With only one of four Pro-Life priority bills reaching Governor Abbott’s desk, the Regular Session of the 86th Texas Legislature was a resounding failure. Only Senate Bill 22, legislation prohibiting most state and local tax dollars from funding or benefiting abortion providers and their affiliates, passed both chambers. The Preborn NonDiscrimination Act (PreNDA; Senate Bill 1033), which prohibits discriminatory and late-term abortions, died in the House after passing the Senate. The bill reforming the anti-Life 10-Day Rule of the Texas Advance Directives Act (Senate Bill 2089) experienced the same fate. The Pro-Life priority that would have enacted uniform conscience protections for all Texas healthcare professionals (House Bill 2892 and Senate Bill 1107) did not receive a hearing in either chamber. While the lows far outnumbered the high points of the 86th, these four specific disappointments are worth noting:
- Speaker Dennis Bonnen’s House of Representatives
- Nathan Johnson (D-Dallas)
- Julie Johnson (D-Carrollton)
- J.D. Sheffield (R-Gatesville)
Speaker Dennis Bonnen’s House of Representatives
Due to the Machiavellian leadership of Speaker Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton), who is now resigning under a cloud of corruption, the Texas House only managed to pass one Pro-Life priority bill and one Pro-Life budget amendment. This was surprising to many, since Republicans enjoy a Pro-Life majority in the House. Even the one Pro-Life priority House Republicans managed to pass, Senate Bill 22, did not reach the House floor for debate until just four days before the deadline. Because of this political procrastination, Democrats were empowered to file over twenty weakening amendments to extend debate, thereby running out the clock and providing an excuse for House leadership to refuse crucial Pro-Life strengthening amendments.
The delaying strategy of House leadership on Senate Bill 22 was just the beginning. While Senate Bill 22 was on the floor, Senate Bill 1033 and Senate Bill 2089 were in the House Committee on Calendars. Both bills would have directly saved the lives of vulnerable Texans. The Calendars Committee, with direction from Bonnen and his leadership team, could have scheduled both bills for floor debate. However, the committee ignored both life-saving bills in favor of a toothless and non-priority abortion-related bills. Both priority bills silently died at the hands of Speaker Bonnen and his lieutenants after passing the Senate.
For at least another two years, the abortion industry will target preborn children because of their race, sex, or disability. At the same time, for at least another two years, nothing will prevent Texas hospitals from directly denying the express medical decisions of patients and their surrogates by removing their basic life-sustaining treatment after a mere 10-day countdown.
Despite Bonnen’s rhetoric of a “successful” session, House leadership’s apathy to grassroots activists and defiance of their voters killed all the bills that banned abortion. While disgraced Bonnen, who thankfully will be leaving office soon, deserves the majority of the blame, few elected officials stood up to Bonnen. Too many representatives with previously impressive Pro-Life scores fell in line and followed Bonnen’s calculated agenda that excluded the most vulnerable among us. Although the Texas Senate could have done more to protect life as well, the Texas House squandered this legislative session. For that reason, Bonnen’s House of Representatives earned the title of 2019 Pro-Life Disappointment.
Nathan Johnson (D-Dallas) came into the 86th Legislature replacing Pro-Life Senator Don Huffines. Johnson quickly revealed himself to be the most vocal foe of the Pro-Life movement in the Texas Senate.
Johnson was a determined enemy of hospitalized Texas patients. He authored Senate Bill 916, a bill that could harm Texas patients by making them more vulnerable to passive euthanasia. Moreover, he voted against Pro-Life Priority Senate Bill 2089, which would have protected patients from the inhumane 10-Day Rule in the Texas Advance Directive Act. On the Senate floor, he stated that SB 2089 was “a step in the wrong direction” and urged his fellow senators to continue to allow hospitals and physicians to forcefully remove wanted life-sustaining treatment from vulnerable patients.
Johnson also voted against Senate Bill 1033, and was the only senator to speak against the Pro-Life priority bill. He publicly displayed his hostility towards prohibiting the remaining late-term and discriminatory abortions in Texas. Furthermore, he voted against Senate Bill 22 and twice voted against protecting children born alive after failed abortions. His radical and outspoken anti-Life positions make him a 2019 Pro-Life Disappointment.
In her first session, Julie Johnson (D-Carrollton) proved herself to be one of the most hostile pro-abortion elected officials in the Texas State Capitol. During hearings, she was belligerent and disrespectful to colleagues and witnesses and voted against vulnerable Texans on every single motion on the Pro-Life Scorecard. Her radicalism is even more regrettable, given she replaced former Representative Matt Rinaldi, the former Pro-Life House Whip of the Texas House.
Johnson authored House Bill 3337, which would have surreptitiously undermined current Pro-Life policies. When House Bill 3605, a Pro-Life bill that would have authorized attorney ad litems for preborn children, was before the House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence, Johnson lied to her fellow committee members about the status of similar laws in other states and maliciously attacked them for advocating for preborn children. She was aggressive and refused to engage in any reasoned discussion. Thankfully, Pro-Life members like Representatives Scott Sanford (R-McKinney) and Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth) quickly and respectfully responded to her outlandish accusations.
On the House floor, Johnson voted against every Pro-Life measure, including opposing increased funding for the life-affirming pro-woman Alternatives to Abortion Program, protecting children born alive after failed abortions, and every vote on Senate Bill 22. Additionally, she voted against a pro-patients’ rights amendment that simply afforded more protections to patients facing the unethical 10-Day Rule. If there was an opportunity to oppose a Pro-Life measure, Johnson passionately did so. For this reason, she is a 2019 Pro-Life Disappointment.
In his eight years in the Texas House, J.D. Sheffield (R-Gatesville) has never passed the Pro-Life Scorecard. For 2019, he ranked as the second worst Republican in the House, second only to an openly pro-abortion Republican legislator. As a Republican and a medical professional, Sheffield could be a respected, credible Pro-Life voice in Texas for the most vulnerable. Instead, he has consistently betrayed preborn children and hospitalized Texans throughout his legislative tenure.
This session, Sheffield authored House Bill 3874 that would have turned Texas’ organ donation system into a coercive opt-out system. Under this bill, when Texans seek or renew their driver’s licenses, the State would automatically assume them to be organ donors unless they intentionally opt out. The policy is ethically flawed, depriving Texans of informed consent in a significant medical and moral decision. This bill, however, was not his only offense against the medical rights of Texans. On House Bill 1504, which related to the Texas Medical Board, Sheffield voted against a Pro-Life amendment that afforded reasonable protection for vulnerable patients facing the anti-Life 10-Day Rule.
Additionally, Sheffield would not coauthor PreNDA (House Bill 2434) or the repeal of the 10-Day Rule (House Bill 3158). Because of Sheffield’s outright anti-Life actions and disregard for Pro-Life efforts, he is a 2019 Pro-Life Disappointment.