2023 offered a unique opportunity for Texas lawmakers to pass Pro-Life bills for the first time since Roe v. Wade was overturned. This session, the Legislature ignored preborn children yet improved protections for vulnerable patients. Unfortunately, some of the frustration with the results from this session arose from Republican leaders in the Legislature refusing to acknowledge the needs and reality of our post-Roe state, including Representative Todd Hunter, Senator Lois Kolkhorst, and the Republican-led budget conference committee.
Representative Todd Hunter (R – Corpus Christi) was Chair of the House Committee on State Affairs, placing him in a high position of authority in the House. His committee was assigned all of the Pro-Life bills that would have improved enforcement of Pro-Life laws. This is more important now than ever as abortion pills are shipped from around the globe into Texas or brought in across our southern border, while some state district attorneys are publicly admitting they refuse to enforce our state’s Pro-Life laws. However, Hunter displayed a concerning lack of interest and failed to schedule a single one of the Pro-Life Priority Bills on enforcement for the committee’s consideration. This indifference quashed a crucial opportunity this session to shield mothers and their preborn children from the surging tide of abortion pills making their way into our state. For this reason, Representative Hunter is a Disappointment of the 88th Legislature.
Senator Lois Kolkhorst (R – Brenham) was Chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services, placing her in a high position of influence and authority in the Senate. She authored Senate Bill 24 and sponsored House Bill 12, both bills with Pro-Life intent but concerning language. When Texas Right to Life repeatedly approached her about amendments to these two bills to address the concerns, she rejected the majority of these crucial amendments that would have served to fortify these otherwise promising bills.
Senate Bill 24 aimed to establish a comprehensive continuum of care for Texas families, beginning from pregnancy onward, and renamed the Alternatives to Abortion program to the Thriving Texas Families program. However, Kolkhorst declined to accept amendments proposed by Texas Right to Life that would have secured the Pro-Life integrity of the program and protected current Pro-Life providers from having their funds diluted.
House Bill 12 extended medical insurance coverage for new mothers from two months to one year postpartum — a Pro-Life and fiscally-responsible policy aiming to preempt more severe medical complications and expenses in the future. However, Texas Right to Life was concerned that the bill’s wording left room for coverage following an illegal or out-of-state abortion, potentially inadvertently incentivizing elective abortions. However, Kolkhorst declined to accept a strong amendment proposed by Texas Right to Life that would have secured against this. The Senate ultimately added symbolic language which the chamber felt addressed the concern, but this language was legislative intent and not as strong a protection as Texas Right to Life advocated. For these reasons, Senator Kolkhorst is a Disappointment of the 88th Legislature.
Lastly, the Republican-led budget conference committee is a Disappointment of the 88th Legislature for significantly underfunding the Thriving Texas Families program (formerly the Alternatives to Abortion program). The Texas House recognized the amplified need for Pro-Life resources, allocating $200 million for the next two years to fully fund the program and the critical social services it provides. However, the budget conference committee, composed of members of both the House and Senate but led by Senator Joan Huffman (R – Houston), Senator Kolkhorst, Representative Greg Bonnen (R – Friendswood), and Representative Jacey Jetton (R – Richmond), severely cut and did not fight to defend the House’s level of funding. The sum was reduced to $140 million, falling considerably short of the anticipated demand in our post-Roe state.
These Disappointments blocked greater Pro-Life victories from being accomplished this session. Visit Texas Right to Life’s Pro-Life Scorecard to see for yourself how your elected officials voted on Pro-Life issues this session.