Committees mull bills to rein in feds and abortions
By Richard Lee
Texas Senate News
TEXAS senate committees last week took up bills including some seeking to regulate abortion practices and some that would answer governor Greg Abbott’s emergency call for a constitutional convention of the states.
The convention-related bills are the last to be taken up by the senate that address four issues tagged as emergencies by Abbott in his State Of The State address.
Abbott said in his January speech that the federal government has overstepped its bounds and called on the state legislature to pass an official petition to call a convention under article V of the US constitution for the purposes of amending the nation’s ruling document.
On Thursday, the senate’s state affairs committee took up two measures that would do that.
Senate joint resolution 2, by Granbury senator Brian Birdwell, would tell Washington that Texas wants to amend the nation’s founding document to rein in the powers of the federal government, including term limits for federal elective offices, requiring a national balanced budget and strengthening state sovereignty.
In announcing his bill, Birdwell said he believes that’s the only way to restore the original intent of the
He said: “For years we’ve watched as the executive, judicial and frankly the legislative branches have usurped more and more power from the states. It is my firm belief that the only way we will save this republic and federalism as a whole is to go about the process of the states taking control of the federal government that they created.”
There has never been an Article V convention and it would require 34 of the 50 states to pass formal resolutions calling for one. If convened, each state would send a delegation to represent its interests at the convention.
Senate bill 21, also by Birdwell, would govern the selection and authority of the convention delegates. They would have to be active legislators and the state legislature would retain the authority to recall and replace any who go outside the bounds of the topics under consideration.
Both measures have passed the senate’s state affairs committee and are due to go before the full senate for consideration.
On Wednesday, the senate’s health and human services committee looked at three bills that seek to restrict some practices relating to abortion procedures. The first, SB 8 by committee chair and Georgetown senator Charles Schwertner, would strictly regulate the donation of fetal tissue from aborted pregnancies.
His proposal comes in the wake of a 2015 undercover video that he said allegedly showed employees of a Houston-area Planned Parenthood branch discussing the sale of fetal tissue and altering procedures to allow for the recovery of fetal organs.
He said: “This bill is meant to address the sincere concerns of literally tens of thousands of Texans, including myself, regarding the donation and potential sale and profit of human fetal tissue derived from elective abortion”.
The bill would prohibit the sale or donation of fetal tissue from elective abortions and would create penalties for doing so. If passed, abortion facilities would only be allowed to donate tissue from medically-necessary abortions or miscarriages and only to approved facilities.
The bill also seeks to ban partial-birth abortions, which are already illegal under federal law, in Texas. Schwertner explained the anomaly, saying that, because the federal ban only applies in matters involving interstate transfer, a state law is needed to make the ban complete.
The health and human services committee also heard a bill by Dallas senator Don Huffines that seeks to regulate the disposition of fetal tissue and require a proper burial or cremation for fetal remains following abortion or miscarriage.
A third abortion-related bill, by Lubbock senator Charles Perry, seeks a requirement that any second-trimester abortions using a dilation and extraction procedure must first terminate the life of the fetus if its dismemberment is involved in the procedure.
All three bills remained pending before the committee at the end of the week.