State House Republicans passed two new bills on abortion before killing everything else pending in the House.
State House Republicans passed two new bills on abortion before killing everything else pending in the House.
Image by Monica Fuentes

Texas House Passes Two Abortion Bills But Lets Maternal Mortality Bill Die

It's only been a year since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down key parts of state's stringent anti-abortion law, Senate Bill 2, but the defeat of the 2013 law hasn't stopped Texas conservatives from trying again during this legislative session.

Last week, shortly before a conservative caucus killed all pending legislation in the Texas House of Representatives, House Republicans quietly passed two abortion-related bills that certainly won't make it any easier for women to get abortions in Texas if either actually becomes law.

The first bill, House Bill 2692, would require hospitals, abortion clinics, community birthing centers and any other organization that performs abortions to release detailed information on any complications related to the abortion. Clinics would be fined $500 if found in violation of the reporting standards and the state could revoke any clinic's license after the third violation of the reporting standards.

Rep. Gene Wu, a Houston Democrat, was quick to point out during the debate on the bill that Texas already requires clinics to report about abortion complications including the type of abortion, the name of the facility and type of facility where the abortion was performed and the number of previous live births the patient has had.

In other words, as of right now, the state already gets plenty of details on this stuff.

However, the bill's author, Rep. Giovvani Capriglione, a Southlake Republican, insists that this bill is necessary because it will “provide a more accurate picture of the effects of abortion in Texas,” since he apparently doesn't buy that the current data is accurate.

(This at least makes sense since the current data shows that less than 1 percent of abortion patients currently experience complications from the procedure, which just doesn't jibe with Capriglione's worldview apparently.)

“Did you know that an abortion procedure is actually safer than a vasectomy?” Rep. Mary Gonzales,a Clint Democrat,asked according to Courthouse News. “Complications for vasectomies can be as high as 15 percent, so why not pick something that potentially has more complications?”

However, the bill moved along. It even picked up an amendment that requires doctors to report complications from such a procedure to the state within 72 hours. And that's not the end of it. There's also a requirement for the Texas Department of State Health Services to set up an electronic reporting system that will gather up more personal information, including the date of a woman's last period and her marital status.

Seriously.

On top of that, the House also passed HB 3771 which changes the definition of abortion so that it no longer will include surgeries to remove ectopic pregnancies, the ones that occur when a fertilized egg attaches somewhere outside the uterus.

The bill proposes to clarify that women terminating these pregnancies are not subject to the same restrictions as women seeking abortions and do not have to go through the state-mandated waiting period, counseling and sonograms. However, don't get too excited. This doesn't represent a chink in conservative armor, because the bill doesn't cover any other pregnancy complications.

So these bills made it through the House before the House Freedom Caucus went nuclear on Thursday. The conservative group announced their intention to royally screw up the chamber's proceedings because they were frustrated to see that their measure to defund Planned Parenthood, along with some other legislative gems they were eager to get through the House, was at the bottom of the legislative calendar.

It's unclear how many of the abortion-related bills will end up on Gov. Greg Abbott's desk before the legislative session ends on May 29, but now we know of at least one bill regarding women that will not be getting any traction. The House Freedom Caucus move killed about 100 bills, including one aimed at examining the state's high maternal mortality rate, which is currently the highest in the developed world.

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