Will Texas House Speaker Joe Straus Try to Stop Gov. Greg Abbott’s Pro-Life Agenda Again?

State   |   Texas Right to Life   |   Jul 18, 2017   |   5:09PM   |   Austin, Texas

Today marks the opening of the Special Session of the 85th Texas Legislature called by Governor Greg Abbott to address unfinished business from the regular session of the 85th Texas Legislature, which lasted January 10 through May 29.

On Governor Abbott’s 20-item list, 19 will be addressed after the Legislature passes the necessary sunset bills.  The items on the call for the special session reflect the values of the majority of Texans: Life, property tax reform, school choice, privacy in public restrooms, election integrity, and more.

With the conservative, Pro-Life majorities in both the state Senate and in the Texas House of Representatives, there is no excuse for failure in passing all 20 of these bills, including several important Pro-Life measures.  Each and every activist and concerned Texan must watch each and every bill that is of interest because the leadership of the Texas House of Representatives is already working to undermine Governor Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Patrick.  #PassThemAll

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who oversaw the Pro-Life victories of the regular session, has indicated he will ensure the governor’s Pro-Life priorities will be moved quickly out of the state Senate this summer.  Unfortunately, the Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, Joe Straus (R-San Antonio), has already indicated that his chamber is not interested in the governor’s agenda, signaling that Texans can expect the obstructionism by which the Texas House is known to prevail at the expense of important Pro-Life bills, not to mention at the expense of the lives of unborn children.

Straus’s stranglehold on the House already led to the death of many priority Pro-Life bills in the regular session of the 85th Texas Legislature.  The Pro-Life House members were forced to work around Straus and his crony Byron Cook (R-Corsicana) after Cook unilaterally killed the Dismemberment Abortion Ban, which eventually passed as an amendment only due to the bold action of conservative members and the House Freedom Caucus.

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One Pro-Life measure in Governor Abbott’s special session is Pro-Life Health Insurance Reform, which would remove coverage of elective abortion from private insurance and state exchanges, as well as from plans subsidized by the Affordable Care Act.  Senator Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) passed Pro-Life Insurance Reform in the regular sessions of 2015 and 2017, only to see his bills fall victim to Cook in the House.  During the special session, Representative John Smithee (R-Amarillo) and Senator Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) will sponsor Pro-Life Health Insurance Reform.

The call for the special session also includes a measure to improve reporting requirements for the incidences of complications from abortions and provisions to improve reporting requirements of minors who undergo elective abortions to ensure that pregnant minors are afforded the appropriate parental or judicial protections.  Again, Byron Cook is already thumbing his nose at Governor Abbott by opposing this data collection that could prove vital to the health and safety of pregnant women.  Governor Abbott astutely recognizes that in order to address a problem, accurate information is essential, and he must not let the political miscreants in the Texas House jeopardize the health and safety of pregnant women in Texas.

Shockingly, in Texas a doctor can write a Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) Order for a patient without consent from the patient or the patient’s surrogate.  Representative Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood), a neurosurgeon, crafted legislation to require patient consent or consent from the patient’s surrogate.  Although Dr. Bonnen successfully built consensus on the bill, Byron Cook and House leadership also killed this bill during the regular session.  During the special session, HB 43 by Dr. Bonnen and Senate Bill 11 by Senator Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) will protect most patients from secret and unwanted DNRs.

The final Pro-Life measure on the call for the special session is a ban on state and local governments using taxpayer dollars to benefit the abortion industry.  This measure will be another solid step toward the Pro-Life goal of halting all taxpayer dollars from benefiting abortion providers and their affiliates.

Yesterday, on the eve of the special session, Governor Abbott delivered a speech in which he promised he would carefully watch lawmakers who thwart his agenda and pledged to hold them accountable.  Governor Abbott then urged others to do the same.  If the parliamentary obfuscation that occurred today, the first day of the special session, in the Texas House are reflective of the remaining 29 days, we suspect that by August 17, the end of the special session, Governor Abbott’s list will match Texas Right to Life’s.  Passing all 20 bills and standing for Life requires more than a last-minute green light vote by the members.  Clearing political obstacles, forcing integrity in parliamentary procedures, reining in rogue committee chairs, and exhibiting strong intestinal fortitude—this is what is required to be a statesman.  This is what will keep lawmakers off Abbott’s and Texas Right to Life’s lists.