In conjunction with the 2017 Pro-Life Scorecard for the Regular and Special Sessions of the 85th Texas Legislature, Texas Right to Life published a 2017 Pro-Life Heroes list and a 2017 Disappointments List, highlighting specific legislators. This article is part of an ongoing series to explain how specific elected officials earned the title of a Pro-Life Hero or a Disappointment.
Larry Gonzales (R-Round Rock) recently announced that he would not seek reelection to a fifth term in the Texas House of Representatives, which was welcome news to Pro-Lifers in Texas, and particularly residents of House District 52. During the most recent sessions of the Legislature, Gonzales achieved a long list of offenses to the Pro-Life movement, despite campaigning as a Pro-Life conservative. Gonzales prioritized political advancement over advocacy for and protection of the preborn, the disabled, and the vulnerable, earning him a spot on Texas Right to Life’s 2017 Disappointments list.
Gonzales established himself as a strong ally of anti-Life Republican Speaker of the Texas House Joe Straus (R-San Antonio), who appointed Gonzales to chair the powerful Sunset Commission. The commission leads periodic review of all Texas agencies, boards, and commissions authorized by the Legislature to determine whether that agency should continue, expire, or make new operating rules. If continuation is recommended by the Sunset Commission, legislation must be passed to reauthorize or restructure the agency.
The Texas Medical Board (TMB) was the most anticipated agency to be reviewed during the 85th Legislature. Sunset legislation about TMB typically reforms the body that oversees licensing and regulating physicians; however, because the TMB also oversees abortionists, the TMB Sunset bill has also historically been a vehicle for Pro-Life policies. Pro-Life policies such as a ban on third trimester abortions have been passed as amendments to the TMB Sunset bill (2005).
But long before the 85th Legislature convened in January of 2017, Gonzales protested the possibility of Pro-Life amendments during the Sunset process. He even went so far as to attempt to pass a rule so as to render amendments out of order before any had been offered; however, after heavy opposition, he withdrew the rule. He stated that these amendments would kill the bill on the House Floor, despite the fact that these Pro-Life amendments typically pass by a 2-1 margin. When House leadership’s stranglehold had halted all significant Pro-Life legislation during the regular session, Pro-Life House members were looking to the TMB Sunset bill as one of the guaranteed opportunities for the House to pass Pro-Life policies. However, Gonzales’s insistence continued without regard for whether this ultimately spelled death for all Pro-Life legislation until the next session in two years.
Using his powerful chairmanship to block Pro-Life policies from being passed was not Gonzales’s only disappointing blunder. One of Gonzales’s own Sunset bills (House Bill 3302) included various troubling provisions, including exempting the newly created Palliative Care Advisory Board from sunset review and accountability. Aside from the danger of removing any government board indefinitely from review and oversight, Texas Right to Life had already expressed concerns with the stated purpose and makeup of the Palliative Care Board, as the interests of patients were virtually unrepresented against those of the medical industry. During public meetings, the members of the Board openly lamented the recently-passed Pro-Life Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) consent bill, a common-sense safeguard which ensures that physicians cannot issue DNR Orders on patients without their or their surrogate’s consent.
Additionally, Gonzales ensured the TMB bill included the dangerous Interstate Medical Licensure Compact which he had filed as a stand alone bill (HB 3958). In order to grant multi-state medical licenses to physicians, this compact would have granted legislative authority to unelected bureaucrats from each member state appointed to run the compact. These bureaucrats had express permission, outlined in the Sunset bill, to override any Texas law that conflicted with their policies for the compact. This quasi-legislative body would have been authorized to ignore and override Pro-Life safeguards passed by the Texas Legislature. The Legislature would have had to pass additional legislation to remove Texas from the compact in order to stop such actions, but would have had no oversight authority short of leaving the compact altogether. Texas Right to Life and other grassroots activists prevailed in stopping this overreaching policy from becoming law.
Ultimately, the TMB Sunset bill was so mishandled due to the fear of possible Pro-Life amendments that the bill failed to pass, forcing a special session in order to continue the agency. Fortunately, Pro-Life Governor Greg Abbott decided to make the special session a victory for other legislation that had failed during the regular session due to anti-Life House leadership. Abbott added numerous substantial Pro-Life policies to the agenda which have since become law, redeeming the blunders of Gonzales and other nefarious Straus-allies.
Unsurprisingly, Gonzales also sided with House leadership over the preborn and vulnerable by voting against a critical Pro-Life amendment. Because of an insidious loophole, Texas Pro-Life laws do not protect unborn children with disabilities from late abortions, past the point when these precious babies can feel the torturous pain of the procedure. The state protects all other unborn children from abortion after 20 weeks. Representative Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler) offered an amendment that would have closed this unjust loophole. Gonzales sided with the anti-Life Democrats and Straus henchman, Byron Cook (who recently resigned in shame from the Texas House). 18 Republicans, including Larry Gonzales, voted to kill Schaefer’s Pro-Life amendment, thereby leaving unborn babies with disabilities as prey in Texas abortion clinics.
Representative Gonzales worked hard to ensure his inclusion on our 2017 Disappointments list, but we are pleased with his decision to leave the Texas House, offering the residents of House District 52 the possibility of actual Pro-Life representation in 2019.
Click for Gonzales’ full scorecard, see the commentary on his most recent session and how he
voted on each individual Pro-Life public vote scored by Texas Right to Life.