Texas Gov Rick Perry Fast-Tracks Abortion-Ultrasound Bill

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 25, 2011   |   1:00PM   |   Austin, TX

Texas Governor Rick Perry will grant emergency status to a pro-life bill that would allow women a chance to see an ultrasound of their unborn child prior to an abortion, saying it is necessary to help women avoid abortions.

Perry announced the fast track status on Saturday during his speech at the March for Life in Austin.

“It’s pretty hard to imagine people of good conscience sitting idly by through this, and in Texas we haven’t,” he said, saying the Supreme Court decision to allow virtually unlimited abortions, Roe v. Wade, is a “tragedy.”

Houston state Sen. Dan Patrick is the main sponsor of the legislation, which enjoys support from pro-life Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. The measure received approval from the state Senate in 2009 but eventually died in the state House as Speaker Joe Strauss was accused of not pushing the bill before time expired on the legislative session. The emergency status allows the state legislature to take up the bill before the 60th day of the session, making it more likely the measure will get a debate and vote before the session ends.

The bills mandate that abortion centers not only provide women a chance to see the ultrasounds and make the sound of the heartbeat audible, but explain them in a “manner understandable to a layperson,” as well as “a medical description of the dimensions of the embryo or fetus, the presence of cardiac activity, and the presence of external members and internal organs.”

“This is the same bill I passed in ’07, this is the same bill that I introduced in ’09,” said Patrick. “We needed to tweak it a bit (in 2009) in order to pass it.”

Planned Parenthood, the nation’s biggest abortion business, opposes the bill to inform women and Rochelle Tafolla, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood in Houston, told the Houston Chronicle that she is livid the legislature would put helping women ahead of other political issues.

“It’s pretty unbelievable, given the state of the state,” she said, calling the bill to provide women information about their baby “completely unnecessary.”

Kristen Gray, a spokeswoman for the Texas Democratic Party, also bashed Perry, saying, “Once again, Rick Perry is trying to distract from the real emergency — our state’s massive budget shortfall — with divisive partisan issues.”

But Sen. Eddie Lucio, a Democrat, indicated he would be open to supporting the bill.

“If it’s the same bill as last year, I’m very supportive and I’ll probably end up coauthoring the bill,” he said.  “I very much support making sure that those who are unborn have the protections they need.”

Patrick says he is unfazed by any criticism.

“I am very excited about the prospects of this critical bill in the upcoming legislative session,” Patrick told the Victoria Advocate. “Rep. Morrison is a passionate pro-life legislator who will ensure the sonogram bill finally passes in the House of Representatives.”

“A sonogram provides the most complete ‘picture’ of a woman’s pregnancy, which makes it one of the most vital pieces of information that a woman needs when deciding whether or not to seek an abortion,” Patrick said.

Rep. Rep. Geanie Morrison, a Victoria Republican, is the sponsor of the House version of the bill. Senate Bill 130 and House Bill 201 were filed jointly

Morrisson said, “This legislation would require mandatory consultations in person, not over the phone, or by recorded message, at least 24 hours prior to the procedure. We just want women to be informed about the procedure and the short-term and long-term health risks. Any type of procedure you get, even if you have dental surgery, you should talk to a physician and see what the risks are.”

The bills enjoy strong backing from pro-life advocates, who know ultrasounds have helped women understand the humanity of their unborn child. When used in pregnancy centers they persuade as many as 80 percent of women considering an abortion to seek alternatives.

The legislation would amend the current Texas Women’s Right to Know Act, which was passed in 2003. That’s a state law requiring abortion practitioners to provide women with information about abortion’s risks and alternatives. [related]

Perry has previously urged lawmakers in the state legislature to adopt the bill, which he called “another layer of protection for the most vulnerable Texans.”

“Issues of this complexity and moral weight are the sort of thing that we are sent here to address,” he said.

There are more than 74,000 abortions in Texas annually and legislators are hoping Patrick’s bill and others the legislature is considering will help reduce that figure.