Today, the Texas State Affairs Committee voted resolutely to pass out of committee Texas SB16, known as the Sonogram Bill, intended to clarify the Informed Consent law regarding abortions.
With a Governor who is outspoken about his “pro-life” stance and the belief in the sanctity of the lives of the unborn, it is a conundrum that Texas, rooted in deeply religious and Christian mores has the dubious distinction of having the second greatest number of abortions performed annually in the United States. With 16% of pregnancies ending by an abortion procedure annually as of 2007, Planned Parenthood chose Houston as the place for the largest abortion clinic in the Western Hemisphere, located within walking distance to the University of Houston and in a widely known area of minority residents. It boasts over 75,000 square feet. Planned Parenthood denies any intent to cater to the minority populations of Houston, despite accusations otherwise. This latest addition to its fleet of clinics is six stories high providing room to expand the number of late term pregnancies, which must be performed in ambulatory facilites.The building was purchased from a bank and is in the shape of a cash register which has pro-life supporters aghast.
Current Texas law requires informed consent 24 hours before an abortion, by providing consultation from a physician on the procedure, other options, and the fetus. But clinics avoid discussion about the issues and information by offering pre-recorded messages in lieu of in-person consultations. One website, “texasabortioninformation,” with a statement on its home page saying, “It’s all about you.” sponsors three abortion clinics from Houston to Dallas. The site provides phone numbers directly from its website to hear the pre-recorded message offering the required information by law, without seeing a physician in person–or knowing the recorded message is actually by a physician. Additionally, on the site’s ‘law’ page are disclosures, such as this one, about parental consent for minors, saying:
Minors seeking an abortion must have parental consent. If you are unable to obtain permission from a parent, there is an agency that can possibly assist you. Jane’s Due Process is an organization that works for fair and equal access for Texas minors seeking abortion services. (Emphasis added.)
It is no wonder that four bills, two originating out of each house, have been filed regulating abortion further by requiring clarification to all patients and additional information through viewing sonogram images and hearing the heartbeat of the fetus.
Senator Dan Patrick filed Texas SB16 and SB130, while Representatives Morrison and Hancock filed HB201 and HB580, respectively. Each of the bills requires medical professionals to show the results of a sonogram to the women for whom it was done. The bill does not force women to look at the images. The purpose is to ensure women’s rights to proper information, by providing them an opportunity to learn about the scientific and medical facts surrounding abortions. Today, the Senate Civic Affairs Committee passed Texas SB16 overwhelmingly 7-2. In rebuttal to Planned Parenthood director Scott Spear calling the bill redundant since law already requires informed consent, Patrick relayed a statement share to him by a former Planned Parenthood employee who said, “women were discouraged from seeing their sonograms. In addition Patrick said,
“This is an issue about empowering women,” said Patrick, an outspoken abortion opponent. “What this bill does is remove the barrier that is placed in front of women now from getting information they’re entitled to.”
In Texas, 43% of all abortions every year are by repeat patients, of which 16% had two or more previous abortions. This habitual use of abortion as a form of birth control not only skews the statistics on the actual number of people in the overall population having abortions, it creates a disturbing picture of what is happening in places like Houston–which Planned Parenthood obviously feels is a profitable place to do business. But the chronic use of abortion demonstrates a lack of concern over the living that hopefully can be partially remedied by the medical and scientific education required by the four bills.
The two descenting votes on the panel were both Democrats. Planned Parenthood also opposes the package of bills. But the Texas Alliance for Life, TexasGOPVote, and OpenGovernment support the bills. Governor Perry also endorses the bill. It is expected to go up for a vote in the Senate some time next week.