How did the Pro-Life Priorities fare in the 87th Legislature?

How did the Pro-Life Priorities fare in the 87th Legislature?

The Texas Right to Life Legislative Team has been ceaselessly advocating for Life in the Texas Capitol for the past 140 days. The 87th Texas Legislature, Regular Session, which ends today, can aptly be described as a great victory for preborn children and a devastating loss for vulnerable patients.

Texas Right to Life pushed six Pro-Life Priorities for the Regular Session of the 87th Texas Legislature:

1. The Texas Abolition Strategy
Senate Bill 1647 by Senator Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) & House Bill 3760 by Representative Tom Oliverson, M.D., (R-Cypress). This Pro-Life omnibus bill included three major Pro-Life policies (PreNDA, Texas Heartbeat Act, and an abortion abolition) in one strategic piece of legislation.

2. Preborn NonDiscrimination Act (PreNDA)
Senate Bill 1173 by Senator Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills) & House Bill 3218 by Representative Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler). One major policy goal in this bill was accomplished by the Texas Heartbeat Act (SB 8).

3. Texas Heartbeat Act
Senate Bill 8 by Senator Bryan Hughes (R-Tyler) & House Bill 1515 by Representative Shelby Slawson (R-Stephenville).

4. Repeal the Anti-Life “10-Day Rule” in the Texas Advance Directives Act
Senate Bill 917 by Senator Bryan Hughes (R-Tyler) & House Bill 2609 by Representative Tan Parker (R-Flower Mound).

5. Conscience Protections for Healthcare Professionals
Senate Bill 1674 by Senator Bob Hall (R-Edgewood) & House Bill 1424 by Representative Tom Oliverson, M.D., (R-Cypress).

6. Protect and Increase Funding for the Life-Saving Alternatives to Abortion Program

Of these six priorities, two were fully accomplished.

The Texas Heartbeat Act (SB 8) is the strongest Pro-Life bill to pass into law in Texas since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. When SB 8 takes effect in September, the law will save thousands of preborn lives. The Texas Heartbeat Act specifies that preborn children are protected from abortion when their heartbeat is detected according to the standard medical practice, which is typically around six weeks’ gestation. This law includes an innovative enforcement mechanism: The Texas Heartbeat Act will be entirely enforced through private Pro-Life individuals holding abortionists accountable by private civil lawsuits. Thus, SB 8 should withstand the typical legal attacks from the abortion industry.

Alternatives to Abortion (A2A) program is funded through the Texas state budget, at $100 million for the biennium. On the floor of the Texas House, Representative Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth) offered the amendment to increase the House’s proposed funding to $100 million, matching the Senate version written by Chairwoman Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound). Texas Right to Life is also thankful to Chairman Greg Bonnen, M.D., (R-Friendswood), Chair of the House Committee on Appropriations, who protected the program from attacks and ensured the funding was maintained in budget negotiations. This increased funding will allow this life-saving program to continue serving women, their preborn children, and their families across Texas.

Senator Hughes, who served as chairman of the Senate Committee on State Affairs, championed the priority bills by holding early hearings and promptly voting the needed reforms out of committee. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick then ushered the bills to the floor and promptly passed seven Pro-Life bills out of the Texas Senate.

Once in the House, six of the bills were referred to the House Committee on Public Health, where Chairwoman Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth) heard and voted out every Pro-Life priority bill from her committee, marking the first time that every Pro-Life Priority Bill was voted out of a single House committee in ample time for passage.

For other Pro-Life Priorities, however, the session was more sobering.

HB 1424, conscience protections for medical professionals, was voted out of committee and scheduled to be heard and debated on the House floor. The inexplicable delays in the House Committee on Calendars left the bill languishing behind hundreds of other bills. In the Senate, SB 1674 never received a committee hearing. Unfortunately, this priority policy was met with apathy in the Capitol, and in the short five-month session, apathy kills bills.

The most devastating outcome of the 87th Session was the failure to protect vulnerable patients in Texas hospitals.

The Senate Committee on Health and Human Services held a hearing on SB 917 and moved the bill out of committee with bipartisan support, despite Republicans Senator Donna Campbell, M.D., (R-New Braunfels) and Senator Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) voting against the bill. Knowing that SB 917 had garnered support from some Democrat senators and would likely pass with bipartisan support on the Senate floor, some Republican senators derailed SB 917, opting for congeniality over life-saving policy.

After such wide publicity about the plight of Tinslee Lewis and the Second Court of Appeals opining that current law is likely unconstitutional, Texans are stunned that a handful of Republican senators would be so tone-deaf about protecting disabled patients. Because of the Legislature’s inaction to pass HB 2609 and SB 917, in the past week, two families of hospitalized patients called Texas Right to Life’s patient advocacy hotline requesting assistance to prevent hospitals from ushering their loved ones to a premature death through the anti-Life 10-Day Rule.

The clear wins from the 87th should be celebrated.

And the remaining urgent needs, particularly for vulnerable patients in Texas, must not be ignored.

The governor of Texas has the authority to call the Legislature back into a 30-day special session to complete unfinished business. In this short session, the governor stipulates which specific topics can be addressed through legislation. The Texas Legislature will have to reconvene for a special session later in the fall for redistricting. If the governor adds these remaining Pro-Life priorities to the agenda for the special session, the Legislature will be able to fully deliver on their promise to protect innocent human Life.

Texas Right to Life encourages Pro-Life Texans to urge Governor Greg Abbott to include on the call for the special session: repealing the 10-Day Rule, conscience protections for healthcare professionals, and additional protections for preborn children.

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