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 as a Pro-Life Hero or a Disappointment.
Representative Greg Bonnen, M.D., (R-Friendswood) has proven his dedication to the Pro-Life cause since his election to the Texas House in 2013, earning perfect scores on the Pro-Life Scorecard throughout his career. In the 2017 Regular and Special Sessions of the 85th Legislature, his dedication to protecting the rights of vulnerable patients in Texas hospitals earned him a coveted place on Texas Right to Life’s 2017 Pro-Life Heroes list.
Dr. Bonnen understands well that to be fully Pro-Life means not just fighting for the lives threatened by elective abortion, but also standing up for the lives of the sick, elderly, and individuals with disabilities. His commitment led him to file a bill to protect Texas patients from secret and forced Do-Not-Resuscitate Orders (DNRs) in hospital settings. Scandalously, Texas law offered no protections to patients in Texas hospitals, and too often, Texans discovered too late that nothing legally prohibited a DNR from being placed in a patient’s medical file without his or her knowledge or consent.
During the Regular Session of the 85th Legislature, Dr. Bonnen filed a bill that would explicitly require patient or surrogate consent before any DNR could be authorized, a policy that Texas Right to Life has championed for several sessions of the Texas Legislature. Unfortunately, all bills prioritized by Texas Right to Life were sent to the House Committee on State Affairs, where Byron Cook (R-Corsicana), chair of the committee who is openly hostile to meaningful Pro-Life legislation, could have veto power over Pro-Life bills. To avoid directly killing Dr. Bonnen’s bill, he stipulated that all groups interested in the legislation come to an agreement on the language before he would consider moving the bill. Since the “interested parties” included the Texas Hospital Association and the Texas Medical Association (groups that has historically opposed Pro-Life legislation), this stakeholder game was nothing more than a stall tactic during which the medical lobby fabricated disingenuous objections to the common-sense patient protection.
Undaunted by the opposition, Dr. Bonnen stood stalwart as he addressed all concerns—legitimate or imagined—while systematically dismantling philosophical objections to the policy. Many times Dr. Bonnen argued that, as a physician, he could not think of a single time in which he would need to place a DNR on a patient without consulting the patient or the patient’s surrogate. By the time Dr. Bonnen had forged consensus on the bill, calendar games killed the bill in the regular legislative session.
However, Governor Greg Abbott added the bill to the agenda for the special session, endorsing and resurrecting the Pro-Life policy. Dr. Bonnen filed the exact language that had been agreed-to by the stakeholders two months prior. Yet the medical lobby withdrew their support of the agreed-to language, giving Cook another excuse to delay and kill the bill. Governor Greg Abbott’s direct intervention and the resolve of Dr. Bonnen and his staff proved a winning combination for this life-saving patient protection, which passed by an overwhelming, bipartisan House vote of 122-20 once the measure was forced to the House floor.
Dr. Bonnen’s fierce dedication to vulnerable patients and his unwillingness to accept defeat yielded this significant Pro-Life victory, ensuring that patients in Texas will no longer face forced or secret DNRs when in Texas hospitals. For his tireless commitment, Texas Right to Life is proud to name Dr. Greg Bonnen a 2017 Pro-Life Hero.
Click for Bonnen’s full scorecard and the commentary on how he voted on each individual Pro-Life public vote scored by Texas Right to Life.