78th Texas Legislative Session (2003)
Bills That Passed
The Woman’s Right to Know Act
House Author: Frank Corte (R-San Antonio) HB 15
Senate Author: Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands) SB 835
The Woman’s Right to Know Act mandates that a clinic or abortion provider now offer a woman seeking an abortion the following information (produced by the Texas Department of Health): the risks involved in the specific procedure she will undergo, the increased risk of developing breast cancer, details of the physiological stages of fetal development including the unborn child’s ability to feel pain, and the alternatives to abortion. The bill also requires a 24-hour reflection period, during which the woman can reflect on this information prior to making her abortion decision.
Because of the elevated risks for women undergoing abortion, the Woman’s Right to Know Act provides a safety net, offering full knowledge of the effects of the procedure. All other surgical procedures involve receiving this same type of information, plus signing a consent form. The passage of this bill raises the practice of abortion closer to the minimum standards of health care.
The Prenatal Protection Act
House Author: Ray Allen (R-Grand Prairie) HB 246
Senate Author: Ken Armbrister (D-Victoria) SB 319
Now in Texas, both the mother and her unborn child are recognized as separate victims in a violent crime committed against a pregnant woman. Prior to this bill’s passage, Texas law did not recognize an unborn child as a separate victim, in addition to the mother, with respect to violent crimes. Such recognition of the unborn child as a separate victim codifies into Texas state law the unique personhood of the unborn child from the moment of fertilization.
Due to the 2002 Laci Peterson tragedy in California, this bill passed quickly. The Texas State House vote to pass the bill to third reading (which means the debate has concluded, and the bill will be read a third and last time as a formality) was 100-1. Representative Jessica Farrar (D-Houston) was the sole dissenter.
There were four votes in the House on the Prenatal Protection Act in addition to final passage. Because the Prenatal Protection Act was among our top 3 legislative priorities, joint and co-authorship scored 10 points in the House.
Rider 8: Defunding the Abortion Industry
With the American public growing increasingly uncomfortable with abortion coupled with out of control state budget deficits, a national move to remove (or at least limit) state and federal funds from the abortion industry is growing through funding restrictions such as Rider 8.
The Senate Finance Committee and the House Appropriations Committee set the budget for the state of Texas. Part of their task is to allocate and distribute money from the federal government. Representative Arlene Wohlgemuth (R-Burleson) attempted to amend the State Appropriations bill on the House floor by prohibiting federal money from funding the abortion industry in Texas. Her amendment was questionably dismissed on a point of order. (Calling a point of order is to question the validity of the committee procedures through which a bill passed on its way to the floor or to question the validity or germaneness of the amendment for other reasons.)
In the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Steve Ogden (R-Bryan/College Station) and Senator Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands) were able to add Rider 8 into the state budget. The provision is called a ‘rider’ because the clause ‘rides’ on the state budget bill. Rider 8 prohibits any state or federal money from going to entities that perform or refer for abortions or to entities that contract with other entities that perform or refer for abortions.
Bills That Did Not Pass
The Human Cloning Prohibition Act
House Author: Phil King (R-Weatherford) HB 1175
Senate Author: Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) SB 156
The Human Cloning Prohibition Act would have prohibited human embryos from being cloned for any reason, including therapeutic cloning for research purposes, which involves the direct, intentional killing of embryonic humans. This bill died as a result of the House Democrats leaving the state to avoid redistricting on the same day the cloning ban was to be heard on the House floor.
Later in the session, Representative Geanie Morrison (R-Victoria) allowed Representative King to add an amendment to a higher education bill; the King amendment would have prohibited cloning at universities. Representative Mark Homer (D-Paris) amended the King amendment to allow funding for research/therapeutic cloning. There was an unsuccessful motion to table (MTT) the Homer amendment, and the anti-Life Homer amendment to the Pro-Life King amendment was adopted. However, Representative King then appropriately dropped his original amendment because he could not allow universities to engage in research/therapeutic cloning.
Jim and Ellen Arnold of Jim Arnold and Associates in Austin spearheaded the efforts to make legal the abominable practice of research/therapeutic cloning. The Arnolds were hired by the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation to work against the Pro-Life cloning ban.
"Choose Life" License Plate
House Author: Arlene Wohlgemuth (R-Burleson) HB 1655
Senate Author: Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands) SB 1233
Under this measure, the Texas Department of Transportation (TX DOT) would be authorized to make and sell "Choose Life" license plates, adding to the 90 specialty license plates available in Texas. Some revenue from the sale of these license plates would be allocated to raise awareness about adoption.
In the Senate, the “Choose Life” license plate was absorbed into the omnibus license plate bill, which is the major bill authorizing TX DOT to issue all specialty license plates. However, Senator Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio) passed the omnibus bill out of his subcommittee after deleting the “Choose Life” plate.
When that omnibus bill reached the House, Representative Wohlgemuth offered an amendment to the omnibus bill reinstating the “Choose Life” plate. Several amendments to the Wohlgemuth amendment were offered to keep the plate from being made and issued, but none of these amendments were adopted. The four votes on amendments are calculated into the scorecard.
When Representative Mike Villareal (D-San Antonio) saw that the “Choose Life” license plate was about to be successfully amended into the omnibus license plate bill, he called a point of order and killed the whole omnibus license plate bill.
The Fetal Pain Prevention Act
House Author: Leo Berman (R-Tyler) HB 569
The Fetal Pain Prevention Act would have required that an abortion provider present a woman who is 20 weeks or more pregnant and seeking an abortion with information on the development of her unborn child’s nervous system and the child’s capacity to feel pain. The pregnant mother would also have the option to anesthetize her unborn child (providing pain relief) if she proceeds with the abortion.
Reporting Requirements for the Judicial Bypass Provision of the Parental Notification Act
Senate Author: Kim Brimer (R-Fort Worth) SB 331
The Parental Notification Act in Texas mandates that an abortion provider notify one parent of a minor of her intent to seek an abortion. The minor can bypass notifying her parent if a judge grants her permission to do so. Senate Bill 331 would have strengthened the requirements of courts for reporting the numbers of minors seeking and awarded judicial bypasses. (The bill would have maintained the anonymity of the minor.)