The most frequently used and semi-anonymous way to stop any legislation is through the committee process, and Pro-Life bills often suffer this fate, despite the near super majority on Pro-Life issues in the State House of Representatives. The few bills that survive the committee process and earn floor debate are usually pet priorities of leadership or have been catapulted through procedural hurdles by executive action of the governor. Such extraordinary acts by the governor were necessary for Pro-Life victories in both 2011 and 2013 since some committee chairs did not want to take away time from such pressing moral matters as transportation, payday lending, and limiting the free speech rights of organizations that oppose them.
A few weeks ago in anticipation of committee announcements in the State House, Texas Right to Life published an explanation for the need for strong committee chairs. Unfortunately, the House Committee assignments are unfavorable to the passage of Pro-Life bills. The committees that consider Pro-Life legislation are moderate at best.
For example, the House Committee on Public Health looks disastrous for Pro-Life bills. In the 2013 Legislative Session, bills to reform the Texas Advance Directive Act—the draconian 10-day law—were sent to the House Committee on Public Health. Both types of bills—the ones to protect patients and also the ones to give more power to hospitals over the lives of patients—were heard in this committee. The Texas Hospital Association and the proudly pro-abortion Texas Medical Association held undue influence in this committee last session to the expense of the lives of patients.
In 2013, then-Chairman Lois Kolkhorst, recently elected Senator Kolkhorst, faced immense pressure to move SB 303, a bill that expanded euthanasia in Texas. However, she recognized that more patient protections were needed in any new policy, and she stood strong to stop SB 303, which was opposed by 18 state and national advocacy organizations.
For this 84th 2015 Texas Legislative Session, the House “health” committee is seemingly again stacked for the providers and less for the “public” i.e., the patients who are hospitalized and whose lives are at stake. Sadly, the two solid Pro-Life votes will be negated by the big medicine loyalists.
The House Committee on Public Health includes the following legislators:
Chair: Myra Crownover (R) votes to weaken Pro-Life legislation, 47% Pro-Life Score from 2013.
Vice Chair: Elliott Naishtat (D) opposes Pro-Life legislation, but supports some patient protections.
Cesar Jose Blanco (D) is starting his first term.
Garnet Coleman (D) aggressively opposes all Pro-Life legislation.
Nicole Collier (D) opposed Pro-Life legislation in 2013.
Sarah Davis (R) opposes all Pro-Life legislation, 2% Pro-Life score in 2013.
Bobby Guerra (D) opposed Pro-Life legislation in 2013.
Rick Miller (R) earned 112% Pro-Life Score from 2013 and endorsed by TRTL.
JD Sheffield (R) opposed Pro-Life legislation in 2013, 6% Pro-Life Score from 2013.
Bill Zedler (R) earned 112% Pro-Life Score from 2013 and endorsed by TRTL.
John Zerwas (R) votes to weaken Pro-Life legislation, 6% Pro-Life Score from 2013.
Not only does this important committee have three of the LOWEST scoring Republicans in the House (Davis, Sheffield, and Zerwas), but the chair of the committee (Crownover) ended last session with a failing score of 47% Pro-Life record.
Pro-Life legislation will face enormous uphill battles in the next few months because of disappointing and seemingly calculated committee assignments. However, Texas Right to Life is fervently committed to making the case to any committee that these life-saving bills are absolutely necessary in the protection of pregnant women, preborn children, and vulnerable patients. Texans cannot afford to allow political games and duplicitous committees to stop Pro-Life gains this session.