Speaker Straus misses the mark on Pro-Life concerns with Interim Charges for the Texas House

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In the recently released Interim Charges for the Texas House of Representatives for the 84th Legislature, Speaker Joe Straus included only one marginally Pro-Life topic.  Interim charges serve as instructions for which policies and issues the Legislature should study and research in preparation of the next legislative session.  Under the charges for the House Committee on State Affairs, Speaker Straus recommends the committee examine the procurement and use of human fetal tissue.  The charge includes “studying the policies used by research and medical entities to adhere to the highest ethical standards for acquiring human fetal tissue for medical and scientific purposes.” 

Straus’s tepid interim charge is too little, too late in response to the Planned Parenthood scandal revealed in shocking undercover footage released by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) this year.  Some of the footage released featured a top executive at Houston’s Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast and an Austin abortionist.  The allegations of trafficking baby body parts for profit and manipulating abortions in order to harvest fetal organs rightly shocked many Texans.

Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and Attorney General Ken Paxton all responded swiftly to the release of the gruesome videos, working together to investigate Planned Parenthood affiliates in the state.  Immediately following the release of the videos, Lt. Governor Patrick instructed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee to hold hearings on the videos and Texas law, resulting in hearings facilitated by Chairman Schwertner in July. In August, Governor Abbott released his LIFE Initiative, which endorses strengthening the penalties for abortionists who perform horrific partial birth abortions or manipulate abortions and outlawing the harvesting of fetal organs by the abortion industry.

Paxton immediately spearheaded a thorough investigation of Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry.  Even while General Paxton’s investigation is still ongoing, in early October, he wrote an open letter to Straus recommending priority legislation addressing the inhumane abuses of the abortion industry in Texas.  His suggestions include passing a ban on dismemberment abortions, specifically prohibiting harvesting and selling baby body parts after elective abortions, and adopting a state Partial-Birth Abortion Ban in Texas.

To this day, Speaker Straus has yet to issue an official or campaign statement on the undercover videos, the federal efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, or the multiple ongoing state investigations into Planned Parenthood’s unethical and illegal business activity in Texas.  Therefore, his interim charges with only one remotely Pro-Life issue mentioned are not surprising.  Perhaps the only surprise is that Speaker Straus chose to address the controversial issue of fetal tissue research at all, however tepidly. 

The language of Speaker Straus’s interim charge reveals an awkwardness and apathy towards this vital Pro-Life opportunity to protect more preborn children and prevent vulnerable women from being exploited by the predatory practices of abortionists.  Straus instructs the House State Affairs Committee to “review compliance to ensure informed consent and that all state and federal laws sufficiently respect the dignity of the human body.”  The Speaker avoids naming Planned Parenthood or even alluding to abortion.  He overlooks the clear Pro-Life conviction that there is no law that will ensure the trafficking of body parts from preborn victims of abortion is done in a way that respects the dignity of innocent human Life.

Pro-Life Texans are seeking guidance from their state leaders on how Texas should respond to the current scandal surrounding Planned Parenthood.  While the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General have wasted no time in recommending and discussing real policy solutions, the Health and Human Services Commission has taken steps towards cancelling the Medicaid contracts for all Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas as a result of Medicaid fraud.  Pro-Life issues are a key concern for voters and legislators for the 85th Legislature in 2017, but Straus’s interim charges show he is only interested in improving the process of donating and harvesting fetal body parts.

Texas Right to Life is already working with real Pro-Life leaders in the Texas Legislature to adopt real solutions like the Dismemberment Abortion Ban.  Prohibiting dismemberment abortion will protect babies from being killed by having their limbs torn from their tiny bodies in the womb.  Using dismemberment abortion, abortionists can selectively crush the baby’s organs in order to preserve the most profitable body parts; with the Dismemberment Abortion Ban this horrific practice would end.  Texas Right to Life is also diligently cataloging government funding in Texas that is still going to Planned Parenthood and has prioritized a budget-wide overlay for the next legislative session that would keep all state-controlled tax dollars from funding the abortion industry in Texas.  With regard to the fetal tissue trafficking, Texas Right to Life is collaborating with research organizations to learn where the tissue is going, how the tissue is used, and what legislation is necessary to end completely the trafficking of organs from babies killed in elective abortion. 

The differences in where protecting Life stands on the priority lists of state leaders are clearly shown by examining their responses to the gruesome Planned Parenthood videos and their leadership in the conversation about the next steps the Pro-Life movement should take.  Texas Right to Life is proud to be working closely with Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, Attorney General Ken Paxton, and many other passionately Pro-Life elected officials.  Texas Right to Life will not stop advocating for the innocent, even if such advocacy requires cleaning House.

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