Right to Life Adversaries of the 88th Legislature

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.

As in every session, there were numerous efforts to weaken, subvert, or remove Pro-Life protections for preborn children. Thankfully, none of these endeavors succeeded. However, there were five anti-Life Adversaries of the 88th Legislature who were especially aggressive in their attacks on preborn children – Representative Donna Howard, Representative Vicki Goodwin, Representative Mihaela Plesa, Senator Sarah Eckhardt, and Senator Nathan Johnson. 

Representative Donna Howard (D-Austin) routinely advocates to expand abortion in Texas, every session prioritizing advancing her pro-abortion agenda. This session, Representative Howard authored multiple bills seeking to strip protections for preborn children.

These included House Bill 979, to add exceptions for rape and incest and to repeal Texas’ pre-Roe Pro-Life laws protecting all preborn children from the moment of fertilization; House Bill 1880, to repeal Texas’ pre-Roe Pro-Life laws and exempt financial donations to abortion logistical organizations from penalty; House Bill 1941, to prohibit state and local entities from restricting purchases, use, and information on emergency contraception; and, House Bill 2215, to create dangerous loopholes in Texas Pro-Life laws for a woman’s mental health and a potential disability of a preborn child. 

As she has in years past, Representative Howard stood on the House floor urging her colleagues against funding critical Pro-Life resources through the Alternatives to Abortion program (now named the “Thriving Texas Families” program). Since the Texas Heartbeat Act and the reversal of Roe v. Wade, demand for these critical social services that help Texas women, their children, and families has been greater than ever. Representative Howard is an anti-Life Adversary for these multiple attempts at weakening our Pro-Life laws and undercutting Pro-Life resources. 

Representative Vikki Goodwin (D-Austin) filed three anti-Life bills. House Joint Resolution 62 was a constitutional amendment attempting to establish a right to “personal reproductive autonomy.” If this constitutional amendment were to pass, every Pro-Life law would be in jeopardy.

She also filed House Bill 27 to block the civil enforcement tool of the Texas Heartbeat Act against an employer for provision of a particular employee benefit, namely paying for employee travel for out-of-state abortions. Representative Goodwin’s anti-Life agenda was not limited just to expanding abortion. She also filed a bill to establish a right to assisted reproductive technology. For these various legislative efforts, Representative Goodwin is an anti-Life Adversary.  

Freshman Representative Mihaela Plesa (D-Dallas) used her first session in the Texas House to author aggressive anti-Life legislation.

She authored House Bill 1490 requiring physicians to prioritize the health of the mother regardless of treatments’ risk of injury or death to the preborn child, which could be used to perform an elective abortion rather than attempting to save both mother and preborn child; House Bill 1953, to add exceptions to Texas’ Pro-Life laws for women 35 years and older, those who have a high-risk condition, or those whose pregnancy is the result of in-vitro fertilization; House Bill 2853, to expand access to emergency contraception without protections for pharmacists who conscientiously object; and House Bill 3588 permitting an unemancipated minor to obtain an abortion without parental consent or judicial bypass and repealing the current Pro-Life judicial bypass law. Representative Plesa was also the only member of the Texas House to vote against House Bill 3162, the bill that improved patient protections under the anti-Life Texas Advance Directives Act. Representative Plesa was an anti-Life Adversary this legislative session. 

Senator Sarah Eckhardt (D-Austin) earns the unfortunate title as the lawmaker who filed the most anti-Life bills this session. She filed the companion bill to Goodwin’s constitutional amendment proposition establishing a right to “personal reproductive autonomy.”

She also filed Senate Joint Resolution 23, a constitutional amendment establishing a right to elective abortions; Senate Bill 203, to require physicians prioritize the health of the mother regardless of treatments’ risk of injury or death to the preborn child, which could be used to perform an elective abortion rather than attempting to save both mother and preborn child; Senate Bill 204, to punish Pro-Life or religiously-affiliated organizations for discrimination if they do not support any employee’s reproductive decisions; Senate Bill 227, to repeal Texas’ pre-Roe Pro-Life laws and Trigger Law; and, Senate Bill 1623, to mandate health insurance coverage for abortion. For these many reasons, Senator Eckhardt is an anti-Life Adversary. 

Senator Nathan Johnson (D-Dallas) filed four anti-Life bills this session.

Senate Bill 78 sought to legalize abortion pills and expand their use up to 10 weeks; Senate Bill 79, to repeal Texas’ pre-Roe Pro-Life laws; Senate Bill 291, to decriminalize direct and indirect assistance for out-of-state abortions; and, Senate Bill 1280, to permit direct and indirect assistance for out-of-state abortions. These various attempts to weaken our Pro-Life laws and increase abortions earned Senator Johnson the title of anti-Life Adversary. 

Despite these lawmakers’ efforts, no attempts to weaken Texas’ strong Pro-Life laws passed this session. There is still much more to be done to build a truly Pro-Life Texas that cherishes the lives of both mothers and children, born and preborn. With every subsequent session, Texas Right to Life will continue working to build a Pro-Life state while fighting against any endeavors to weaken or subvert our strong, Life-affirming laws. 

Check out how your state representatives voted on these and other Pro-Life issues this session here. 

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