Pro-life, privacy legislation among key issues in special session of Texas Legislature
July 20th, 2017 / By: Bonnie Pritchett | TEXAN Correspondent / comments
AUSTIN—Texas lawmakers, called to a special session by Gov. Greg Abbott, will begin hearing testimony Friday (July 21) on pro-life and privacy legislation that died in procedural gridlock during the regular session. The 85th Texas Legislature’s special session began July 18 where the regular session ended: with loud demonstrations by pro-abortion and LGBT activists alongside calls for prayer and support from the state’s pastors.
In a 20-point call of action Gov. Greg Abbott listed legislation he expects lawmakers to pass before the special session ends after 30 days. Legislators quickly passed the priority bill that extended the life of the Texas Medical Board, which was due to expire this year. With that out of the way Abbott released the remaining 19 issues he wants addressed, including teacher salary increases, property tax and school finance reform, and limitations on private property regulation by local governments. Of special interest to the SBTC and other conservative Christians are resurrected pro-life bills, the privacy act and school vouchers for disabled children.
Each of the Senate pro-life bills is scheduled for a committee hearing Friday, July 21, in the committee noted. Times and locations were not available at deadline.
HB 163/SB 4: Prohibits the use of state and local taxpayer money to subsidize clinics that provide abortions. Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
HB 214/SB 8: Requires the purchase of a separate policy to cover non-emergency abortion so premiums paid by all do not go toward funding abortions. Senate Business and Commerce Committee
(No companion House Bill)/SB 85: Enhances the reporting requirements of complications due to abortions. Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
HB 12/SB 11: Strengthens Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders requiring doctors and hospitals to confer with a patient’s advocate (i.e. a family member) before putting a DNR order on the medical documents of an incapacitated patient. Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
Texas Right to Life representatives championed the bills during the regular session only to see them die in the House State Affairs Committee for lack of a hearing. Procedural wrangling gave them new life on the House floor but without enough time for passage. Emily Horne, Texas Right to Life senior legislative associate, said pro-life advocates must press for passage and urged supporters to go to the Capitol and either register their support or testify.
The DNR legislation has bipartisan support. But, with the exception of the consistently pro-life Sen. Eddie Lucio, D - Brownsville, few if any Democrats are expected to support legislation that restricts abortion funding or requires more scrutiny of complications.
“They tend not to like any supposition that abortion is dangerous,” Horne told the TEXAN.
To the contrary, on the session’s opening day abortion rights activists demonstrated their demand for unrestricted abortion access by sporting t-shirts declaring “I [heart] abortion” and “Fund abortion.” Cindy Asmussen, advisor to the SBTC Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee and a long-time pro-life advocate, said she was not surprised by the demonstration but found the messages jarring.
Transgender activists, many of them presenting themselves as the gender that does not correspond with their biological sex, joined forces with the abortion advocates at the Capitol Tuesday to create an odd alliance of opposition to the privacy act.
Supporters of the original Texas Privacy Act (SB 6), authored by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, gave tepid support to her latest iteration (SB 3) and its House companion bill (HB 46), authored by Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton. Critics contend the bills’ broad language, which gives deference to federal law, is problematic and does not specifically address the issue of Texans’ privacy and safety. Asmussen said while the SBTC supports the two privacy measures, it questions the need to change the language of the original bills that received majority support in both chambers.
“We have concerns with the new version of the bill, but this is an evolving process,” said Asmussen who has discussed possible modifications to the bill with grassroots supporters.
Dave Welch, Texas Pastors Council director, put out a call for pastors to testify Friday saying their “strong, biblically grounded, Christ-centered, reasoned and compassionate voices” will be vital for the bill’s passage.
Asmussen will testify Friday morning before the Senate State Affairs in support of SB 3. She said her remarks will include the Southern Baptist Convention’s 2014 resolution on transgender identity.
The SBC affirms “God’s good design that gender identity is determined by biological sex and not by one’s self-perception—a perception which is often influenced by fallen human nature in ways contrary to God’s design.”
The resolution condemns bullying and abuse of “our transgender neighbors as image-bearers of Almighty God” but opposes efforts by governing entities to validate as praiseworthy transgender identity.
The original Texas Privacy Act easily passed the Senate during the regular session only to die along with the pro-life legislation in the House State Affairs Committee chaired by Byron Cook, R-Austin, which would not put it up for discussion and vote.
Lawmakers have 30 days to pass the 20-point call Abbott issued. The governor has not ruled out a second session if the Legislature fails to act on all measures.