Today, the House Committee on State Affairs will hear testimony on weak versions of Pro-Life bills. Texas Right to Life has visited and met with staff in both offices about the shortfalls of the language in both HB 3130 and HB 2351; we are unclear if our concerns will be addressed.
HB 3130 by Representative Marsha Farney (R-Georgetown) attempts to address abortion coverage in the state exchanges mandated by the Affordable Care Act. That alone is a noteworthy goal; however, the bill also weakens the definition in current law of “medical emergency” in the context of an abortion due to a medical emergency.
Due to Representative Farney’s stance against abortion, our hope is that she will change her bill to preserve the strongest definition of medical emergency and to exclude abortion from automatic coverage in other insurance markets.
Chairman John Smithee (R-Amarillo) is carrying HB 1435, which addresses abortion coverage in the state exchanges, state employee plans, and private insurance plans. Chairman Smithee is eager to work with Representative Farney so that the loopholes in her bill are closed and to protect not only the unborn, but also insurance consumers.
HB 2351 by Representative Patricia Harless (R-Spring) will also be heard today in the House Committee on State Affairs. The stated purpose of HB 2351 is to reform hospital ethics committees (death panels), which currently hold unlimited power to remove medical treatment from patients after providing ten days notice to the patient or family. Under the current Texas Advance Directives Act, hospitals may remove life-sustaining treatments including a ventilator, dialysis, food, and hydration from patients, even if the patient or their family has expressed a desire to continue such care and treatment. Treatment can be withdrawn from any patient for any reason, including discrimination against a patient who is elderly, terminally ill, or disabled.
Rather than actually reforming the draconian ten-day law, HB 2351 instructs the hospital committees to write and circulate their own regulations about conflicts of interest for their own ethics committees about their own decisions on withdrawing treatment from patients. HB 2351 also instructs facilities to write and implement policies for withdrawing treatment from patients with disabilities. However, this section establishes yet another dangerous loophole through this provision by adding: “unless the disability is relevant in determining whether a medical or surgical intervention is medically appropriate.” HB 2351 does not actually provide specific details about what the policies should be, just that hospitals should adopt policies on these topics.
Representative James Frank (R-Wichita Falls) has filed legislation, HB 3414, which includes a provision similar to an Oklahoma law that would protect patients with disabilities from discriminatory quality of life judgments made by hospital committees.
Texas Right to Life urges the committee on State Affairs to close the loopholes in these bills and to change these bills to truly protect life. Both HB 1435 and HB 3414 are languishing in the same committee, awaiting hearings while the session clock ticks.
You may tune in and watch the hearing in the House Committee on State Affairs here.