January 12, 2007

Well, Senator Danno is making good on one of his campaign promises, for what it's worth.

Freshman Sen. Dan Patrick, the Republican talk-radio host from Houston, made the abortion ban the subject of his first bill, SB186, which he filed Wednesday.

Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, filed an identical bill, HB175, in the Texas House on Nov. 13, the first day to pre-file.

The bills would ban abortion except to "prevent the death" of the mother -- if Roe is overturned. They contain no exemptions for rape, incest or to protect the health of the mother.

As with his first action as a Senator, there's been a collective yawn.

"Frankly, it's not going to be my priority," said Joe Pojman, executive director of the anti-abortion group Texas Alliance for Life.

"I don't see Roe as being overturned anytime soon, and I want to put our resources behind things I think will save lives right now," Pojman added.

He's more concerned about funding for adult stem cell research and tightening a so-called "women's right to know" law meant to discourage abortion.

Sarah Wheat, director of public affairs at Planned Parenthood of the Texas Capitol Region, said she isn't placing the future ban high on the radar screen either.

"What do you know?" she said, laughing. "We've found some common ground."

She said polls have consistently shown that Texans oppose politicians banning abortion, especially without an exception for the health of the mother, incest or rape.

"Most Texans think this should be a private decision," she said.

Fran Hagerty, chief executive officer of Women's Health and Family Planning Association of Texas, said she's not surprised by the bills, but neither is she alarmed.

"We do not expect the U.S. Supreme Court will rule in this manner to trigger this bill," she said.

"Obviously our position is it is absolutely essential that women continue to have the right to make reproductive choices for themselves," she added. "Our primary focus this session is going to be on the family-planning budget."

Patrick, however, said the trigger bill is needed because he thinks it "is only a matter of time" before Roe v. Wade is reversed.

Well, the immediate reason for a so-called trigger bill was the near-total ban on abortion in South Dakota, which was sure to go to the Supreme Court for who knows what sort of resolution. Unfortunately for Danno, South Dakota's voters mooted the issue in November. That probably won't stop some other crazy state legislator somewhere from trying again, but I'm not holding my breath.

Side issue: Assuming Danno's bill actually gets off the ground, what are the chances that it will be derailed by the two-thirds rule? Call me crazy, but I suspect there's a Republican Senator or two who'd rather not have a recorded vote on this puppy. Will they be able to get protection in this fashion? We'll see.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 12, 2007 to That's our Lege