House Republican Sneaks in Anti-Abortion Amendments

House GOP sought to slip anti-choice amendments in unrelated bill

Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, vocalizes opposition to the anti-choice amendments.
Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, vocalizes opposition to the anti-choice amendments.

In an unassuming move Thursday evening, conservative House Republicans sought to tack on a duo of anti-abortion amendments to a largely unrelated, mundane bill (HB 2510) meant to improve operations at the Department of State Health Services, against the wishes of bill author Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo.

While Texas package abortion law, House Bill 2, bans abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, it leaves an exception for women carrying fetuses with severe abnormalities – but amendment author Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, fought to deny women that exception on the floor. “This doesn’t value what God values,” said Schaefer. His second amendment would force abortion clinics to report to the state monthly, not annually as they do now.

Debate erupted on the House floor with heavy objection to the amendments from Democrats. “What you are doing in this particular circumstance is quite awful. … This is ugly, this is what we should be avoiding. … This is wrong and unnecessary and strictly to gain political favor and I am truly offended,” said Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-Harlingen.

One of the amendments' defenders was Rep. Stuart Spitzer, R-Kaufman, who recently succeeding in transferring HIV prevention funds to abstinence education. He recounted the story of a woman who delivered a baby despite being told her fetus would not survive; the baby eventually died. “We want women to be able to have that grieving process,” said Spitzer. “… A person will do the right thing, which is deliver the child, not destroy it and chop it up.”

Not all Republicans were on board the anti-abortion train – Rep. J.D. Sheffield, R-Gatesville, a family doctor who has delivered babies with defects, described the abortion ban as “unethical.” “Why should the heavy blunt hand of the government come into that most heart-wrenching decision?” said Sheffield. Encapsulating the thoughts of many reproductive rights activist and onlookers, women’s health champion, Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston – frustrated by Schaefer’s unwillingness to yield for questions and the overall disrespect exemplified by zealous conservative members – said with emotion, “I won’t even go into the level of misogyny I have experienced this session, particularly worse than in any other session.”

Both measures passed with the aid of GOP majorities, but Democrats – namely Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer, D-San Antonio – employed procedural technicalities that threatened to scrap the whole bill, prompting Price to send the measure back to the Health and Human Services committee – which leaves behind the anti-choice amendments, for now at least. The unexpected and cunning maneuver by anti-choice lawmakers gave us the first full-blown floor abortion debate – perhaps a glimpse into what’s in store. For the likes of Schaefer, the fight is not over – on his Facebook page: “…Today we tried to end the practice of aborting babies with disabilities. By God's grace we won a couple of battles on the House floor. But the fight to defend life continues.”

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