- Mary Tuma
When questioned by colleagues about legislation that, if enacted, would destroy abortion access in Texas, bill authors state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (R-Parker) and state Sen. Glenn Hegar (R-Katy) oftentimes fumbled their responses, evaded definitive answers or simply didn’t have the knowledge or data to back them up, making for some cringe-worthy exchanges under the Capitol dome.
The two lawmakers appeared flummoxed at what most would consider basic facts of the content and context of their legislation as well as the state’s reproductive health care environment altogether — so much so that, in the middle of a series of questions about abortion regulation, an astonished state representative asked Laubenberg outright on the House floor, “How do you not know this?”
The lack of knowledge had some wondering how authors of a bill with so much weight and such a devastating impact could be this unaware of legislation they ostensibly wrote. Perhaps it’s because they may have gotten some help from an ally in the crusade to eradicate abortion, Americans United for Life (AUL). The group touts success in getting model legislation — Mad Libs-style drafts of anti-abortion bills — passed in statehouses nationwide, and the all-in-one Senate Bill 5 reads like a veritable greatest hits of AUL’s 2013 “Defending Life” legislative policy playbook. For instance, part of SB5 (now known as SB1 and HB2 for the second special session) appears heavily inspired by an AUL draft bill called “The Women’s Health Protection Act,” which requires abortion centers to comply with the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers — a costly upgrade that most medical professionals consider unnecessary and in the end harmful to women as the rule would likely shutter 37 out of the state’s 42 abortion clinics upon enforcement. The Act, which mistakes all abortion as “an invasive, surgical procedure,” also says physicians must have admitting privileges at a hospital no further than 30 miles of the clinic, another stipulation found in SB 5.
To find the possible influence for the bill’s ban on abortion after 20 weeks post-fertilization, look no further than the “Women’s Health Defense Act,” which prohibits abortions at or after 20 weeks gestation, in part, because of the supposed capacity for the fetus to feel pain. The model draft cites a disputed 1987 study, the findings of which run counter to today’s prevailing consensus from the medical community.
Last but not least, requiring doctors to follow strict guidelines when administering abortion drugs that would increase dosage and cost for women, directly parallels a “drug safety” model bill that completely fails to include the well-documented recommendations against the outdated process by major medical organizations like the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the World Health Organization. (AUL directly took credit for that one in 2011, also authored by Laubenberg last Legislative session.)
If opponents hit back with pesky facts and medical evidence to prove otherwise, don’t fret because lawmakers also get a defense script in the cookie-cutter legislation: “More specifically, the State of [insert name of state] has a legitimate concern with the health of women who undergo abortions,” a line we heard on repeat from anti-choice lawmakers.
With a pre-abortion sonogram law in place and the recent dismantling of Planned Parenthood and abortion providers through budget cuts, Texas lawmakers seem to have already drawn from other draft bills and a strategic joint resolution that lays out how and why to cripple the reproductive health provider, recommending “that the [Legislature] immediately freeze any currently allocated state funding for abortion providers, in particular Planned Parenthood,” a move state GOP leaders certainly made last year.
The Texas authors may just have a knack for tying themselves to groups that draft model legislation. AUL’s process is much like the American Legislative Exchange Council, a shadowy coalition of businesses which drafts bills for statehouses that benefit their interests. Turns out, both lawmakers are members — in fact, Laubenberg was selected as ALEC state chair earlier this year.
While the highly publicized all-day filibuster by state Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Forth Worth) killed the abortion-restrictive bill, Gov. Rick Perry is reviving the now twice-failed zombie legislation for a second special session, started on Monday, which is already attracting thousands of livid protestors — or “unruly” mobsters, as our GOP leadership has characterized them — who are fed up with the perceived assault on women’s rights.
In this round, we can anticipate the same lack of understanding and dismissal of fact from the bill architects and the same lackadaisical responses about a bill that would effectively outlaw abortion in Texas, leaving some women hundreds of miles from the nearest clinic and endangering them by requiring less safe drug protocols.
Considering the enormously high stakes and potential for physical harm, it’s a [insert adjective here] shame that some legislators don’t know what the [insert choice expletive] they’re actually saying.