Straus Being 50 Percent Pro-Life Not Good Enough for Texas

Opinion   |   Dr. Joseph Graham   |   Dec 9, 2010   |   8:53PM   |   Austin, TX

As Thanksgiving has passed and Christmas celebration plans are now underway, the historic recent elections are fading from the attention of most.  The in-depth temporal analysis of political shows is quickly yielding to jingle bells and nights of silent reflection upon the eternal significance of this time of year.

Despite the need to focus on the weightier matters and also enjoy the mirth of the season, we cannot ignore one alarming development: Texas Republican moderates have misinterpreted the election results (as they almost always do) and are threatening to undermine the electoral revolution of November.

The Big Picture

Great losses were sustained by U.S. House Democrats who had seldom or never voted Pro-Life: Upwards of 40 were replaced by firmly Pro-Life Republicans, including Texas Congressmen Chet Edwards (defeated by Bill Flores), Ciro Rodriguez (defeated by Quico Canseco), and Solomon Ortiz (defeated by Blake Farenthold).  Additionally, upwards of 50 pro-abortion Congressional incumbents were replaced by Pro-Life candidates.

While many RINO (Republican in Name Only) moderates claim that the sanctity of life no longer drives voters to polls, a national post-election poll conducted by The Polling Company found that 24% of those who actually voted remembered a communiqué from National Right to Life about the candidates. Fully 30% of voters said that abortion affected their votes, and this group broke nearly 3-to-1 in favor of the Pro-Life candidates.

The take-home lesson, for lawmakers in both parties at the federal and state levels, could hardly be clearer: If you vote against the Pro-Life position on a major abortion-related public policy issue, you will be held accountable by a substantial bloc of the electorate.

The elections yielded a net shift in the Pro-Life strength in the United States House of 40 to 55 votes.  In Texas, the shift was even greater.  The partisan split in the Texas House of Representatives jumped to 99 Republicans and 51 Democrats.  The Pro-Life split on abortion issues is roughly 96 Republicans plus 4 Democrats.  (The count fluctuates more on stem cell research, family planning funding, and end-of-life issues.)

The Next Battle in the Texas Culture War

The first order of business in the State House will be for members to elect a speaker.  State Representative Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) was elected Speaker of the Texas House in 2009 by 74 Democrats and 11 moderate Republicans and is seeking reelection.  All 150 House members vote for a speaker of the State House on the first day of each biennial legislative session; the speaker then appoints all the other House members to serve on the various committees in the House.  Either Straus or another state representative will be elected on the first day of the 82nd legislative session, January 11th, 2011, and the committee assignments are usually announced by mid-February.

Because this race is hotly contested, Speaker Straus is working to convince voters that he is Pro-Life and will lead accordingly due to the new Pro-Life super-majority in the State House.  He even purchased a prominent banner ad on the well-known and oft-visited-by-all-conservatives, avowing his Pro-Life sentiments.

However, during the tenure of Speaker Straus in the State House, no free-standing Pro-Life bills reached the House floor for debate.

The Voting Record and Planned Parenthood history of Joe Straus

In 2005, eight Pro-Life amendments were offered to a bill that reorganized the Texas Medical Board (Senate Bill 419).  Four amendments concerned third trimester abortions, and four amendments dealt with parental consent for abortions on their minor daughters.

Pro-Life champ State Representative Will Hartnett (R-Dallas) introduced an amendment to Senate Bill 419, that stated the following: [(a) A physician or an applicant for a license to practice medicine commits a prohibited practice if that person:…] commits any of about 12 violations listed in the bill. The Hartnett amendment added third-trimester abortions to that list of violations. In the course of debate on the Hartnett amendment, amendments to weaken his original amendment were introduced.

Amendment 4 by Patrick Rose (D-Dripping Springs) was an amendment to Hartnett’s amendment that stated the following (page 3440 of the House Journal, 69th Day, 5/16/2005):

Amend Amendment No. 2 by Hartnett by striking all of the language and substituting the following: In CSSB 419, in proposed Section 164.052 (a)(18), Occupations Code, strike “when the abortion is not necessary to prevent the death of the woman or when the viable unborn child does not have a severe, irreversible brain impairment” and inserting “when: (A) the abortion is not necessary to prevent the death of the woman; (B) the abortion is not necessary to prevent a substantial risk of serious impairment to the physical health of the woman; or (C) the fetus does not have a severe and irreversible abnormality, identified by reliable diagnostic procedures.

Representative Hartnett moved to table Amendment No. 4, the amendment to weaken his original amendment.  (Tabling an amendment means that the author, in this case–Hartnett, rejects the change, asks others to reject the change, stop debate, and return to the issue at hand.)  On the motion to table Amendment #4, Straus voted “NO,” thereby supporting efforts to weaken Hartnett’s ban on third-trimester abortions.

Amendment 9 by Dan Branch (R-Dallas) was another attempt to weaken Hartnett’s original amendment language. The language for Amendment 9 (amendment to original amendment #2) is as follows (page 3443 of the House Journal, 69th Day, 5/16/2005):

Amend Amendment No. 2 by Hartnett to CSSB 419, as amended by Amendment No. 3 by Hartnett, in proposed Section 164.052(a)(18), Occupations Code, between “irreversible brain” and “impairment”, by inserting “or vital organ.”

Amendment 9 would have added impairment to a vital organ of the pregnant woman as a reason to allow third trimester abortion. Hartnett motioned to table this amendment to his amendment, and Straus voted “NO,” again supporting the weaker position.

Amendment 10 by Patrick Rose (D-Dripping Springs) marked yet another amendment to Hartnett’s original amendment by adding “paralysis” as another reason for aborting a fully-grown unborn child. The language of Amendment 10 is as follows (from page 3445 of the House Journal, 69th Day, 5/16/2005):

Amend Amendment No. 2 by Hartnett to CSSB 419, in proposed Section 164.052(a)(18), Occupations Code, between “impairment” and the period, by inserting “or when the woman is diagnosed with a significant likelihood of suffering imminent severe, irreversible brain or vital organ damage or paralysis.

Hartnett motioned to table, and Straus voted “NO” on that motion.

The last, Amendment #2, was the vote on the actual amendment #2 after all the debate and consideration of amending its original language. Straus did vote “YES” for the adoption of the Hartnett amendment as amended (page 3447 of the House Journal, 69th Day, 5/16/2005).

Also on Senate Bill 419, four amendments were offered to strengthen the parental consent rules for minors seeking abortion. Straus voted Pro-Life three of the four times (pages 3501 of the House Journal, 70th Day, 5/17/2005).  The four votes for life and the four votes against life earned Straus a not-so-glowing 50% Pro-Life voting record.

Additionally, in the 2005 session, Straus co-authored House Bill 1929, a fake cloning ban (aka “Clone and Kill”) that allowed for the manufacturing of human lives through scientific means yet required the intentional destruction of these nascent humans at only fourteen days old.  He co-authored the same fake cloning ban again in 2007, which was House Bill 2707.

Straus and his family are proud of their long-standing ties to Planned Parenthood, America’s largest abortion peddler.  In a 2009 interview, he touted their work, only perfunctorily ceding that such practice is a bummer, not repulsive, not reprehensible, and not repugnant.

Straus is the only elected Republican in Texas to accept a contribution from Winning for Women PAC, the political action committee for the Government Affairs Council at Planned Parenthood of Southeast & South Central Texas.  His wife, Julie Brink Straus, served on the board of the Planned Parenthood Trust of San Antonio and South Central Texas in the early 1990’s.  As recently as 2001, Ms. Straus still served on the advisory board for the abortion giant.

“A seat at the table?!”

Some of the conservative, Pro-Life State House members have tried to assure Texas Right to Life that they now have a seat at Straus’ table, or to use the exact words: “We can help steer the ship.”  A gentle reminder: The speaker’s chair seats one and one alone!  Their decision is not an easy one: Stand for Life and other principles by voting for a Pro-Life speaker, OR stand for Straus.  Both options have clear risks.

Removing one’s pledge to support Straus could result in political retributions: unfavorable committee assignments, dissolution of one’s district through redistricting, and the death of one’s bills killed.  (There has already been a hearing whether these threats have recently been delivered in which one member of the House did not swear to tell the truth on what actually was said.)

Many who ordinarily fight for the right to life have loaned their support and their good name to a Planned Parenthood Republican in hopes of having a voice at the Straus table.  In 2009, when the House was split 76R’s-74D’s, moderation may have been in order; although, the majority of the House was still Pro-Life.  In 2011 with approximately 101 Pro-Life votes, the Pro-Life members have an opportunity to lead—and to lead for the cause by electing a Pro-Life speaker.

Straus-pledged members are perplexed by the recent election results.  These Straus faithful claim that the election signified a rejection of extreme policies—meaning that Obama has taken us too far to the left, and they cannot swing too far to the right even in Texas with 101 Pro-Life House members.

Texas voters and citizens want conservative, principled leadership, not 50%-types.  Pro-choice moderates and pro-abortion advocates were soundly ousted and replaced by steadfast Pro-Lifers, who seek not only to champion the cause of Life, but also to be lead by an equally committed Pro-Lifer.

The first order of business on January 11th is to elect a speaker of the Texas House.  Straus may not be a champion for abortion rights, but an advocate for the unborn–50% does not make.  Is 50% good enough for you?  Is 50% good enough for the unborn?  Straus never was and is not now a defender of the unborn regardless of what he claims on Drudge or Facebook or Twitter.

Planned Parenthood of America receives over $400 million in government subsidies (our tax dollars).  Cutting their funding could save Texas upwards of $40 million per year, not to mention reduce the debt significantly and protect the health of women by further reducing the number of abortions in our state.

In the Fall 2009 edition of Horizons, Planned Parenthood Trust of San Antonio and South Central Texas’ newsletter, President & CEO Jeffrey Hons thanked House Speaker Joe Straus, in absentia, for tireless efforts on behalf of Texas women and children during the last legislative session.

Is Planned Parenthood thanking Straus because no Pro-Life bills passed or because their massive funding (our tax dollars) remained in the Texas budget?

Have the smokescreens of the Obama Administration engulfed Texas?  The chatter about common ground on abortion by the moderates sounds like that all-too-familiar slick Obama sermonizing. The only common ground between Pro-Lifers and abortion advocates is the cemetery of the innocents.

What will you do?

You decide: If 50% Pro-Life is good enough for you, thank your State Representative for helping Straus.

If you want a speaker who opposes abortion, who opposes human cloning, who recognizes the personhood of the human embryo, who wants to defund the abortion industry, and who thinks that the aging, ailing, and disabled should make their own health care decisions,

Add your name to this list; and
Call your State Representative and ask him or her to withdraw immediately from Straus.
If enough State House members withdraw their support, the Straus of cards will crumble, and the Right to Life will prevail in the great state of Texas.

Time is of the essence.  Act for those who have no voice.  Their lives depend on you! Note: The opinion colum is written by Dr. Joseph Graham, the president of the Texas Right to Life Committee.