One hundred forty days. Twenty weeks. Five months. Tick tock. One hundred eight thousand lives gone and voices lost.
One hundred forty days every two years is the only chance we have to rescue these precious souls from the slaughter, to save as many as we can, but we are up against an unyielding and apathetic clock.
Of course, the apathy of the clock would be meaningless if we did not also have to fight the indifference of those with power to use the clock against us. Republicans in House leadership have thus far buried our life-saving legislation into the no man’s land of committees that have not and may not set these bills for hearings. (Keep in mind these are Republicans that have campaigned to you, the voters, as Pro-Life champions.)
The Texas Constitution prohibits bills that are not emergency items from being debated on either chamber floor before 60 days of session. While committees may hear bills before then, the real work rarely starts in committees before the 60 day mark, for better or worse. Committees will seldom meet more than once a week, and with every committee schedule posted without your legislation’s inclusion, your bills lose another chance, and their life spans lose another week.
This, of course, can be positive for conservatives. After all, the system is designed to stifle bills, to encourage less government, and enable fewer restrictions on your liberties. This is why we only meet every other year, why we pay our lawmakers part-time salaries, and tell them not to quit their day jobs. Texans don’t want our elected officials constantly thinking about passing new laws, but this system has the power to be used for good and evil.
The Dismemberment Abortion Ban (HB 844 by Representative Stephanie Klick) was referred to the House Committee on State Affairs on February 21. This life-saving legislation is the top priority of Texas Right to Life and a strong priority of the Texas Senate, which passed the bill on March 20. The deadline for House bills to be voted out of committee and still eligible for the House floor is May 8.
For the month of May until session ends on May 29, a calendar begins circulating around the Capitol. Officially called the “Deadlines for Action,” this is colloquially referred to as “The Death Calendar” by anyone whose bill hangs by a thread. This calendar may ring familiar for attentive Pro-Life activists or anyone watching the Texas Legislature closely. During the last days that House bills and Senate bills are eligible for the calendar, conservative and Pro-Life priorities are strategically placed at the end of the 15-page docket. This invites the Democratic biennial tradition, which Republicans repeatedly enable, known as “chubbing.” In other words, Democrats act out on the floor, theatrically asking asinine questions or seizing extra opportunities to speak while the clock inches closer to midnight and bills continue to die. Establishment Republicans then blame Democrats for the death of these bills by pretending the injury was not self-inflicted.
Recall in 2011 when a bill to outlaw coerced abortions was on the end of a long calendar on the last day House bills could be debated on the floor. And again in 2015, when a bill prohibiting your insurance premiums from paying for abortion coverage, SB 575 by Senator Larry Taylor, was sent to the House and became victim to the same death on the House floor.
At the end of the day, Pro-Life voters are awaiting action on life-saving legislation from the Texas House. The clock is ticking. Because at the end of 140 days, bills will be far from the only things that die.