Texas Alliance for Life was privileged to be part of a remarkable news conference at the Capitol on March 16, two days after the deadline for filing bills. The event featured a number of key House members showcasing 10 pro-life bills jointly supported by the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops (TCC), Texans for Life Coalition (TFL), and Texas Alliance for Life (TAL).
Also present to endorse bills to protect patients near the end of life was the Christian Life Commission of the Baptist General Convention of Texas (TCC).
Especially noteworthy is the number of House committee chairs present to stand for life by showing their support for the bills. Quite obviously this was no chance gathering of important House members. These House leaders were there to show support for a Life agenda, especially the 10 bills showcased, one of which has already been voted out of the House State Affairs committee and is headed to the House floor.
The show of support for pro-life bills flies in the face of the fanciful claim that Speaker Joe Straus and his House leadership team (his committee chairs) are somehow not really pro-life. That claim has been fomented by certain naysayers and self-appointed “RINO” hunters. (“RINO” is insider shorthand for “Republican in name only.”) These disingenuous and deceitful groups are not part of the Republican Party of Texas, and their agendas appear to be more about amassing funds and political power rather than protecting innocent human lives. One such group is not a pro-life organization and does not even have stopping abortion as one of its stated goals.
The House leadership attending included two of the most powerful members of the House: John Otto (R-Dayton), chair of the House Appropriations Committee charged with writing the entire two-year budget for the state, and Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi), chair of the critical Calendars Committee that schedules all bills for consideration on the House floor.
Others leaders included:
- Jimmie Don Aycock (R-Killeen), chair of the Public Education Committee.
- Angie Chen Button (R-Garfield), chair of the Economic and Small Business Development Committee.
- Byron Cook (R-Corsicana), chair of the State Affairs Committee, which will consider most of the pro-life bills and has already voted out the pro-life bill HB 416.
- Myra Crownover (R-Denton), chair of the Public Health Committee, another critical committee for pro-life bills.
- Drew Darby (R-San Angelo), chair of the Energy Resources Committee.
- Dan Flynn (R-Van), chair of the Pensions Committee.
- Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth), chair of the House Administration Committee.
- Jim Keffer (R-Eastland), chair of the Natural Resources Committee.
- Jodie Laubenberg (R-Parker), chair of the Elections Committee and author of HB 2, one of the most effective pro-life bills ever passed in this nation. She is also authoring two pro-life bills to protect women and girls from coerced or forced abortions. HB 3446 requires conspicuous signs at abortion facilities alerting potential victims of sex trafficking. HB 3765 gives minor girls an explicit legal right to refuse an abortion, even if a parent tries to force them.
- Geanie Morrison (R-Victoria), chair of the Environmental Regulation Committee and author of HB 3994 to reform the judicial bypass process for abortions on minor girls without parental consent.
- Tan Parker (R-Denton), chair of the House Republican Caucus.
Other notables included:
- Giovanni Capriglione (R-Southlake), author of HB 1218 to require human sexuality instruction courses in public schools teach that “human life begins at conception.”
- Brooks Landgraf (R-Odessa), author of the Down Syndrome Information Act, HB 2924, to give parents of an unborn child diagnosed with Down syndrome reliable information without promoting abortion.
- Dr. Marsha Farney (R-Georgetown), author of HB 3130 to prevent the Affordable Care Act from forcing people enrolled in a health insurance plan purchased in the federal exchange from paying for abortions with their premiums.
- Will Metcalf (R-Conroe).
- Debbie Riddle (R-Spring), author of HB 416 to require abortion facility workers to undergo training to identify victims of sex trafficking.
- Drew Springer (R-Munster), author of HB 3071 to give patients and their families the right to artificially administered nutrition and hydration (food and water) at the end of life.
- John Wray (R-Waxahachie).
Authors of two bills on the list of 10 were not able to attend. Rep. Patricia Harless (R-Spring) has authored HB 2351 to protect patients near the end of life and their families from possible conflicts of interest and potentially discriminatory decisions made by hospital ethics committees.
Rep. Ron Simmons (R-Denton), who chairs the House Republican policy committee, has authored HB 3008 to eliminate “wrongful birth” lawsuits, in which the parents of a child born with a disability sue the doctor whom they claim did not properly inform them of the disability in time to abort their unborn child.
Collectively, the three organizations represent the vast majority of the activist wing of the pro-life movement in Texas. And each of us have been around for decades. TAL was founded 26 years ago. Kyleen Wright of Texans for Life Coalition mentioned her organization was founded 40 years ago. And Jennifer Allmon of the TCC quipped that, being more than 2,000 years old, the Catholic Church is the oldest pro-life organization in Texas. The Catholic Bishops established the TCC in 1963.
The tragic precedent of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey decisions severely ties the hands of the Congress and the state legislatures. These draconian opinions created a near-fundamental right to abortion for any woman (including girls 17 and younger). They prevent the Congress and state legislatures from banning abortions before the child is “viable,” i.e. able to live outside the womb (even with medical assistance) in the reasonable judgement of the abortion doctor. Further, no regulation may place an “undue burden” on a woman’s ability to get an abortion.
HB 2, which the Legislature passed in July 2013, pushed the bounds of what the U.S. Supreme Court allows states to do in terms of banning abortions and regulating abortion facilities. We are still waiting to see if the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will uphold or strike down key parts of that law.
In the meantime, the 10 bills of the list promoted by the Speaker Straus’ House leadership team could vastly improve protections for parents of minor girls, victims of sex trafficking, people with disabilities, and vulnerable patients near the end of life.
You can follow the progress of these and other pro-life bills in the coming weeks and learn how you can help get them passed by visiting our website, following us on Facebook and Twitter, and especially joining our email list.