The Regular Session of the 86th Texas Legislature concludes today, and unfortunately, politicians achieved few goals. No bills that stop abortion passed. Even pathetic attempts to assuage the grassroots with feel-good, Pro-Life sounding bills failed. The House could hardly feign weak Pro-Life victories to dupe weary voters.
Yet, the message from Austin is a resounding “Super Bowl Session.” Not if you are an unborn child in Texas! Not if you’re the losing team who worked to send the winning conservatives to the championship dome to tackle, pass, run, and outwork the opposition to enact needed conservative and Pro-Life reforms. Throughout the session, members of the Legislature repeatedly said, “We need two more weeks; we are in talks; we have some deals in the works; we’re huddling.” If the deals were so great, why not tell the fans across the state to generate support and cheers???
After a few of these “two-week” periods, the State Senate took the lead and passed three major Pro-Life bills. Even with the bleak outlook from the House, the State Senate still acted boldly to protect Life. Under the leadership of Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, the Senate scored victories for Life. Chairwoman Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) ensured that Pro-Life bills received thoughtful and ample consideration in the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services and then quickly passed them to the full Senate for consideration.
Senate Bill 22 by Senator Donna Campbell, M.D., (R-New Braunfels), the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Providers Act, is headed to Governor Abbott’s desk, marking the next significant step in removing all public funds from the abortion industry. Senate Bill 1033 by Senator Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills), the Preborn NonDiscrimination Act, would have stopped the remaining late-term abortions in Texas, and passed the Senate by a vote of 20-11. Lastly, Senate Bill 2089 by Senator Bryan Hughes, Esq., (R-Mineola), drove the ball downfield for hospitalized patients in Texas, earning bipartisan support with a vote of 22-8.
Some of these bills reached the House late in the session when time was costly; however, House leadership rushed other less weighty bills on the same time frame to the House floor for debate and passage. The overall ambivalence by House Republican leadership about the Pro-Life cause is shocking, particularly since many of those in leadership historically have achieved solid Pro-Life voting records. Recent history of the Texas House proves that once a House member is tapped for leadership, principles are negotiable. Even the liberal Fort Worth Star-Telegram observed:
Texas Republicans this year have conspicuously stayed on the sidelines. They’ve instead let other conservative states lead efforts squarely aimed at the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.
Dumping the congratulatory Kool-Aid all over each other, some in House leadership are already claiming, “We fought to protect the unborn.” Texas Right to Life prioritized SB 22 since the legislation prohibits state and local governments from contracting with abortion providers, hopefully saving lives by weakening the industry of death (see a summary of the bill here). However, even the staunchest supporters of abortion astutely recognized that Senate Bill 22 does not ban abortions. Yet Republicans in their not-so-secret huddles emerged unified about “not going a bridge too far” with strengthening amendments, pressuring Pro-Life House members to withdraw amendments to end Medicaid subsidies for abortion businesses. Because common sense dictates that the winning team stops running when they are in the lead.
Throughout the session, we also heard, “We all must focus on 2020 and ensuring Republicans can win their re-elections.” Leaders in the Capitol and of the Republican Party were maniacally focused on maintaining political power in the upcoming election. They miscalculate that they were elected to deliver advances on issues for which they campaigned, and they should be re-elected only when they have done so. Pro-Life activists across the state are asking, “maintain political power for what? How can we trust you to fight for the preborn and vulnerable patients if you do win your re-elections?”
Which bills will reach Governor Abbott’s desk, and which have died in the Texas House?
Two priorities that passed:
- SB 22: Senator Donna Campbell, M.D., (R-New Braunfels) authored the only Pro-Life priority bill headed to Governor Abbott, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Providers Act. This bill will prohibit state and local governments from contracting with or funding abortion providers. Since funds are fungible, all taxpayer funding to abortion providers subsidizes the destruction of innocent human Life. Unfortunately, this bill failed to stop Medicaid contracts with abortion providers in Texas, and estimates say that abortion affiliates in Texas still receive millions annually in taxpayer funding through Medicaid.
- Funding for the Texas Alternatives to Abortion program: Increased funding for the Pro-Life Alternatives to Abortion program for the 2020-2021 biennium. This increased funding facilitates expansion for the existing needs of women across Texas who choose Life in difficult circumstances.
Life-related bills that passed that do not stop abortions or euthanasia but will be touted as sensational Pro-Life victories:
- HB 16 – The Texas Born-Alive Infant Protection Act: Provides state enforcement and additional penalties for a doctor who does not provide medical care for an infant who survives an abortion. Although important to care for all patients – born and unborn – HB 16 does not directly stop abortion in the first place and therefore was not a Pro-Life priority.
- HB 2271: This bill allows the Office of the Attorney General to use up to 2% of the “Choose Life” license plate fund to advertise. This was not a Pro-Life priority because the legislation does not stop abortion in the first place, does not advance the Pro-Life cultural conversation, nor does this bill challenge the legal foundation of Roe v. Wade.
- SB 24: This bill ensures the “Woman’s Right to Know” informational materials are given to each woman in-person during pre-abortion counseling. This bill was a huge missed opportunity to fix loopholes in Texas’ informed consent law. Throughout the process, Texas Right to Life made those pushing this bill aware of ways to improve the bill and protect more women. Unfortunately, we heard repeatedly that those promoting this legislation “wanted an easy political checkmark,” rather than a life-saving victory.
- Toth Amendment on HB 1504: Representative Steve Toth (R-The Woodlands) passed an amendment on the Texas Medical Board Sunset Bill that expands patient protections in the Texas Advance Directives Act. The amendment requires physicians to make a reasonable effort to transfer patients subjected to the 10-Day Rule to a willing facility or physician before pulling the plug on them against their wishes.
Pro-Life priorities that were killed:
- The Preborn NonDiscrimination Act (PreNDA): SB 1033 & HB 2434 would have ended the remaining late-term abortions in Texas, prohibited discriminatory abortions for reasons of race, sex, or suspected disability, and would have given families life-affirming medical and social services for their preborn child with a life-limiting diagnosis. This was the top abortion-related priority. Dozens of families supported PreNDA in hearings in both chambers, passed the House Committee on State Affairs, the Senate Committee on Health & Human Services, the full Senate, and yet PreNDA ultimately died in the House Committee on Calendars.
- Reforming the 10-Day Rule: This Pro-Life priority (SB 2089 & HB 3158) would have reformed the unethical, unjust, and unprecedented 10-Day Rule, whereby hospitals are allowed to pull the plug on patients for any reason and against their expressed medical decisions, thereby hastening or causing the death of the patient. In a historic effort the Senate rallied around the story of 10-day victim Carolyn Jones to pass a modified version of the bill. However, those opposed to the bill preferred to simply kill the legislation through lobbying House leadership, where the pleas of vulnerable patients fell on deaf ears.
- Conscience protections for health care professionals: This Pro-Life priority (SB 1107 & HB 2892) would have enacted protections for all healthcare professionals who conscientiously object to certain trainings, procedures, or elective medical decisions, like abortion. Neither bill received a hearing.
These fumbled opportunities would have saved lives, and the House had the Pro-Life majority to pass them, but lacked the drive, inner fortitude, and moral courage to restore voters’ confidence. Last November, Texas voters told House Republicans they were losing faith in them. During this 86th Legislature, House Republican leaders dropped the ball on Life and achieved little to earn voters’ trust.
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