As part of his continuing effort to deter women from having abortions, Republican State Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston has gotten the Texas Senate to agree to require that sonograms be performed and shown to all pregnant woman seeking abortions. The bill requires women to have a sonogram at least two hours in advance of an abortion and either to see it or to sign a form saying they were given a chance to see it.
The idea is that if women see they are carrying living beings, they’ll change their minds about terminating their pregnancies.
Under usual Senate procedures, Patrick needed a two-thirds vote to bring the bill up, and he got exactly that. Of the 31 senators, 21 voted aye, 10 nay.
That was 21 of the 31 senators voting aye, and 10 voting nay.
The aye votes included three Hispanic Democrats — Eddie Lucio of Brownsville, Carlos Uresti of San Antonio, and Judith Zaffirini of Laredo. Some Hispanic legislators, of Catholic heritage, oppose abortion on religious grounds. The other nine Democrats, including Hispanics Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa of McAllen, José Rodríguez of El Paso, Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio, and Mario Gallegos of Houston, voted against the measure.
Gallegos said that, while he is against abortion, he doesn’t feel the legislature should put restrictions on a woman regarding “how to govern her body.”
The lone Republican who voted nay was maverick Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio, who has given indications he won’t seek re-election in 2012. He said he’d gotten way more contacts from constituents opposing the bill than favoring it.
“I am a hairy-legged male who will never be pregnant myself,” Wentworth said. “I am voting for my district.”
If the bill contains the same language after the House gets through with it as it did when it left the Senate, and if it gets gubernatorial approval — very likely, since Gov. Rick Perry declared it an emergency — here is the bill’s instruction. Note that under “explanation of sonogram images” — a confused phrase suggesting that the options listed are the only reasons for choosing abortion — there are no choices that say “because it seems like the best idea” or “none of your business,” even though abortions are not legally limited to the situations listed.
Before the sonogram and abortion, the woman has to sign a form affirming that:
1) The information and printed materials described by Sections 171.012(a)(1)-(3), Texas Health and Safety Code, have been provided and explained to me.
2) I understand the nature and consequences of an abortion.
3) I understand that I have a right to view the sonogram images. I elect ____ to view ____ not to view the sonogram images.
4) I understand that I have a right to hear the heart auscultation. I elect ____ to hear ____ not to hear the heart auscultation.
5) Explanation of the sonogram images (check one of the following):
____ Because I am pregnant as a result of a sexual assault, incest, or other violation of the Texas Penal Code that has been reported to law enforcement authorities or that has not been reported because I reasonably believe that doing so would put me at risk of retaliation resulting in serious bodily injury.
____ Because I am a minor and obtaining an abortion in accordance with judicial bypass procedures under Chapter 33, Texas Family Code.
____ Because my fetus has an irreversible medical condition or abnormality, as identified by reliable diagnostic procedures and documented in my
____ I am making this election of my own free will and without coercion.
“Auscultation,” in case you were wondering, is the process of listening to the body’s sounds. In this case, it refers to the embryo’s heartbeat.
Patrick said the bill is necessary to underline the importance of the decision a pregnant woman is making. “I want her to have the right to say, ‘Wow,’ that’s my baby,’ ” he said.
Van de Putte argued forcefully and without success to change the bill. She charged that anti-abortion activists seem eager to support the fetus until it is out of the womb, but not afterward.
“It’s our responsibility to protect that child once the child is born, too,” and not drastically cut the budgets for things like pre-kindergarten and vaccinations, she said. “We seem to worship what we cannot see, but as soon as that baby is born, oh no, government doesn’t want to be intrusive.”
Another Democrat, John Whitmire of Houston, told Patrick, “What you’re doing is making a very tough decision more painful, scarring women in some instances.”
“If those aborted souls were in the gallery right now,” Patrick asked Whitmire, “what would you say to them?”
“Just because I represent a pro-choice view does not mean that I’m pro-abortion,” Whitmire said. “It means as a father of two daughters, I want them to control their own bodies and make their own intelligent and rational decisions.”
At one point, Van de Putte asked Patrick, “What happens if a woman gets up and refuses to listen [to what the doctor is required to tell her]?”
“Nothing happens,” Patrick replied. “I can’t control a woman tuning her doctor out. It’s probably a 15-second explanation.”
(The form and the exact language of SB 16 can be found online at www.capitol.state.tx.us/tlodocs/82R/billtext/pdf/SB00016E.pdf#navpanes=0.)
Veteran Texas political reporter Dave McNeely can be reached at email@example.com.