Flexing their super-majority muscle in the Texas House, Republican lawmakers swatted away a swarm of amendments offered by the Democratic minority on Thursday and gave preliminary approval to a House version of a bill requiring doctors to perform a sonogram on women requesting an abortion. Declared an emergency by Republican Gov. Rick Perry, the measure passed by a vote of 103 to 42.
House Bill 15, sponsored by state Rep. Sid Miller, R-Stephenville, requires a doctor performing an abortion to conduct the sonogram at least 24 hours before the procedure was to take place. The doctor also is required to show the woman the sonogram image, play the sound of the fetal heartbeat for her and describe in some detail the image that appears on the sonogram. The woman does not have to view the sonogram or hear the heartbeat, although she still would have to hear the doctor’s description.
Miller’s bill is a more stringent version of Senate Bill 16, sponsored by state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, which passed two weeks ago. Patrick’s bill, approved by a vote of 21-10, requires the sonogram to be performed within two hours of the abortion. It also makes an exception for women who have been the victim of rape or incest or where the fetus has fatal abnormalities. The House version does not allow exceptions.
There were many amendments proposed by Democrats along the way, ostensibly to weaken or kill the bill, but given the political reality mostly to point out just how absurd this thing is. For example:
State Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, offered an amendment that would, in the event that a woman decided to carry her child to term after undergoing a sonogram as required by the bill, require the state to pay for that child’s college tuition. When that didn’t work, Dutton proposed that the state pay for the child’s health care until age 18. That failed, too. He followed up with a similar amendment that only went up to age 6, but with no more success.
Dutton told the members that such amendments signaled that the state feels less responsibility to children after they are born. “We want to see all these children around, but the state of Texas ends its obligation to that child when it’s born,” he said. “We want it born, but we don’t want to do our duty.”
The jokes about how Republicans believe life begins at conception and ends at birth get less funny every day, don’t they? Here’s another:
As the debate on sonograms for women seeking abortions hit the four and a half hour mark, Rep. Marisa Marquez, D-El Paso, offered an amendment that shook up the House and changed some alliances.
For all the hours before, Republicans stuck together and kept the votes along partisan lines. But Marquez offered something that had most of the women — Republicans and Democrats — clapping.
Her amendment said that if a pregnant woman has a sonogram before an abortion and decides to keep the baby, then she can take out a court order to mandate the baby’s father undergo a vasectomy — if he has caused two other pregnancies outside of marriage.
“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” Marquez said.
“I’ll have to draw the line and say no more cuts,” sonogram bill sponsor Rep. Sid Miller, R-Stephenville, quipped.
Sure, because this is all about the women, who shouldn’t have gotten themselves pregnant in the first place, am I right?
The good news, if you can call it that, is that the House version of this bill won’t pass the Senate as is.
Patrick acknowledged that the discrepancies between the two bills could be a problem. State Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, whose district reaches into the far reaches of West Texas, agreed with Patrick. He sponsored a successful amendment to Patrick’s Senate bill to reduce the amount of time between the sonogram and the abortion procedure.
“The 24-hour waiting period in the House bill would be a tremendous imposition on women in my district because of its vast size and the limited availability of medical facilities,” Uresti said. “If the bill returns to the Senate in its current form, I intend to stand firm on the Senate amendments that limited the waiting period to two hours, struck the provision requiring a woman to provide documentation about being raped and restored the ability of doctors to communicate with their patients by telephone.”
Try not to dislocate your shoulder while you pat yourself on the back, Sen. Uresti. The fact that the Senate bill is a tiny bit less ugly than the House bill doesn’t change the fundamental nature of its ugliness, or the fact that you could have done a whole lot more to prevent this assault on women’s rights.