News - Briefs Reproductive rights bills pending 

Former TX Supreme Court judge and UT Law Professor will help State Representative rewrite HB1212

It's back to the drawing board for State Representatives Frank Corte and Phil King. Last Wednesday, the representatives on the House State Affairs Committee met until the wee hours the next morning to hear public testimony on 13 abortion-related bills, including HB16, which would give pharmacists the right to refuse to dispense contraception, and HB1212, a bill requiring minors to have written parental consent before receiving abortion procedures. In the end, public testimony was closed, but no votes were taken, leaving each of the bills pending.

The day before the State Affairs Committee met, Corte (R-San Antonio), removed any reference to contraception and emergency contraception from HB16, in a new version of the bill that would add pharmacists and physician's assistants to an existing law that allows doctors and nurses to opt out of participating in an abortion procedure.

State Representatives Mike Villarreal (D-San Antonio) and Dan Gattis (R-Georgetown) pointed out that Texas law states that only a physician can perform abortion procedures and, therefore, Corte's bill serves no purpose. When Representatives Jessica Farrar (D-Houston) and Villarreal repeatedly asked whether his bill would still allow pharmacists who believe that EC or birth control is abortion to opt out of providing it, Corte did not respond, but stated that he does not believe that either method is an abortificant.

HB1212, authored by Phil King (R-Weatherford), would require parental consent for minors seeking abortion. Current Texas law requires only notification. If a girl under age 18 does not want her parents to be notified she must receive a judicial bypass, in which a judge excuses her from the law, which can be an extremely difficult process, especially for girls in rural areas, where they may know the judge. In some instances, a judicial bypass is sought as a safety measure for girls who can not discuss an abortion with their parents for fear of abuse. King's bill would require clear and convincing evidence that the girl will be abused if she tells her parents.

Former Texas Supreme Court justice Craig Enoch and UT law school professor Alex Albright, who provided expert testimony on HB 1212, agreed to work with Representative King to rewrite the bill. In the revisions, they will also seek to protect judges who would be exposed by the bill, which requires courts to report statistical information regarding each application for a bypass - including the name of the judge who made each decision.

The House State Affairs Committee has not set a date to vote on the bills.

Susan Pagani



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