April 17: At the Capitol this Week

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Last Thursday, President Trump signed into law a repeal of the Obama administration’s rule that prevented states from blocking access to preventive care at a health center just because its organization also provides safe, legal abortion. The move will embolden states to try to block access to affordable family planning services through Title X, both at Planned Parenthood health centers and independent clinics.

Extreme politicians in Texas are more than willing to take away access to birth control and cancer screenings, as they have proven time and time again. The blatant attacks on reproductive health and rights here at home and on the national level are all part of the same extreme agenda: to ban abortion no matter the consequences to the health and wellbeing of everyday people.

In the face of these attacks, we continue to fight for the long haul. We felt the power of our movement in the sea of pink outside the Texas Capitol on Lobby Day. Let’s carry that feeling forward for the road ahead.

LAST WEEK

Bill Allowing Doctors to Lie to their Patients Without Consequence Moves Forward

On Wednesday, the House State Affairs Committee approved HB 434 by Rep. Ron Simmons (R-Denton), which allows doctors to lie to their patients without consequence and threatens a woman’s ability to make fully informed decisions about her pregnancy. HB 434 will eliminate the “wrongful birth” cause of action and take legal recourse away from a woman for whom vital information about her pregnancy was withheld. Now it’s up to the Texas House Calendars Committee whether this bill advances to the full House of Representatives for a vote.

In the Texas House, after a bill is approved by committee, it must overcome another major hurdle before becoming law or being sent to the Senate: The House Committee on Calendars, chaired by Rep. Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi), must set a bill for consideration on the Daily House Calendar. The committee operates largely behind closed doors, though members of the public can attend official meetings in person. However, meetings are often sporadic and announced from the floor with little notice. Though not by official rule, members of this committee can “tag” bills in an attempt to delay or sometimes prevent them from coming to the floor. The House Calendars committee has the power to  effectively kill the legislation — making it a very important committee, and one where you want to have allies.

Several anti-abortion bills are still pending in the House Committee on State Affairs, and could be brought up for a vote at any time, at which time they will be sent to the Calendars Committee. Pending legislation includes HB 35 by Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana), which requires the burial or cremation of fetal tissue, HB 200 by Rep. Cindy Burkett (R-Garland) that bans the donation of fetal tissue for scientific research, and HB 2962 by Rep. Giovanni Capriglione (R-Keller) that requires additional extensive  reporting related to abortion complications by licensed abortion facilities.

THIS WEEK

Committee Considers Marlise’s Law

On Wednesday, House State Affairs will hear HB 439 by Rep. Nicole Collier (R-Ft. Worth). This bill, known as Marlise’s Law, would empower families of pregnant patients to make end-of-life care decisions for a family member who is terminally ill. At 14 weeks pregnant, Marlise Muñoz suffered a pulmonary embolism that left her brain dead. Over the objections of her family, Marlise’s previously declared wishes to be taken off life support in such a situation were not honored when the hospital determined she was pregnant. In Texas, the law requires that a pregnant woman continue to be given medical treatment, even if it cannot help her or her fetus. Marlise was kept on life support for 62 days while her family fought the hospital’s decision in court, all the while being forced to watch her condition deteriorate. Marlise’s Law seeks to make sure no other family has to go through this family’s experience.

Hearing Set for Transgender Discrimination Bill

House State Affairs will also hear HB 2899 by Rep. Ron Simmons (R-Denton), which would ban municipalities and school districts from enforcing ordinances, orders, or other measures that protect transgender Texans from discrimination when using restrooms or changing facilities that correspond with their gender identity. This bill is being promoted as an alternative to SB 6 by some lawmakers, but remains discriminatory and dangerous.