The 82nd Legislative Session is well under way, and Texas Right to Life is camped at the Capitol until after Memorial Day when the Legislature adjourns until 2013. The outlook on the House side of the dome remains positive and optimistic. Many of the Pro-Lifers who supported Speaker Joe Straus’ re-election confirm that the leadership wants to pass an agenda that restores protections to women’s health, the unborn, the elderly, and disabled. This is welcome feedback, and Texas Right to Life remains proud that our Pro-Life vote count is approximately 106 in the State House.
On the other side of the building, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst has prioritized the sonogram mandate by awarding the bill one of his own reserved bill numbers, Senate Bill 16. Doing so signals that, as President of the Senate, he will personally help shepherd the bill to passage. We are not surprised by his commitment since Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst has always worked to pass the Pro-Life measures.
The State Senate operates on a rule of two-thirds, meaning that 21 of the 31 senators (or two-thirds of the senators present at the time) must agree to introduce a bill for floor debate. After the bill is debated, only a simple majority is needed for passage. The make-up of the Senate is 19 Republicans and 12 Democrats. Only 17 Republicans consistently vote Pro-Life, and 2 Democrats do. Reaching the 21 votes to meet the two-thirds rule will be a challenge. Texas Right to Life is already scheduling meetings with senators to ask for their support for not only the sonogram mandate, but for all the Pro-Life bills.
Today, January 18th, the Capitol swarmed with crowds celebrating the inauguration of Governor Perry and Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst. What a tremendous day in Texas! Committed men of honor and principle leading our state, invoking the Holy Spirit for wisdom, and asking God for protection. Texas is indeed the epicenter of the culture war: Abortion started right here in Austin in 1973, and we pray that abortion ends right here under this dome in our lifetime and before our eyes. Such a feat is only possible through the prayer and sacrifice of the Pro-Life faithful.
Since January 22, 1973, 52 million + babies have been sacrificed on the bloody altar of choice by white-coated killers, selling freedom at the cost of lifelong remorse and at the cost of death: the death of the child, the death of dreams, the death of a future. Do the math: 52 million + women PLUS the one or two others involved in each abortion decision EQUALS OVER 150 million walking wounded from abortion. Abortion and the culture of death touches everyone; we cannot presume that abortion is not “my” concern.
The women and girls (and their partners) in abortion clinics did not plan to be there. They are our sisters, our roommates, our elected officials, our classmates, our aunts, our work colleagues, our bankers, our friends in church and Bible study, our nieces, even our mothers and (heaven forbid) our daughters. The fact that they think abortion is an option—their only option—is a failure on our part. We must reach them; we must help them; we must encourage them to choose life. Their abortion hurts you, me, and our entire society. We must protect them from becoming 52 million plus one.
While Texas Right to Life is reaching out to girls, women, and men who are abortion-vulnerable throughout the state with our many outreach and educational programs, we simultaneously call on legislators to enact and pass significant laws to restore the sanctity of innocent human life. In their inaugural speeches, both Governor Perry and Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst spoke of protecting the most vulnerable Texans: the young and the old. As we mourn the loss of a major part of our American family to abortion on this 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, join Jim and me and our staff and members in praying that we can stop abortion and the other assaults on innocent human life. Pray for protection of our elected officials and pray especially for perseverance for them. Pray that pregnant women and their partners seek and find a life option.
The protections we seek to pass during the 82nd session are as follows:
1. Opt Abortion out of ObamaCare in Texas
Five other states have passed laws that allow their state health insurance exchanges to specifically exclude coverage for abortion from the now-mandated ObamaCare. According to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), each state must establish a State Exchange through which insurance is offered to citizens and employers; these exchanges will fund abortion and abortion services. However, the PPACA includes a loophole, authorizing states to pass legislation opting them out of exchange plans that pay for abortions.
2. Stop Coerced Abortions
Two-thirds of post-abortive women report being pressured or forced to undergo abortions by their parents, husbands, boyfriends, and others. While both Texas law and federal law assume that coercion is illegal, coercion is not specifically or clearly prohibited in law. Thus, a requirement that clinics and abortionists screen for coercion will be pursued so that when a woman shares that she is being forced to undergo an abortion against her will, the doctor cannot proceed and must offer her a phone in a private room along with numbers for law enforcement, abuse hotlines, and women’s shelters. Additionally, large signs will be posted in clinics informing women about coerced abortions, and forms will be implemented to give unknowing women a chance to choose life.
3. Abortion Reporting Requirements
No enforcement mechanism exists in the current reporting requirements, resulting in inadequate and inaccurate statistics on abortion and pregnancy in Texas. Additionally, abortion complications are not reported and are considered as pregnancy-related complications, thereby inflating the perceived dangers and risks of pregnancy and childbirth. The Abortion Reporting Requirement Act will require all doctors who practice abortion to report every abortion procedure; collect data on abortion complications; and determine how many women feel abortion is their only choice due to a lack of finances. While the woman’s anonymity is protected at all times, the data collected would provide insights as to where and how outreach efforts can be more effectively directed to help pregnant women.
4. Decrease State Money that Funds the Abortion Industry
Freshman Representative David Simpson (R-Longview) pre-filed House Bill 85, a bill that would plug the funnel of state funds to the abortion industry. The bill would prohibit any government entity from supporting or contracting with any individual, organization, or facility that provides, promotes, or refers for abortions or abortion-related services or contracts with any organization that does the same. The bill clarifies that this support includes financial (through grants, contracts, etc.) as well as other material means (discounted rent, use of property, equipment, etc). Not only will this bill significantly cut the enemy’s supply line, but also current restrictions on the flow of funds would be more easily enforced.
5. Sonogram Mandate before an Abortion
The sonogram bill would require that a sonogram be done (not offered, but actually done on every pregnant woman) prior to every abortion. A simultaneous, verbal explanation would be provided to identify arms, legs, and the heartbeat of the unborn child. The sonogram mandate would ensure that women in Texas are fully informed before making the life-changing decision of abortion or childbirth. Three versions of the sonogram mandate have been filed in the House, and one version has been filed in the Senate, SB 16.
6. Reform to the Texas Advance Directive Law
Texas law allows for a physician to withdraw life-sustaining treatment (including food and water) from a patient despite the patient’s advance directive or expressed wishes. Once the physician’s decision is made and then validated by the futility review committee at the hospital, the patient and/or family have only ten days to find a transfer to another facility or another physician. The physician or facility is not obligated to treat the patient beyond the tenth day, which could lead to the death of the patient. Rarely are transfers effectuated either by the family or the facility within the ten-day allotment. Texas Right to Life seeks to change the law so that patients and their families are given sufficient time to locate a transfer.
7. Patient Protection from Do-Not-Resuscitate Orders (DNR)
Current Texas Administrative Law authorized physicians to write DNR orders for patients without their consent or the consent of their healthcare decision-maker. Texas Right to Life seeks to restore the rights of patients to be involved in their own health care decisions, rather than physicians imposing their value judgments on patients.