bill faced before becoming law.

Federal judges have halted similar laws in other US states, after opponents filed legal challenges against them.

The president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Cecile Richards, said: "The fight over this law will move to the courts, while the bigger fight for women's access to healthcare in Texas gains steam."

But the Catholic Association praised the governor's actions.

"Rick Perry is a brave man for standing up to the mob tactics of the abortion lobby and has earned the respect of pro-life women and men across the country," it said.

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