After four hours of debate and more than a dozen failed amendments offered by Democrats, the Senate on Monday gave preliminary approval to far-reaching restrictions on minors seeking abortions in Texas without parental consent.
On a 21-10 vote, the upper chamber signed off on House Bill 3994 by Republican state Rep. Geanie Morrison of Victoria to tighten the requirements on “judicial bypass,” the legal process that allows minors to get court approval for an abortion if seeking permission from their parents could endanger them.
The vote was along party lines with one Democrat, Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. of Brownsville, joining Republicans to pass the measure.
After it reached the Senate, [Sen. Charles] Perry did some rewriting on HB 3994 to address two of the bill’s most controversial provisions on which both Democrats and some conservatives had raised concerns.
As expected, he gutted a provision that would have required all doctors to presume a pregnant woman seeking an abortion was a minor unless she could present a “valid government record of identification” to prove she was 18 or older.
The ID requirement — dubbed “abortion ID” by opponents — raised red flags because it would apply to all women in the state even though the bill focused on minors.
Under Perry’s new language, a physician must use “due diligence” to determine a woman’s identity and age, but could still perform the abortion if a woman could not provide an ID. Doctors would also have to report to the state how many abortions were performed annually without “proof of identity and age.”
Perry said the revised language “gives physician more latitude” to determine a woman’s age.
But Democratic state Sen. Kirk Watson of Austin, who spoke in opposition to the bill and questioned Perry for almost an hour, questioned the ID requirement altogether.
“I can’t think of another instance where we presume women are children,” Watson said. “I certainly can’t think of any situation where we presume a man is a child.”
Perry also changed course on a provision that would have reversed current law such that if a judge does not rule on the bypass request within five days, the request is considered denied. Under current law, the bypass is presumed approved if a judge does not rule.
Perry cut that denial provision from the bill, saying it is now “silent” on the issue. But that did little to appease opponents who pointed out a judge’s failure to rule effectively denies the minor an abortion.
“In essence, the judge can bypass the judicial bypass by simply not ruling,” Watson said, adding that the appeals process is derailed without a denial by a judge.
HB 3994 also extends the time in which judges can rule on a judicial bypass case from two business days to five. Perry said this was meant to give judges more time and “clarity” to consider these cases.
But Democratic state Sen. Sylvia Garcia of Houston, who also offered several unsuccessful amendments, questioned whether Perry’s intentions were rooted in a distrust of women and judges.
“I’m not really sure who it is you don’t trust — the girls, the judges or the entire judicial system?” Garcia asked.
See here for the background. The Senate version is not quite as bad as the original House version that passed, but as Nonsequiteuse notes, it’s still a farce that does nothing but infantilize women. It’s a cliched analogy, but can anyone imagine a similar set of hoops for a man to jump through to get a vasectomy or a prescription for Viagra? The only people who will benefit from this bill are the lawyers that will be involved in the litigation over it. Oh, and Eddie Lucio sucks. Good Lord, he needs to be retired. TrailBlazers, the Observer, and Newsdesk have more.
In a dramatic turn of events, the House Calendars Committee on Sunday night reversed course and sent a controversial bill prohibiting health insurance plans sold on the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace from covering abortions to the full chamber for a vote.
Earlier in the night, the committee voted not to place Senate Bill 575 by Republican Sen. Larry Taylor on the lower chamber’s calendar for Tuesday — the last day a Senate bill can be passed by the House. After fireworks on the House floor instigated by a lawmaker who believed he had entered into an agreement to get the bill to the full chamber, the committee reconvened and reconsidered its vote.
Under SB 575, women seeking coverage for what Taylor has called “elective” abortions would have been required to purchase supplemental health insurance plans.
On Saturday, state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, had threatened to force a House vote to prohibit abortions on the basis of fetal abnormalities by filing an amendment to an innocuous agency review bill. But Stickland later withdrew the amendment, telling the Austin American-Statesman that he had agreed to pull it down in exchange of a vow from House leadership that they would move SB 575 forward.
The bill did make it out of the House State Affairs Committee, chaired by state Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana. But when it got to Calendars, that committee voted it down, leading Stickland to go after Cook on the House floor. Stickland had to be separated from Cook, and House sergeants immediately ran over to prevent a lengthier tussle.
Again, infantilizing women. And speaking of infants, what more can be said about Jonathan Stickland? I know there’s a minimum age requirement to run for office. Maybe there needs to be a minimum maturity requirement as well. Hey, if we can force doctors to assume that women seeking abortions are children, we can assume that any first-time filer for office is a callow jerk. We sure wouldn’t have been wrong in this case.
Senate Republicans on Monday voted to move the state’s Public Integrity Unit out of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office. The action was spurred in part by last year’s indictment of former Gov. Rick Perry.
The legislation by Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, would move key decisions about investigating public officials to the Texas Rangers and away from the Democratic-controlled Travis County District Attorney.
The bill was approved in a 20-11 vote, with Democrats casting all the no votes.
Under the proposed law, any district attorney looking at suspicious activity by a state official would refer the matter to new Public Integrity Unit within the Texas Rangers. That office would then use a Texas Ranger to further investigate the allegation, with expenses handled by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
If confirmed, the recommendation for further action would be sent to the district attorney in the home county of the public official. That district attorney could pursue or drop the investigation.
See here for the background. As I said before, I don’t think this is the worst bill ever, but I do think it’s a guarantee that some future scandal will result from this. And as others have pointed out, it sets up legislators to be treated differently than every other Texan in this sort of situation. That’s never a good precedent to set.
And finally, bad bill #4:
Gays and same-sex couples could be turned away from adopting children or serving as foster parents under an amendment filed by a social conservative House member and expected to be heard Tuesday.
The measure also would allow child welfare providers to deny teenagers in foster care access to contraception or an abortion under a wide umbrella of religious protections for the state contractor.
Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney, has filed the measure that gives state contractors for child welfare services the right to sue the state if they are punished for making decisions based on their religious beliefs.
The state could not force contractors to follow policies providing for contraception or allowing same-sex couples to adopt, for instance. If the state tried to terminate a contract or suspend licensing for the state contractors’ failure to abide by such polices, the contractor could sue, win compensatory damages, relief from the policy and attorneys fees against the state, according to the proposal.
Sanford tried to pass as separate bill earlier in the session, but it failed. The proposal now has resurfaced as an amendment to the sunset bill that would reconstitute the Department of Family and Protective Services.
I’m just going to hand this one off to Equality Texas:
TUESDAY, MAY 26TH, Rep. Scott Sanford will try again to pass an amendment allowing child welfare agencies to discriminate against LGBT families
Tell your State Representative to oppose the Sanford amendment permitting discrimination in Texas’ child welfare system.
Rep. Scott Sanford has pre-filed an amendment that he will seek to add to SB 206 on Tuesday, May 26th. This cynical “religious refusal” amendment would authorize all child welfare organizations to refuse to place a child with a qualified family just because that family doesn’t meet the organization’s religious or moral criteria.
If enacted into law, the Sanford Amendment would allow child welfare providers to discriminate against not just gay and transgender families, but also against people of other faiths, interfaith couples and anyone else to whom a provider objects for religious reasons.
The only consideration of a child welfare agency should be the best interest of the child – not proselytizing for a single, narrow religious interpretation.
SB 206 is not objectionable. However, adding the Sanford Amendment to SB 206 must be prevented.
Amen to that.