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Republican governor Perry defends Texas abortion measure

Texas Governor Rick Perry answers questions from the media after taking an aerial tour over the fertilizer plant explosion site in West, Tex
Texas Governor Rick Perry answers questions from the media after taking an aerial tour over the fertilizer plant explosion site in West, Tex

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Governor Rick Perry on Sunday defended a measure passed by the Texas legislature to ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, saying states - not the federal government - should decide such matters and rejecting criticism that the law would shut down most of the state's abortion clinics.

The Republican-controlled legislature gave final passage to the measure on Friday and sent it to the Republican governor to sign into law. Perry had called a second special session of the legislature to get the bill passed.

"Most people, I think, in this country - and in Texas, certainly - believe that six months is too late to be deciding whether or not these babies should be aborted or not. And we put the limit at five months in this bill," Perry told the CNN program "State of the Union."

The Texas measure marks the latest effort by Republicans at the state level to impose new restrictions on abortions, which were legalized nationally in a 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

"This gets back to the issue of should the states be able to make these decisions or should we allow this big, cumbersome federal government to decide for all of us," Perry added. "I happen to be one of the people that believes that the federal government should do a few things and do them well, and then allow the states to make the decisions on these types of issues."

The Texas measure would make Texas the 13th of the 50 U.S. states to pass a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy - a provision based on disputed research suggesting fetuses feel pain at that point. Current limits are 26 weeks in Texas.

The measure also would impose a series of new requirements on abortion clinics and doctors who perform abortions, mandating that doctors have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic and creating stricter guidelines for how doctors administer abortion-inducing drugs.

Critics, led by Democratic state Senator Wendy Davis, have said the restrictions could force most of the abortion clinics in Texas to close, prompting Texas women to turn to illegal, unsafe means if they want an abortion.

"Well, I don't agree with her premise and I don't agree with her numbers," Perry said, referring to Davis, who he has criticized in recent weeks in highly personal terms. "And I think history will prove that she is wrong by asserting that."

Perry, who last Monday announced that he would not seek re-election in 2014, sidestepped a question about whether he will run for U.S. president in 2016. He mounted an unsuccessful run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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