Special Session Preview: Abortion Complications Reporting

This is the third in a series of articles previewing the issues and debates expected for the Special Session of the 85th Texas Legislature that begins on July 18, 2017.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, an anti-Life research organization formerly affiliated with Planned Parenthood, 27 states require reporting to state agencies when complications arise during abortions.  Only 13 states require reporting on whether pregnant minors received adequate parental or judicial authorization to undergo an abortion.   An abortion is an invasive and violent surgical procedure that always results in the death of a preborn child, but can also result in life-threatening complications for the mother because abortion mills are notorious for violating basic health and safety standards.  For these reasons, Texas has a vested interest in keeping accurate records of complications that arise from elective abortions in our state. These issues were debated during the regular session of the 85th Texas Legislature, but political games killed legislation that would have reformed reporting requirements.

Representative Giovanni Capriglione (R-Southlake) authored House Bill 2962 to codify rules requiring physicians and abortionists to report abortion complications.  HB 2962 deals with reporting requirements for abortion complications.  However, floor amendments to the bill greatly strengthened the measure, which currently exists only as a loose rule in the Texas Administrative Code.

While the bill was being debated on the House Floor, Representative Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler), Chair of the Texas House Freedom Caucus, authored a strong amendment that would have shortened the timeframe in which an abortionist must report complications.  The bill provided an abortionist 30 days to report complications; Schaefer’s amendment shortened the time to 72 hours.  Additionally, Schaefer’s amendment required reporting to occur electronically, modernizing and improving the system.  Thankfully, Capriglione and 91 representatives supported the strong Pro-Life amendments in the House.

When HB 2962 arrived in the Senate, Senator Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola), former House Pro-Life Whip, offered his own amendment to strengthen the bill.  His amendment would have required reporting to document how a minor received authorization to get an abortion, since Texas law requires parental consent, except in rare cases in which a judge allows the minor to seek an elective abortion without parental consent.  Such a reporting requirement would provide data on the often secretive judicial bypass process that allows minors to avoid parental involvement.  The Hughes amendment would have also revealed the name of the abortionist under whom the complication occurred, providing a way to hold individual abortionists accountable.  Furthermore, the amendment would have strengthened the reporting requirements for cases in which abortionists use an exception in Texas Code that allows preborn children with disabilities to be aborted during the third trimester.

HB 2962 and its amendments passed in the House and Senate with bipartisan support.  Unfortunately, the House killed the bill at the eleventh hour by not accepting the Senate amendments. Thankfully, Governor Greg Abbott placed the issue on the agenda for the special session, specifically citing the Hughes amendment as reason for the bill’s Pro-Life importance.  Starting on July 18, state legislators will have the opportunity to accomplish what they failed to do during the regular session by sending these reformed reporting requirements to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law.  Codifying these provisions and adding abortion reporting requirements for minors would help legislators understand how abortion hurts vulnerable young Texans and hold abortionists accountable for their actions.