Holdup? What holdup? Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, says he's got the votes to send abortion sonogram legislation back to the House — but the timeline for doing it depends on how quickly the Senate passes the budget.
Under the version of HB 15 being considered by the Senate, women seeking an abortion would have to receive a sonogram ahead of time, and they would have to listen to a doctor describe the fetus in detail. Though some conservative groups have continued to lobby for a sonogram bill tougher than the version under consideration in the Senate, Patrick said that's not delaying a vote. He said the Senate will likely take up his bill late this week or early next week, after the chamber gets through the budget.
Rep. Sid Miller, R-Stephenville and the author of HB 15, said the Senate substitute includes "90 percent" of the more restrictive House language, and it adds a provision that women who are the victims of rape or incest can opt out. He said that provision is acceptable.
The bill's passage in the upper chamber hinges on a compromise Patrick struck with Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio. It requires women who live in counties with less than 60,000 people to get a sonogram at least two hours ahead of an abortion — as opposed to the 24 hour advance sonogram required for all other women under the measure. Miler said that exception is "not OK," but he wouldn't say it is a deal breaker.
At this point, Miller said, "I just want the Senate to send me something back so we can see if the House supports it."
Patrick, who authored an early Senate abortion sonogram bill that got little traction in the House, said the only reason he supports the rural county exception is because 93.5 percent of Texas women live in counties with more than 60,000 people.
"I've taken the best of the House bill and the best of the Senate bill. And we have the votes," Patrick said. "Without the carve-out, we don't."