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Sonogram bill delayed in the House

Delayed for a day, at least.

House lawmakers today launched into debate over their version of an abortion sonogram bill — one that is more stringent than the measure that passed the Senate last month. But after hours of delays over technicalities, lawmakers voted to send the bill back to committee, with the goal of bringing it back to the floor tomorrow.

HB 15, authored by Rep. Sid Miller, R-Stephenville, would require a doctor performing an abortion to conduct a sonogram on the woman at least 24 hours ahead of the procedure. (The Senate version sets a two-hour mandate.)

The doctor would also show the woman the sonogram image, play the audible heartbeat for her and describe what appears on the sonogram, including the dimensions of the embryo or fetus and the presence of arms or legs. (In the Senate version, the woman would be able to opt out of viewing the sonogram or hearing the heartbeat, though she’d still have to hear the description. In the House version, there’s no penalty if the woman opts out of viewing the sonogram or hearing the heartbeat.)

While the House bill excepts women experiencing a medical emergency, it makes no exception for women who have been the victim of rape or incest, which the Senate version does.

The “technicality” in question was related to a point of order.

The point of order was raised on House Bill 15 because the Committee Chair took testimony on the issue, but not on the actual bill. Those who testified on the bill testified on the topic, or “matter” of the bill, and once their testimony was over, the bills were laid out. This goes against years of House precedent, where a bill is laid out and then testimony is taken on the specific legislation. Additionally, the initial ruling on the Chair, which is currently being revisited, suggested that House Chairs would no longer have to follow the five-day posting requirement in order to hear testimony on a “matter” the Committee has jurisdiction over.

By rewriting the rules, House Republicans are side-stepping the established and essential witness process for bills. Removing the public testimony on all legislation would be a grave and dangerous precedent for House Republicans to establish, and would seriously undermine the open government process Democrats have fought for years to protect.

That point of order, raised by Reps. Yvonne Davis and Trey Martinez-Fischer, was upheld, so back to committee it goes. I don’t know if this means that there will be further testimony – you would have to think so, or else the underlying issue would seem to be unresolved. We’ll see. In the meantime, kudos to State Rep. Carol Alvarado for clearly demonstrating just how literally intrusive this abominable bill will be, and remember that if people like Rep. Sid Miller really cared about saving lives, he’d support more spending on contraception, which would also save money in the long run on health care and reduce the number of abortions, too. But that’s not what this is all about, so never mind.

UPDATE: Christy Hoppe has a good explanation of what happened with the point of order.

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