February 24, 2017

Texas Lawmakers to Hear Testimony on Three Proposed Abortion Bills

17 February 2017, 05:28 | Winifred Adams

State Sen. Kirk Watson of Austin led the Democratic charge against three abortion-related bills during a Capitol hearing Wednesday

State Sen. Kirk Watson of Austin led the Democratic charge against three abortion-related bills during a Capitol hearing Wednesday

The Legislature kicked off the latest round in the abortion wars Wednesday as state senators and the public took advantage of their first chance to address bills that seek to limit certain procedures and regulate the treatment of fetal tissue.

The first bill discussed, Senate Bill 8, was authored by Schwertner.

Outside the committee hearing, Joe Jojman of the Texas Alliance for Life, said it is important for the larger anti-abortion cause to back only those bills that could withstand a federal court challenge.

However, numerous activists who testified said that the proposed restrictions did not go far enough.

The Committee, composed of six Republicans and three Democrats, left the bills pending, with their next meeting to be announced.

"To make it very clear, the State of Texas will not accept and will not tolerate monetary gain from fetal tissue donation", Sen.

Senate Bill 8 would ban using fetal tissue from an abortion in medical research.

Maggie Hennessy, an intern with the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, was arguing the case against a three-bill bundle that would, among other things, prohibit one of the safest and most common forms of second-trimester abortion. Anti-abortion witnesses repeatedly compared abortion to the Holocaust and referred to the now thoroughly debunked undercover Planned Parenthood videos released a year ago that purported to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of fetal tissue. He also raised a concern about the cost associated with this method of disposal of fetal remains. Schwertner said he was willing to consider adding language to clarify that such testing wouldn't be affected by SB 8.

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But state Sen. Charles Schwertner, a Georgetown Republican who chairs the committee, called the legislation a good start. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, on how their bills move reproductive health forward. Senate Bill 415 requires that there be no fetal heartbeat before a "dilation and evacuation" abortion can be performed, he said.

Perry said yes, if doctors "do not terminate the baby before they do the dismemberment". "We are not outlawing D&Es", which he said account for 96 percent of second-trimester abortions.

Watson again questioned how the bill protects the health and safety of the mother.

Texas Republicans have been undeterred by a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down sweeping abortion restrictions that were sold as protecting women's health. "The health and safety of a woman is not the target, not the intent of SB 415".

The bill, which also would apply to miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies treated in hospitals or surgical centers, but not to women who miscarry at home, would require health centers to ensure that fetal remains are buried or cremated, with the ashes appropriately scattered. Donald Huffines, R-Dallas and Sen.

"My bill is not about that", said State Sen.

Huffines said the legislation "strictly deals with dignity of the unborn" and is not meant to increase the cost of abortions or focus on women's health.

When talking about his bill, SB 415, Perry said the state has a vested interest in "ending the barbaric practice" of killing the fetus by tearing it apart while it's still alive. "It is clear that our current administration is going to elect people to the Supreme Court that believe in life, that protect life, so if that aspect it's encouraging", Perry said.

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