News Abortion

Former ALEC Task Force Member Files Companion ‘Preborn Pain’ Bill In Texas Senate

Andrea Grimes

Following on the heels of a House member, a second Texas legislator with ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council files a companion bill to the state's proposed 20-week abortion ban.

See our other pieces on ALEC and anti-choice bills in Texas here. 

Today, Texas Senator Glenn Hegar filed the state legislature’s companion senate bill, SB 25, to House Bill 2364, the ‘Preborn Pain Act’ that would ban abortions after 20 weeks. Like Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, who filed HB 2364, Hegar also has ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a hyper-conservative lobby group that joins with corporate interests to draft model legislation for state lawmakers. Laubenberg is Texas’ state chair for ALEC.

Until last year, Hegar was a member of ALEC’s now-defunct Public Safety and Elections Task Force, which helped draft some of ALEC’s most highly criticized model legislation, including “Stand Your Ground” gun bills and voter ID laws. According to The Nation, the disbanding of the task force—in April 2012, months before Hegar ostensibly “left” ALEC—appears to have largely been a publicity move, an effort by ALEC to retain the membership of high-profile corporations in the wake of controversy on “Stand Your Ground” laws following the killing of Trayvon Martin:

Indeed, the disbanding of the “Public Safety and Elections” task force looks in every sense to be a desperate attempt to slow an exodus of high-profile corporations from the group’s membership roll.

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Anger over initial failure of Florida police and prosecutors to address Martin’s shooting led to an intense focus on the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law, and on the role of ALEC and the National Rifle Association in passing similar laws in states across the country.

While Progress Texas has reported that Hegar “left” ALEC after his task force was dismantled, it’s clear that, in filing his 20-week abortion ban in conjunction with ALEC’s Texas state chair, he still has close ties to the organization.

News Abortion

Texas Lawmaker: Fetal Tissue Donations for Research ‘No Different Than What Happened in Nazi Germany’

Andrea Grimes

About 150 people attended the rally, held the day before a Texas senate committee is set to hear testimony concerning fetal tissue collection for medical research at Texas Planned Parenthood affiliates.

See more of our coverage on the misleading Center for Medical Progress videos here.

A Texas Republican told a crowd gathered for an anti-choice rally at the state capitol Tuesday morning that Planned Parenthood’s practice of legally collecting fetal tissue for medical research is “no different than what happened in Nazi Germany.”

State Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (R-Parker), who in 2013 sponsored Texas’ highly restrictive omnibus anti-choice law, said she was proud to be leading efforts to “turn back Roe v. Wade.”

About 150 people attended the rally, held the day before a Texas senate committee is set to hear testimony concerning fetal tissue collection for medical research at Texas Planned Parenthood affiliates, none of which collect fetal tissue for medical research.

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Health and Human Services Committee Chair Sen. Charles Schwertner called the hearing after the release of a series of heavily edited videos produced by an anti-choice front group calling itself the Center For Medical Progress (CMP), which recorded Planned Parenthood officials and employees without their consent, likely illegally. CMP, which has ties to violent abortion opponents and religious extremists, is currently under investigation on allegations of tax fraud in California.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, whose office is “investigating” Planned Parenthood, sent his chief of staff Bernard McNamee to represent him at the rally by giving a brief speech in which he claimed that “over 57 million babies” have died “since the Supreme Court imposed abortion on America through Roe v. Wade.”

“We must accept these videos as a reminder of the horror that is abortion in America,” McNamee told the crowd. “These are dead babies.”

McNamee described legal abortion as “depravity.”

“One can only wonder at how this depravity affects the soul of this great nation,” he said, before thanking the crowd on Paxton’s behalf.

Professional anti-choice activist and former Planned Parenthood employee Abby Johnson also spoke at the rally, saying that “we will not stop until every Planned Parenthood is shut down,” as did Corey Tabor, an Austin pastor who runs a crisis pregnancy center.

Tabor said that it was a myth that abortion opponents did not concern themselves with babies and children after they are born, and that his crisis pregnancy center is proof. If pregnant women who come to the center take the classes he offers, he said, they can “earn vouchers called ‘baby bucks'” for items like cribs and diapers in order to learn the value of “earning.”

Wednesday’s Planned Parenthood hearing at the state capitol is scheduled for 9 a.m.; in advance of the invite-only testimony, lawmakers are reviewing a video “obtained by the Office of the Attorney General as part of their ongoing investigation into the activities of Planned Parenthood in Texas.”

Planned Parenthood requested the video from Schwertner’s office on Sunday, but were then referred to the attorney general. The organization then asked for, but has not yet received, a copy of the video from Paxton’s office, requested “in fairness to Planned Parenthood as the subject of the investigation.”

Paxton, who is under investigation on allegations of first-degree felony securities fraud in North Texas, is expected to testify at Wednesday’s hearing.

News Abortion

Echoes of the ‘People’s Filibuster’ as Abortion Bills Are Heard in Texas

Andrea Grimes

Conservative Texas lawmakers have issued more than two dozen new proposals to further limit access to legal abortion care—more than any other state legislature this year.

Texas lawmakers passed one of the nation’s most sweeping and restrictive anti-choice laws in 2013, shuttering dozens of legal abortion facilities. Now that the state’s biennial legislature is back in session, its conservative lawmakers have issued more than two dozen new proposals to further limit access to legal abortion care—more than any other state legislature this year.

Two of those proposals got a hearing Wednesday night in the House State Affairs Committee. HB 3765 would make it more difficult for teens to get abortion care with a parent’s permission, and HB 3446 would force abortion providers to place signs about the availability of child support inside their clinics.

The bills’ sponsor, state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (R-Parker), was not on hand to hear testimony on her bills. Laubenberg is the former Texas state chair for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and sponsored Texas’ 2013 omnibus anti-abortion law.

There were further echoes of the 2013 legislative session Wednesday night when the committee chair, Rep. Byron Cook, told pro-choice opponents of Laubenberg’s proposed bills not to present “redundant” testimony. Cook shut down testimony for similar reasons during the late-night 2013 “people’s filibuster,” claiming that the hundreds of Texans who’d come to speak out against Laubenberg’s omnibus bill and share their own personal abortion stories were too “repetitive.”

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While Texas requires minors who need abortion care to obtain parental consent, HB 3765 would require that parents and teens get their consent forms notarized, which the bill’s supporters said would prevent teens from being coerced by their parents into getting abortions.

Opponents of the bill say this would create another unnecessary hurdle for patients to overcome, as well as violate patient privacy—notary logs are available to the public on request, making the names of teens who are seeking an abortion public to anyone who might ask.

“Accessing an abortion should not involve sharing that with a member of the public,” testified Shelly Carpenter, a board member at the Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity, which helps Texans obtain financial funding for abortion care.

Rep. Helen Giddings (D-Dallas) asked anti-choice lawyer Stephen Casey from the Texas Center for the Defense of Life, who testified in support of the bill, whether it would be possible for a teenager—who might not have photo identification—to obtain a legal notarized signature on an abortion consent form.

Casey responded that the teen, especially if they lived in a small town, could potentially find a notary who knew them personally, and not be required to present identification. He added that he believed notarization would provide “an independent other step” to make sure abortion is a “free decision.”

The corporate vice-president of one of Texas’ last remaining abortion providers testified that her clinics already screen minors for coercion before they enter exam rooms, and said that HB 3765 “perpetuates a myth about coerced abortion.”

Andrea Ferrigno of Whole Woman’s Health, a comprehensive reproductive health-care provider with locations in Texas, Minnesota, and Maryland, said clinics have “strong safeguards” against coercion and conduct one-on-one consultations with patients to talk about consent.

The second bill, HB 3446, would mandate that abortion providers place signs inside their clinics telling patients that they could not legally be forced to have an abortion against their will, and using “father” and “child” language to suggest that patients instead seek child support or public assistance with continuing their pregnancies.

Rep. Marsha Farney (R-Georgetown) laid out the bill on Laubenberg’s behalf and indicated that it was meant as an anti-human trafficking measure.

Blair Cushing, a fourth-year medical student from North Texas, testified against the bill, saying that the proposal was “very much a targeted regulation of abortion providers,” and that if the state wished to address human trafficking, it should put similar signs in emergency rooms and labor and delivery wards.

Casey, the lawyer who testified in favor of the bill, said the forced signage would inform patients seeking abortions that they could get “this baby daddy to pay” child support if they kept the pregnancy.

Cook said that Laubenberg intends to file a substitute for the abortion clinic signage bill with the committee, amending some of the bill’s existing language.

Both bills were left pending.