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.
Chairman John Smithee (R-Amarillo) has proven his diligent commitment to advance Pro-Life legislation throughout his tenure in the Texas House of Representatives, which began in 1985. After enduring obstruction and political games from the liberal leadership in the Texas House for four sessions of the Legislature, Smithee finally cleared the hurdles and passed the Pro-Life Health Insurance Reform bill. Because of Chairman Smithee’s unwavering commitment to protect all innocent human life and his relentless efforts to secure Pro-Life victories under the Capitol dome, he was named one of Texas Right to Life’s 2017 Pro-Life Heroes.
The Pro-Life Insurance Reform bill, successfully carried and passed by Chairman Smithee, removes elective abortion coverage from the standard package of benefits offered in public, private, and state employee health insurance plans. The bill protects Pro-Life Texans from unwillingly or unknowingly subsidizing abortions through their premium and tax dollars. During each of the past four sessions of the Legislature, House leadership successfully killed the bill through vicious committee and calendar games.
In a remarkable change of events last July, Governor Greg Abbott called the legislature back for unfinished agenda items, and he included Smithee’s Pro-Life Health Insurance Reform for the summer call. House Bill 214 was referred to the House Committee on State Affairs, where Byron Cook (R-Corsicana) threatened to hold the bill in committee unless anti-Life loopholes were added. However, Smithee held his ground and summarily rejected weakening provisions. While HB 214 was debated on the House floor, Smithee calmly and admirably defended this Pro-Life policy against several Democratic attempts to shame the author and gut the bill, including amendments to use taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions of preborn babies with disabilities. Chairman Smithee’s leadership on this bill led to the Pro-Life policy becoming law in Texas on August 15, 2017.
Session after session, in the spotlight and in private negotiations, Chairman Smithee has proven himself a faithful advocate for the unborn, the vulnerable, and the disabled in Texas. His persistence in working to remove default elective abortion coverage from health insurance markets led to significant success this year. We are grateful for Smithee and proud to name him one of Texas Right to Life’s 2017 Pro-Life Heroes.
Click for Smithee’s 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.