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. However, there were five Pro-Life Heroes of the 88th Legislature: Representative Cody Vasut, Representative Jeff Leach, Senator Angela Paxton, Senator Bryan Hughes, and Representative Steve Toth. These elected officials spearheaded crucial Pro-Life efforts this session.
Representative Cody Vasut (R–Angleton) authored an amendment to the state’s budget that increased funding for the Alternatives to Abortion program (now renamed the “Thriving Texas Families” program) by $80 million, providing a total of $200 million to the program over the next two years.
This state program reimburses nonprofit pregnancy centers, maternity homes, and adoption agencies that serve Texas women and their families throughout pregnancy and up to three years after the birth of their child. The House passed this amendment, and though unfortunately this level of funding was later cut back, Representative Vasut is a Pro-Life Hero for authoring and defending this effort to fully fund Pro-Life resources in our state.
Representative Jeff Leach (R–Allen) authored an amendment to the state’s supplemental budget that increased funding for the Alternatives to Abortion program (“Thriving Texas Families” program) by $25 million until the end of the 2023 fiscal year.
This additional funding was necessary to meet the program’s shortfall due to increased demand resulting from the Texas Heartbeat Act and the reversal of Roe v. Wade. The House passed this amendment, and Representative Leach is a Pro-Life Hero for authoring and defending this effort to fully fund Pro-Life resources in our state, caring for Texas women and their families.
Senator Angela Paxton (R–McKinney) was a valiant defender of pregnant and parenting college students this session, authoring three bills on the subject. Two of these bills passed: Senate Bill 412 and Senate Bill 459.
SB 412 codifies federal protections for pregnant and parenting college students into Texas law, protecting them from discrimination and ensuring their access to accommodations. SB 459 requires higher education institutions that offer priority registration to provide this option to pregnant and parenting college students. Senator Paxton is a Pro-Life Hero for authoring these bills that debunk the myth that a woman cannot choose Life and achieve educational and professional success. Paxton’s bills, along with the amendments authored by Vasut and Leach, highlight how Texas is not merely anti-abortion but truly Pro-Life.
Senator Bryan Hughes (R–Tyler) authored two bills seeking to fully enforce our strong Pro-Life laws and hold the abortion industry accountable. Senate Bill 1195 authorized the Texas attorney general to prosecute violations of Pro-Life laws when local prosecutors fail or refuse to do so within six months. Senate Bill 1927 gave the state prosecuting attorney concurrent jurisdiction to represent the state in district and inferior courts for violations of Pro-Life laws.
In his role as chairman of the Senate Committee on State Affairs and Senate Committee on Jurisprudence, he ensured these enforcement policies received hearings and worked to advance them. Unfortunately, neither of these bills passed. Senator Hughes continued working this session to increase protections for vulnerable patients in Texas hospitals, including his involvement with stakeholder negotiations and speaking in support of House Bill 3162 when the bill reached the Senate floor. He explained the underlying concern of this policy should be who has the final authority in the decision about a patient’s life sustaining treatment, advocating that the patient and his or her surrogates should be that final authority. Senator Hughes is a Pro-Life Hero for his work to advance Pro-Life legislation protecting Life from fertilization to natural death.
Representative Steve Toth (R–The Woodlands) authored two bills seeking to fully enforce our strong Pro-Life laws, hold the abortion industry accountable, and stop illegal abortion pills coming into our state.
House Bill 4549 authorized the Texas attorney general to prosecute violations of Pro-Life laws when local prosecutors fail or refuse to do so within six months. House Bill 2690 would hold internet service providers accountable to block internet access to websites that distribute illegal abortion pills and add civil liability for these dangerous drugs. In each of the four special sessions of the 88th Texas Legislature, he has refiled this bill. Representative Toth is a Pro-Life Hero for relentlessly fighting to stop illegal abortion pills coming into Texas.
The fight for Life is far from over, but Texas Right to Life applauds the Pro-Life Heroes and their dedication to protecting innocent human Life from fertilization to natural death.