3 abortion-related bills up for debate Wednesday

Posted February 17, 2017

A state Senate committee on Wednesday will begin hearing three anti-abortion measures, none of which claim to be aimed at protecting women's health. This legislation would allow the father of the fetus or the parents of the woman to sue the woman under certain circumstances. The procedure is similar to the dilation and extraction method, but the fetus comes out intact. A subsequent investigation by the Harris County District Attorney's office found no wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, said the proposed restrictions on the use of fetal tissue are a response to the series of undercover videos produced by anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress, which alleged that Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast profited from tissue sales and altered its abortion procedures to maximize the amount of tissue collected.

Outside the committee hearing, Joe Pojman 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.

According to abortion providers in the state, fetal tissue donation is uncommon in Texas.

The hearing opened with state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, pressed Schwertner, Sen.

State Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, said the changes were needed to protect the "dignity of the most vulnerable among us, the unborn". Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, mandates the absence of a fetal heartbeat before dilation and evacuation abortions are performed.

Watson asked whether the bill would enhance the health and safety of women.

"A healthy woman is not the target of SB 415", said its author, Sen.

"There is no discernible public health benefit to these bills", Amanda Williams, executive director of the Lilith Fund said.

In addition to SB 8 relating to fetal tissue, other legislation before the committee included Senate Bill 415, which would prohibit so-called dismemberment abortions in the second trimester, and SB 258, which would require all fetal remains to be buried or cremated. "My bill strictly deals with the dignity of the unborn". But a federal judge blocked the rule from being implemented last month after the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit at the end of 2016.

Watson said the decision should be left to the mother.

"Our state leaders should focus on making sure that all people have the power, resources and community support that they need to make their reproductive decisions a reality and to live their best life", Williams said.

Pro-life activists said now is the time to push the envelope on abortion restrictions, hopeful President Donald Trump's U.S. Supreme Court nominee will help uphold abortion restrictions.

The three bills, which are expected to bring heated debate, seek to impose more strict regulations on the kind of abortion a woman can have and what is done with the fetus.

Several anti-abortion testifiers called on committee members to file a companion bill to Rep.

Senate Bill 415 would make performing and receiving what's referred to as a "dismemberment abortion" a criminal offense. "If veterinarians ripped apart living dogs or cats to kill them in the same way that a living fetus is ripped apart in the [dilation and extraction] procedure, the outcry would be deafening".

The first abortion-related bills taken up by Texas lawmakers all faced the same question, asked by a Democrat on the Senate Committee.

Last year, the Supreme Court held in Whole Women's Health v. Hellerstedt that state restrictions on access to abortion must show "a legitimate interest in protecting women's health".

After three days of testimony from attorneys for the state and Planned Parenthood, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks is letting the reproductive health provider stay in Medicaid until February 21.