Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Brass Tacks -- Texas Abortion Regulation Bills

One of the three stated purposes for the Texas 83rd Legislatures Second Special Session was to consider legislation regarding abortion regulations. The regulations are meant to make abortions safer for women as well as to help prevent the murder of live-birth babies resulting from botched late-term abortions.

Among the bills filed on July 1, 2013 were four bills in the Texas house and one in the Texas Senate. The house bills cover separate issues regarding abortion regulations. HB 17 will prohibit the abortion of a child based upon its gender. While some may find this an unnecessary law, there are still pockets of those with ideologies that promote aborting babies based upon their gender. Some couples may be seeking either a son or a daughter. They may find it excusible to abort because the child isn't the sex they want. Such an ideology may perceive children as property that can be "returned" because it isn't perfect.

Sec. 170.003.  SEX-SELECTIVE ABORTION. (a) A person may not: 
             (1)  knowingly perform or attempt to perform on a pregnant woman an abortion that is based on the sex of the pregnant woman's unborn child; or 
             (2)  use force or the threat of force to intentionally injure or intimidate a person in order to coerce the performance or attempted performance of an abortion that is based on the sex of the pregnant woman's unborn child. 
       (b)  A person other than a physician who violates this section commits an offense. An offense under this section is a Class B misdemeanor.
[Full Text of the bill available here]

HB 18 and HB 27 address the same issue. Both address the requirement for a minor to acquire the consent of a parent or guardian in order to have an abortion. The purpose is to insure that a responsible adult can insure the safety of the child seeking the abortion. It is also in order to deter coercion from a non-parent such as a statutory rapist.

Most teens do not have the foresight or wisdom to screen a physician or clinic prior to receiving a medical procedure. Abortions are elective surgeries. What parent would want their daughter to get a breast enhancement or augmentation without their consent? How many would let them do so without first checking the surgeon's credentials?

HB 18 would allow minor children to apply to have an abortion performed without the consent of a parent or guardian, under certain circumstances. The main stumbling block is that such an application may require more time to process than the gestation period would allow.

(a)  A pregnant minor [who wishes to have an abortion without notification to one of her parents, her managing conservator, or her guardian] may file an application for a court order authorizing the minor to consent to the performance of an abortion without the consent of or notification to either of her parents or a managing conservator or guardian.
[Full Text available  here]

HB 27 instead states that medical personel must assume a woman seeking an abortion is a minor until she produces proof of age. It prohibits minors from acquiring an abortion without parental consent. Like HB 18, though, the bill does allow for a minor to apply for an exception. Neither bill is an outright prohibition.

      SECTION 2.  Section 33.002(h), Family Code, is amended to read as follows: 
      (h)  A physician shall presume that a pregnant woman is a minor unless the woman presents a valid government record of identification showing that she has reached the age of majority. It is a defense to prosecution under this section that the minor falsely represented her age or identity to the physician to be at least 18 years of age by displaying an apparently valid governmental record of identification such that a reasonable person under similar circumstances would have relied on the representation. The defense does not apply if the physician is shown to have had independent knowledge of the minor's actual age or identity or failed to use due diligence in determining the minor's age or identity. In this subsection, "defense" has the meaning and application assigned by Section 2.03, Penal Code. 
       SECTION 3.  Chapter 33, Family Code, is amended by adding Section 33.0021 to read as follows: 
       Sec. 33.0021.  CONSENT REQUIRED. A physician may not perform an abortion in violation of Section 164.052(a)(19), Occupations Code.[Full Text available here]

HB 22 does not regulate abortion. It is an education bill that prohibits schools from contracting abortion providers for the purposes of teaching human sexuality (sex education). It is a second attempt at a bill filed during the regular legislative session.

      (e-1)  An entity or individual that performs abortions or an affiliate of an entity or individual that performs abortions may not provide human sexuality or family planning instruction or instructional materials for use in human sexuality or family planning instruction in a public school.
Full Text available here]

The prohibition does not affect fully acredited hospitals or their personnel.

The bill likely to encounter the greatest opposition is SB1 of the special session. It was SB5 during the first special session. It is identical to the amended version of SB5 that passed the State Senate, passed the House with amendments, and failed to complete its enrollment after the reconciliation vote in the Senate. It was that reconciliation vote that Wendy Davis filibustered. Her actual filibuster failed. The bill wasn't legally enrolled within the allotted time period due to a mob of protesters interrupting the process.

SB1 does not outlaw abortion. It adds necessary regulations.

If you recall (or research) the Kermit Gosnell case, you may find some disturbing evidence. The case was not the only of its kind. There have been cases before and more investigations since the Gosnell case. Gosnell and his staff conducted late-term abortions in unsanitary conditions. The late-term abortion procedures led to the death of several women due to unsantiry conditions and ill-equipped clinics that were perfoming the surgeries. In addition, several of the children were born alive, but murdered after they were born.

There was a similar case in Texas with similar findings. As investigations and audits progress, the conditions discovered in both cases are being found to be more the norm than the exception for clinics that perform abortions after 19 weeks (five months). 

SB1 will make abortions safer for women. More sanitary. Better medical facilities. Better qualified medical professionals.

Sec. 171.0031.  REQUIREMENTS OF PHYSICIAN; OFFENSE. (a)  A physician performing or inducing an abortion: 
             (1)  must, on the date the abortion is performed or induced, have active admitting privileges at a hospital that: 
                   (A)  is located not further than 30 miles from the location at which the abortion is performed or induced; and 
                   (B)  provides obstetrical or gynecological health care services; and 
             (2)  shall provide the pregnant woman with: 
                   (A)  a telephone number by which the pregnant woman may reach the physician, or other health care personnel employed by the physician or by the facility at which the abortion was performed or induced with access to the woman's relevant medical records, 24 hours a day to request assistance for any complications that arise from the performance or induction of the abortion or ask health-related questions regarding the abortion;
                   (B)  the name and telephone number of the nearest hospital to the home of the pregnant woman at which an emergency arising from the abortion would be treated.
       (b)  A physician who violates Subsection (a) commits an offense. An offense under this section is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine only, not to exceed $4,000.

SB1 prevent high-risk abortions, which late-term abortions are. That protects women from dangerous and potentially harmful medical practices. There are legal, regulatory protections designed to make other forms of surgery safer. Being an elective surgery, abortion patients deserve the same protections.

At 20 weeks, the developing child is fully formed. He has ten fingers, ten toes, a beating heart and working lungs. He can digest food, at least baby formula. He is moving. He responds to stimuli. He can feel pain. He is a baby, not a lump of cells.

At 8 weeks, the "lump of cells" argument is still open for debate. By 20 weeks, it is no longer a debate. It is a point of scientific fact.

Abortions at this stage too often result in hazardous biological waste (body parts) left inside the womb. These cause infection and can eliminate a woman's choice to ever have a child in the future.

SB1 will make most of these abortions illegal to perform. They do not make it illegal for the mother to seek, only for medical personnel to perform the surgery. There are exceptions, particularly in cases where carrying the child to term may cause the death of the mother. Even in those cases, if possible, medical personnel must seek to retain the child's life, since science has demonstrated a child at 20 weeks of gestation is capable of surviving outside of the womb.

      Sec. 171.044.  ABORTION OF UNBORN CHILD OF 20 OR MORE WEEKS POST-FERTILIZATION AGE PROHIBITED. Except as otherwise provided by Section 171.046, a person may not perform or induce or attempt to perform or induce an abortion on a woman if it has been determined, by the physician performing, inducing, or attempting to perform or induce the abortion or by another physician on whose determination that physician relies, that the probable post-fertilization age of the unborn child is 20 or more weeks.

Expected Debate

Wendy Davis filibustered SB5 during the first special session. She has stated that she will not make such an attempt to do so this time around. She will likely dabate in opposition of the bill and vote against it. It passed 19-11 in the Senate despite the filibuster, last time.

Davis and her comrades will claim that the law will take away a woman's choice and allow the government to interfere in her decisions regarding her body. Women will still have the option to abort. They will have a time limit in making that decision. 20 weeks is enough time to make that decision and is, perhaps, more time than they devoted to making the decision to engage in the act that impregnated them in the first place, thus defeating the claim that such an adult decision requires careful consideration.

Davis and her comrades will also claim that the bill will limit the availability of abortion facilities. That is not the case. The bill grants over a year (Sep. 1, 2014)  for an abortion clinic to get in compliance with the stricter and safer regulations.

Davis's own biography should provide a compelling argument in favor of this legislation. Davis was the child of a young, simgle mother. Rising from those humble beginnings, Davis herself was a young, unwed, single mother. She managed to earn a law degree and, eventually, get herself elected to the Texas Senate. By her arguments, her mother should have chosen to abort her; she should have chosen to abort her own children. Yet, neither made that life-ending choice. Both Wendy and her mother have lived successful lives.

Davis's proclation to not filibuster the bill this go-around is because she suceeded in her real intent. Her filibuster was just a long campaign speech. She never intended to stop the bill from passing. What she was attempting to do was garner support for her run at higher political offices, such as Governor. Had she been honestly opposed to the bill, she would have provided scientific evidence and empirical data instead of erupting into emotional pleas for "women's reproductive rights". The bill does not infringe on those rights, much less come close to any of the infringements that current gun control laws infringe upon Second Amendment rights. What they do is better protect a woman's right to her own body and her own life by increasing her chances of being alive to live it. The bill also protects the lives of fully deveoped babies that are capable of life outside of the womb. SB1 saves lives.