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Politics

Abortion Restriction Gains Momentum Heading into Session

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Ben Philpott, KUT News

There are several expected priorities for lawmakers at the newly begun 83rd legislative session. Education, transportation and water infrastructure are high on many lawmakers list. And in a conservative legislature – social issues , like abortion, often find traction.

There are always a handful of anti-abortion bills filed during a legislative session. Some proposing to outlaw all abortions – in hopes of an eventual Supreme Court ruling leaving abortion laws up to individual states. In Texas legislators have increasingly restricted abortion rights over the last several sessions.  

From requiring parental consent – to last session’s sonogram law – which requires pregnant women to watch an ultrasound and wait 24 hours before having an abortion performed.

Prior to this session Governor Perry threw his weight behind a bill that would restrict how late after pregnancy a woman can have an abortion. Texas Right to Life's Director, Elizabeth Graham

“The pre-born pain protection bill would spare babies who can feel pain from late abortions. And that would take affect at 20 weeks," said Graham.

The bill was already a favorite among the state’s more conservative lawmakers – Graham said she’s already getting calls pledging support. Governor Rick Perry took time during speeches to the Texas House and Senate Monday to make sure lawmakers were aware of his focus.

“We also need to better protect our most vulnerable citizens – that’s the unborn," Perry told members of the Texas House, "we need to expand the ban on abortion to any child that can feel the pain of that procedure and put in place common sense oversights in those clinics and those physicians that are overseeing it.”

House Speaker Joe Straus has not said whether or not he supports the bill. When asked about it Monday – he simple said the items at the Top of his agenda were public education, state infrastructure and water. Texas Right to life’s Graham said in the Senate, that chamber’s 2/3rds rule, which allows a minority to block bills, didn’t stop last session’s ultrasound bill. And she doesn’t expect trouble this session.

“Not every Republican in our state legislature votes pro-life," said Graham, "and we do carry a few pro-life Democrats. And so we’ve generally been able to work with members from both sides of the aisle to build consensus on the pro-life issue which is an issue that transcends party lines.”

But first there are committee hearings and floor debates. The first bills of the session won’t head to the governor’s desk until March.

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