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Stubbornness, Turf War Could Hold Up Abortion Sonogram

The biggest hurdle getting an abortion sonogram bill passed this session may be good old-fashioned stubbornness.

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The biggest hurdle getting an abortion sonogram bill passed this session may be good old-fashioned stubbornness.

House Republicans have no interest in taking up the Senate version, which they say is too lax for their liking. Indeed, an amendment on the House floor that would’ve replaced that chamber’s sonogram bill with the Senate’s language went down in flames last week.

But the House version could have trouble making its way through the Senate, where abortion sonogram legislation only passed because of a careful balance struck between the bill’s author, Republican state Sen. Dan Patrick, and Democratic state Sen. Carlos Uresti.

“At this point, we’re going to have to wait until someone blinks,” said state Rep. Sid Miller, R-Stephenville, who authored the House bill.

There’s also an elephant in the room: the House's thinly veiled irritation at Patrick for wading into the lower chamber’s speaker race (he publicly urged House members to decide who should be speaker in the GOP caucus instead of in the full House, where Democrats also have a say). There's speculation that any bill Patrick authors could struggle in the House, retribution for his forays onto the House's turf. 

The House version of the sonogram bill requires doctors providing abortions to perform a sonogram on the woman and describe the images on the screen at least 24 hours before the procedure — and does not offer an exception for women who are victims of rape or incest. The Senate version only passed because Patrick agreed to Uresti's amendment, which provided such an exception, and changed the 24-hour minimum to two hours to assist women who live in remote locations or have limited access to transportation. 

Patrick wouldn’t comment on whether the Senate will take up the House bill, or what he’s “working on behind the scenes.” But he said the Senate doesn’t have 21 votes to pass the House version, and that “we have sent that message many times.”

Patrick said the best solution is for the House, with its overwhelming Republican majority, to take up the Senate bill, amend it to make it look like the House bill, and then get it into conference, where it could be pushed out as quickly as next week.

“We are going to pass a good sonogram bill at the end of the day,” he said. “This is not a bill to play politics with.”

Miller said he’ll be working behind the scenes too, but that the House appears to have a “big problem” passing the Senate bill. “There’s more members that don’t like the Senate bill than like the House bill,” he said. “The members just don’t like it.” 

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Health care State government 82nd Legislative Session Abortion Carlos "Charlie" Uresti Dan Patrick Sid Miller Texas House of Representatives Texas Legislature Texas Senate