Democrats Attack Abortion Sonogram Bill with Amendments

Rep. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston) holds a sonogram device on the House floor during debate on HB15 March 2, 2011
Rep. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston) holds a sonogram device on the House floor during debate on HB15 March 2, 2011

During day two of the Legislature's debate on House Bill 15, state Rep. Sid Miller's abortion sonogram bill, House Democrats made their displeasure known with a parade of amendments.

The House revisited the bill after Democrats managed to send it back to committee Wednesday on a technicality — where it was promptly voted out and ready for the full House again by Thursday afternoon.

As they offered a stream of amendments that were often shot down neatly along party lines, opponents found increasingly inventive ways to attack the bill for the extra step it creates for women seeking abortions and doctors who perform those operations. They objected to the bill's inclusion of victims of sexual assault and its narrow definition of "life-threatening emergency." They argued that it creates an unfunded mandate. 

While she questioned Miller, R-Stephenville, on the bill, state Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, attempted to pierce Republicans' argument that the bill was not about abortion, but about providing "informed consent" for women. 

"It seems to me that the motive of this bill is to get women not to have abortions," she said, asking Miller if he agreed with that statement.

 

"That's fine with me," he responded. 

The debate was sometimes uncomfortable. Intent on highlighting the invasive nature of sonograms during the early part of a pregnancy, state Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, asked how a woman unclothed from the waist down, with her "legs in the stirrups very far apart" was supposed to "get up and walk away" if she did not want to view the sonogram or hear the fetus' heartbeat. 

"I think it's about shaming women, humiliating women and embarrassing women," she said, adding, "Not even inmates in prison are forced to undergo such invasive procedures." 

State Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, offered an amendment that would, in the event that a woman decided to carry her child to term after undergoing a sonogram as required by the bill, require the state to pay for that child's college tuition. When that didn't work, Dutton proposed that the state pay for the child's health care until age 18. That failed, too. He followed up with a similar amendment that only went up to age 6, but with no more success.

Dutton told the members that such amendments signaled that the state feels less responsibility to children after they are born. "We want to see all these children around, but the state of Texas ends its obligation to that child when it’s born," he said. "We want it born, but we don’t want to do our duty."

State Rep. Marisa Marquez, D-El Paso, proposed giving a pregnant mother being required to undergo a sonogram the option to force, by court order, the unborn child's father to undergo a vasectomy. That fell short.

 

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