Was 2019 A Successful Texas Pro-Life Session? It Depends On Who You Ask

Txlege UpdateIt’s common knowledge around the Texas Capitol that the two major pro-life organizations have differing tactics and approaches to advocating legislation that saves pre-born human beings.

For Texas Alliance of Life, which works on building alliances with the centrist leaders of each chamber, the 2019 legislative session was a success on many fronts. We quote their recent session recap below:

Texas Alliance for Life is pleased that, under the leadership of Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Speaker Dennis Bonnen, the Texas Legislature had another successful session. Highlights of the 20-week session, ending on Memorial Day, include the passage of HB 16, the Texas Born-Alive Infant Protection Act, SB 22 to protect taxpayers by defunding Planned Parenthood at the local level and a biennial budget that doubled funding for the State’s highly successful Alternatives to Abortion program. We are also delighted, that the Legislature passed SB 24 to ensure women receive information on alternatives to abortion at abortion facilities. Additionally, we strongly supported HB 902 to increase penalties for assaulting a pregnant woman, which also passed.

We are very pleased with the gains made. This was another successful session for mothers, unborn children, and vulnerable patients.

Several potentially harmful bills were defeated, including SB 150, a New York-style abortion-rights bill; HB 4082, a dangerous election bill; and SB 2089, a bill that would force physicians and nurses to perform painful, medically inappropriate interventions indefinitely on terminally ill patients.

Lastly, we regret that the Trigger Ban, HB 2350 and SB 2160, to completely ban abortion when the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade did not pass. That is a new idea for Texas, and new ideas frequently take multiple sessions to pass. The ban on wrongful birth lawsuits, HB 4199, also failed to pass.

Texas Right to Life, more prone to lock horns with the establishment (though always strategic and stopping short of advocating legislation that would never survive a court challenge — in other words, not Abolish Human Abortion) also praised the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Providers Act (SB 22) and funding for the Texas Alternatives for Abortion program. However, this statewide pro-life advocacy group was quick to point out the session’s failures as well as alleged cosmetic victories. We quote a May 27 news release below:

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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