Mission Lab

Pro-life bills advance, seek to close loopholes

But bill subjecting abortive women to capital murder stalls as pro-life legislator calls it ‘wrong direction’

April 23rd, 2019 / By: Bonnie Pritchett | TEXAN Correspondent / comments

Pro-life bills advance, seek to close loopholes

AUSTIN The Texas Senate approved legislation in early April that would close loopholes in the state’s abortion regulations. Those bills are now in the House of Representatives while other pro-life measures made little to no progress. 

One controversial bill died in committee, April 10, because it would have made pregnant women who undergo abortion procedures and abortion doctors subject to capital murder charges.

House Bill 896 is a step too far in the fight against abortion-on-demand, even for stalwart pro-life advocates. The bill “goes in the wrong direction,” said Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, chairman of the House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee and a member of Prestonwood Baptist Church. 

“I cannot in good conscience support … legislation that subjects women who undergo abortions to criminal liability and even the possibility of the death penalty,” Leach said in a statement posted April 10 on his Twitter account. For his opposition to the bill, Leach received death threats, prompting added security measures from law enforcement, according to multiple news reports.

Brian Fisher, president of the pro-life Human Coalition, tweeted April 10 about the bill: “In my experience, many women get abortions out of fear, coercion, misinformation, or desperate circumstances. Women need compassionate and immediate care, not jail.”

HB 896, authored by Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, says “a living human child, from the moment of fertilization … is entitled to the same rights, powers, and privileges as are secured or granted by the laws of this state to any other human child.”

HB 896 is the exception. Most of this session’s legislation attempting to reign in the abortion-on-demand standard set by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v Wade decision continues to progress.

In 2011 Texas lawmakers withdrew funding from Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers but the provision failed to prevent other governmental entities from using tax dollars to fund abortions. Senate Bill 22, authored by Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, would close that loophole. For example, it would prohibit cities, like Austin, from renting city-owned property to Planned Parenthood for far below market value. The Austin City Council approved a 2018 rental agreement with the abortion giant and charged only $1 a year.

The Senate passed SB 22, along party lines, April 3 and sent the measure to the House State Affairs Committee where it awaits a public hearing.

While no Democrats approved Campbell’s bill, two crossed the aisle to vote with Republicans in favor of Senate Bill 23, the Texas Born-Alive Infant Protection Act. It would impose criminal or civil penalties against physicians who fail to provide life-preserving care for infants born premature or who survive an abortion. Current Texas law requires doctors to administer that care, but it levies no penalties for physicians who refuse. Democrat Sens. Eddie Lucio, who consistently votes pro-life, and Judith Zaffirini voted for the bill, which is now in the House.

House Bill 16, the Born Alive Act, passed the House April 17 with an unofficial vote of 94-2, with 49 Democrats registering Present, not voting. Eighteen Democrats voted for the measure that requires medical care for infants who survive abortion.

House Bill 4526 would penalize physicians who perform “dismemberment abortions” with exceptions for medical emergencies. Physicians would face up to $30,000 for each violation if found guilty. The bill is still in committee following an April 8 public hearing.

The State Affairs committee heard testimony April 17 on House Bill 2434, the Preborn Nondiscrimination Act.  The bill applies the state’s nondiscrimination laws to unborn babies and requires the state to provide informational and material support for mothers who choose to carry to term unborn babies with a life-threatening diagnosis. Those babies must receive palliative care once born. 

Pro-life advocates, again, are asking lawmakers to end the practice of “wrongful birth” lawsuits in Texas via House Bill 4199. Current law allows parents to sue physicians if they believe the doctor failed to inform them of severe or life-threatening disabilities prior to birth. 

During an April 8 committee hearing, supporters of HB 4199 told lawmakers that holding doctors accountable for a condition they did not cause and could not foresee is “troubling.” Malpractice law provides parents with sufficient recourse, they said.

Bills lingering in committee with no public hearings scheduled include Senate Joint Resolution 3 proposing a constitutional amendment prohibiting abortion, and Texas’ version of a fetal heartbeat bill, House Bill 1500.