Making sense of which measures cross the finish line and which die is a tricky game to play during the 140 days of the Texas Legislative Session. Due to political scheming, many bills pass that could be termed frivolous, while a significant number of bills boasting the most grassroots support languish in committees without even a hearing. In some cases, this imbalance is even more apparent and egregious when national support is taken into consideration, as well as the passage of similar legislation in other states, explicit calls for specific legislation in the State Republican Party Platform, and the legal backing from the state Attorney General.
The Dismemberment Abortion Ban (House Bill 844 and Senate Bill 415) is a prime example of widely supported legislation that is at risk of failure because of inaction. This measure would outlaw a second trimester abortion procedure that kills a preborn child by removing his or her limbs and is designed not only to immediately save lives, but also to dismantle the foundation of Roe v. Wade and shift the cultural conversation to the humanity of the preborn. The Texas Legislature should pass the Dismemberment Abortion Ban during the 85th for these reasons, among many:
1. Undeniable grassroots and party support
The Dismemberment Abortion ban received support from 95% of the voting delegates at the Republican Party of Texas convention, making the proposal the highest supported Pro-Life policy plank in the 2016 Republican Party Platform.
2. The bill quickly passed the Senate with bipartisan support
Support from elected officials is broad as well; the bill passed swiftly out of the Texas Senate with support from two Democrats, Senators Lucio and Zaffirini.
3. The House bill has over 60 co-authors
The House version of the Dismemberment Abortion Ban, HB 844 by Representative Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth), has 62 co-authors.
4. Seven other states lead the Pro-Life movement with this ban
Texas is not the only state that recognizes the importance of this policy and is by no means a leader in enacting this protection for the preborn. Seven states have passed similar legislation, including our neighbors Oklahoma and Louisiana. Because Texas only meets every other year, the urgency during a session to pass prudent Pro-Life measures becomes even greater.
5. Texas AG already defends this policy in another state
Attorney General Ken Paxton joined Alabama last month in defending the constitutionality of the law – a strong indication that General Paxton does not agree with the disingenuous criticism lodged that the bill is unconstitutional and not worth Texas lawmakers’ time.
Such broad support would lead one to believe that a hearing, at minimum, would be granted in the Texas House during the 140-day legislative session. Yet, HB 844 was referred to the House Committee on State Affairs on February 21 and has sat in the committee with no hearing scheduled. Similarly SB 415 was received by the House on March 21 but has not been referred to a committee in the House. Ultimately, with the support of the GOP Platform, 62 House co-authors, the Texas Senate, and the Texas Attorney General, the bill may be unilaterally killed by one person – the chair of the committee holding the bill: Byron Cook (R-Corsicana).
Cook has allegedly told House members that the bill is unconstitutional and has refused to set the bill for a hearing. Despite the fact that Cook is not an attorney and the Attorney General seems to disagree with this assessment, House rules allow a chairman to deny a hearing to any bill for any reason. A motion exists to force a vote by a committee, but when Representative Matt Schaefer asked to make such motion on April 25, he was denied a vote on the motion by leadership – while Cook was in charge of the floor of the Texas House.
Given the tragic reality that 100,000 children will be victimized by abortion before the Texas Legislature meets again, Texas Right to Life must now look to the House rules to find other ways to pass this legislation during the few remaining weeks of the session. Otherwise, two years will pass before this legislation may be filed again as a standalone bill. Many bills are moving that closely relate to Pro-Life provisions; language prohibiting dismemberment abortions could be added to those bills, provided House leadership and House parliamentarians follow their own rules – something that has been far from consistent this legislative session.
Some members of the House will call this an extreme tactic, however the same could be argued for allowing one chairman to unilaterally stop Pro-Life progress for more than two years. With a mere 30 days left in the session, complacency must end, political gameplay should stop, and decisive steps must be taken to ensure we save as many lives as possible before returning to Austin for the 86th in 2019. Please urge your representative to support any and all steps necessary to pass a ban on Dismemberment Abortions. Vulnerable preborn baby Texans depend on their action.