Victory: Sonogram Bill passes House

Texas Right to Life celebrates the passage of House Bill 15, the Sonogram Bill, in the State House of Representatives by a vote of 102 to 43!  All present Republicans, except one, and seven Democrats supported the measure.

The sonogram consideration marked the first vote on the House floor of the 82nd Legislative Session, and our House members proudly sent a clear signal that they are dedicated to protecting the sanctity of innocent human life.  At times, the debate was personal, touching, and enlightening; at other times; opposing arguments verged on the obscene and the ridiculous.  The pro-abortion women who argued against the bill stooped to an all-time low with their props and purposefully vulgar word choices, despite children being in the gallery.  Yet the Pro-Life members, particularly Chairman Sid Miller (R-Stephenville), the bill’s author, remained confident, calm, and compassionate throughout the seven hours of debate.
The main tenets of the bill are as follows:

  • 24-hour waiting period between the sonogram and the abortion
  • Sonogram must be provided by a physician or licensed, certified sonographer
  • Sonogram image must be presented to the woman along with the heartbeat and the accompanying verbal explanation of the image
  • Woman certifies in writing that she was given the sonogram
  • Woman can choose not to receive the information

Thirty amendments were offered to weaken the bill, which were soundly defeated.  Five amendments were offered to clarify certain provisions in the bill, which were successfully added to the bill to confirm the purpose of the legislation.  State Representative Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) personally worked with Elizabeth Graham on an amendment about making child support services known to single mothers. His amendment did not change the substance of the bill, but his respect for Texas Right to Life and ours for him fostered the open dialogue that we hope will continue throughout the remainder of the session.  (Regrettably, Representative Castro did not vote for final passage of the bill.)

When challenged by abortion rights extremist Representative Jessica Farrar (D-Houston) about his motivation for passing this bill, Representative Miller stated that the purpose was to expand informed consent before an abortion, proudly acknowledging that he would be happy if a secondary effect of the bill indeed reduced abortions in Texas.  Although not intended for comic relief, an amendment offered by State Representative Marisa Marquez (D-El Paso) brought the House down when she explained that the members should “also intrude in the bodies of men” by passing her amendment regarding mandatory vasectomies:

MANDATORY VASECTOMY.  [A] court shall order a man to undergo a vasectomy if it is shown that: (1)ithe man is the father of the pregnant woman’s child outside of marriage; and (2)iprevious to the date of application, the man was a father to two or more other children by two or more other women outside of marriage.

Representative Marquez’ amendment failed to pass.

House Bill 15 will undergo one more technical formality, known as third reading, on Monday, during which antics and amendments are rare and extremely difficult.  While House Bill 15 sailed through four points of order and thirty hostile amendments, the bill still faces an uphill battle. On Thursday, February 17th, perennial Pro-Life champ State Senator Dan Patrick (R-Houston) reluctantly made concessions in order to secure the twenty-one votes needed to consider a bill on the Senate floor, leading to an amended version of the sonogram bill passing the State Senate.

Representative Craig Eiland (D-Galveston) offered that whole version of the Senate Bill 16 via amendment as a substitute for Representative Miller’s House Bill 15, and the House soundly rejected that version of the bill 113 to 32.  Since the House and Senate passed different types of sonogram bills, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst and Senator Patrick will now strategize with Representative Miller and Speaker Joe Straus about how to move the strongest possible measure to Governor Perry’s desk.

Representative Miller and his colleagues set the session off to a tremendous Pro-Life start.  With as many as 107 Pro-Life votes (depending on the issue) in the State House, Texas Right to Life is confident that the House members will pursue additional protections for the sanctity of human life.  The passage of this landmark sonogram bill signifies the beginning of what could and should be the most successful Pro-Life Legislative Session in Texas history.

We fully anticipate awarding outstanding Pro-Life grades to all the Pro-Life House members at the end of the 82nd Legislative Session, and the passage of this sonogram bill is a tremendous start.

Please call your State Representative to thank him or her for supporting this life-saving measure, to thank her or him for taking a strong stand for LIFE, for boldly protecting women’s health, and for successfully defending the sanctity of innocent human life.

Those voting in favor of House Bill 15:

José Aliseda (R-Beeville), Charles “Doc” Anderson (R-Waco), Rodney Anderson (R-Grand Prairie), Jimmy Don Aycock (R-Killeen), Marva Beck (R-Centerville), Leo Berman (R-Tyler), Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston), Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton), Dan Branch (R-Dallas), Fred Brown (R-College Station), Cindy Burkett (R-Mesquite), Angie Chen-Button (R-Garland), Erwin Cain (R-Como), Bill Callegari (R-Katy), Stefani Carter (R-Dallas), Wayne Christian (R-Center), Byron Cook (R-Corsicana), Tom Craddick (R-Midland), Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe), Myra Crownover (R-Denton), Drew Darby (R-San Angelo), John Davis (R-Houston), Joe Driver (R-Garland), Gary Elkins (R-Houston), Allen Fletcher (R-Tomball), Dan Flynn (R-Van), John Frullo (R-Lubbock), John Garza (R-San Antonio), Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth), Larry Gonzales (R-Round Rock), Lance Gooden (R-Terrell), Ryan Guillen (D-Rio Grande City), Mike “Tuffy” Hamilton (R-Mauriceville), Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills), Rick Hardcastle (R-Vernon), Patricia Harless (R-Spring), Linda Harper-Brown (R-Irving), Will Hartnett (R-Dallas), Harvey Hilderbran (R-Kerrville), Chuck Hopson (R-Jacksonville), Charlie Howard (R-Sugar Land), Dan Huberty (R-Houston), Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola), Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi), Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs), Jim Jackson (R-Carrollton), Jim Keffer (Eastland), Phil King (R-Weatherford), Susan King (R-Abilene), Tracy King (R-Batesville), Tim Kleinschmidt (R-Lexington), Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), John Kuempel (R-Seguin), Jim Landtroop (R-Plainview), Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio), Jodie Laubenberg (R-Parker), George Lavender (R-Texarkana), Ken Legler (R-Pasadena), Tryon Lewis (R-Odessa), JM Lozano (D-Kingsville), Lanham Lyne (R-Wichita Falls), Jerry Madden (R-Richardson), Dee Margo (R-El Paso), Mando Martinez (D-Weslaco), Doug Miller (R-New Branfels), Sid Miller (R-Stephenville), Geanie Morrison (R-Victoria), Sergio Muñoz (D-Palmview), Jim Murphy (R-Houston), Barbara Nash (R-Arlington), Rob Orr (R-Burleson), John Otto (R-Dayton), Tan Parker (R-Flower Mound), Diane Patrick (R-Arlington), Ken Paxton (R-McKinney), Aaron Peña (R-Edinburg), Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), Larry Phillips (R-Sherman), Joe Pickett (D-El Paso), Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie), Four Price (R-Amarillo), Chente Quintanilla (D-Tornillo), Debbie Riddle (R-Tomball), Allen Ritter (R-Nederland), Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown), Connie Scott (R-Corpus Christi), Kenneth Sheets (R-Dallas), Ralph Sheffield (R-Temple), Mark Shelton (R-Fort Worth), David Simpson (R-Longview), Todd Smith (R-Euless), Wayne Smith (R-Baytown), John Smithee (R-Amarillo), Burt Solomons (R-Carrollton), Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood), Van Taylor (R-Plano), Raul Torres (R-Corpus Christi), Vicki Truitt (R-Keller), Randy Weber (R-Pearland), James White (R-Hillister), Beverly Woolley (R-Houston), Paul Workman (R-Austin), Bill Zedler (R-Arlington), John Zerwas (R-Richmond)

Those opposing House Bill 15:

Alma Allen (D-Houston), Roberto Alonzo (D-Dallas), Carol Alvarado (D-Houston), Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas), Lon Burnam (D-Fort Worth), Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio), Garnet Coleman (D-Houston), Sarah Davis (R-Houston), Yvonne Davis (D-Dallas), Joe Deshotel (D-Beaumont), Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin), Harold Dutton (D-Houston), Craig Eiland (D-Galveston), Joe Farias (D-San Antonio), Jessica Farrar (D-Houston), Helen Giddings (D-Dallas), Naomi Gonzalez (D-El Paso), Veronica Gonzales (D-McAllen), Rolando Gutierrez (D-San Antonio), Ana Hernandez Luna (D-Houston), Scott Hochberg (D-Houston), Donna Howard (D-Austin), Eric Johnson (D-Dallas), Eddie Lucio, III, (D-Brownsville), Barbara Mallory Caraway (D-Dallas), Marisa Marquez (D-El Paso), Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio), Ruth Jones McClendon (D-San Antonio), José Menendez (D-San Antonio), Borris Miles (D-Houston), Elliott Naishtat (D-Austin), Rene Oliveira (D-Brownsville), Richard Raymond (D-Laredo), Ron Reynolds (D-Missouri City), Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin), Mark Strama (D-Austin), Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston), Sylvester Turner (D-Houston), Marc Veasey (D-Fort Worth), Mike Villarreal (D-San Antonio), Hubert Vo (D-Houston), Armando Walle (D-Houston), Speaker Straus, whose leadership orchestrated the rapid passage of the Sonogram Bill, was present and not voting—the typical course of action for all speakers on all measures.

Members whose absence was excused were Warren Chisum (R-Pampa), Rob Eissler (R-The Woodlands), and Pete Gallego (D-Alpine). 
Other Pro-Life bills for the 82nd Legislative Session:

1. Opt Abortion out of ObamaCare in Texas 
Senate Bill 404 sponsored by Senator Glenn Hegar 
House Bill 816 sponsored by Representative Todd Hunter

Five other states (AZ, LA, MI, MO, and TN) have passed laws that allow their state health insurance exchanges to specifically exclude coverage for abortion from the now-mandated ObamaCare.  According to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), each state must establish a State Exchange through which insurance is offered to citizens and employers; these exchanges will fund abortion and abortion services.  However, the PPACA includes a loophole, authorizing states to pass legislation opting them out of exchange plans that pay for abortions. Consumers who want abortion coverage can purchase a separate, supplemental plan for abortion that is not covered by tax dollars.

2. Stop Coerced Abortions
Senator Tommy Williams
Representative Bill Callegari

Two-thirds of post-abortive women report being pressured or forced to undergo abortions by their parents, husbands, boyfriends, and others.  While both Texas law and federal law assume that coercion is illegal, coercion is not specifically or clearly prohibited in law.  Thus, a requirement that clinics and abortionists screen for coercion will be pursued so that when a woman shares that she is being forced to undergo an abortion against her will, the doctor cannot proceed and must offer her a phone in a private room along with numbers for law enforcement, abuse hotlines, and women’s shelters.  Additionally, large signs will be posted in clinics informing women about coerced abortions, and forms will be implemented to give unknowing women a chance to choose life.

3. Abortion Reporting Requirements
House Bill 1602 sponsored by Representatives Bill Zedler & James White

No enforcement mechanism exists in the current reporting requirements, resulting in inadequate and inaccurate statistics on abortion and pregnancy in Texas.

Additionally, abortion complications are not reported and are considered as pregnancy-related complications, thereby inflating the perceived dangers and risks of pregnancy and childbirth.  The Abortion Reporting Requirement Act will require all doctors who practice abortion to report every abortion procedure; collect data on abortion complications; and determine how many women feel abortion is their only choice due to a lack of finances.  While the woman’s anonymity is protected at all times, the data collected would provide insights as to where and how outreach efforts can be more effectively directed to help pregnant women.

4. Sonogram before an Abortion
Senate Bill 16 sponsored by Senator Dan Patrick
House Bill 15 sponsored by Representative Sid Miller

The sonogram bill would require that a sonogram be done (not offered, but actually done for every pregnant woman) prior to every abortion.  A simultaneous, verbal explanation would be provided to identify arms, legs, and the heartbeat of the unborn child.  The sonogram mandate would ensure that women in Texas are fully informed before making the life-changing decision of abortion or childbirth.  Three versions of the sonogram mandate have been filed in the House, and one version has been passed the Senate, SB 16.

5. Reform to the Texas Advance Directive Law
Representative Bryan Hughes

Texas law allows for a physician to withdraw life-sustaining treatment (including food and water) from a patient despite the patient’s advance directive or expressed wishes.  Once the physician’s decision is made and then validated by the futility review committee at the hospital, the patient and/or family have only ten days to find a transfer to another facility or another physician.  The physician or facility is not obligated to treat the patient beyond the tenth day, which could lead to the death of the patient.  Rarely are transfers effectuated either by the family or the facility within the ten-day allotment.  Texas Right to Life seeks to change the law so that patients and their families are given sufficient time to locate a transfer.

6. Patient Protection from Do-Not-Resuscitate Orders (DNR)
Senator Brian Birdwell
Representative Aaron Peña

Current Texas Administrative Law authorized physicians to write DNR orders for patients without their consent or the consent of their healthcare decision-maker.  Texas Right to Life seeks to restore the rights of patients to be involved in their own health care decisions, rather than physicians imposing their value judgments on patients.

8. Strengthen Parental Involvement Laws for Minors Seeking Abortions
Representative Fred Brown

Current Texas law allows minors to seek permission from a judge to undergo an abortion, thereby circumventing parental authority or involvement.  This bill would strengthen the way in which one parent is notified and would close the enormous judicial bypass loophole.