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The Brief: May 3, 2011

With one major tweak, abortion sonogram legislation inched closer to the governor's desk Monday.

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The Big Conversation:

With one major tweak, abortion sonogram legislation inched closer to the governor's desk Monday.

The state Senate gave initial approval to a bill that would require women seeking an abortion to undergo a sonogram and have the details of the fetus described to them before the procedure.

It's not the first time this session that the Senate has taken up the sonogram bill. It passed its own version — which required women to wait two hours between the sonogram and the abortion — months ago. But a stalemate set in after the more conservative House passed a version that upped the wait to 24 hours, which would turn abortion procedures into two-day affairs.

On Monday, the Senate blinked, approving the 24-hour wait period, which some argued would unfairly burden rural women who live far from abortion clinics. But in another display of the Senate's moderating effect on the House this session, senators included an exception that would give women who live at least 100 miles away from the nearest abortion clinic, or live in counties with populations of 60,000 or less, the two-hour waiting period.

But the bill still drew familiar debate. "Why haven't we considered a variety of other hardships?" said state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, adding, “The purpose is to traumatize women who are considering an abortion procedure into making a decision otherwise."

Sen. Dan Patrick, the Houston Republican who sponsored the bill, shot back: "You know me better than that."

Before moving to the governor's desk, the bill must again pass through the House, where Rep. Sid Miller, the Stephenville Republican who wrote the bill, has indicated that members — while not pleased with the exception — could agree to the compromise.

Culled:

  • State Sen. Steve Ogden is still scrounging for votes to bring up the Senate budget bill, which was supposed to hit the floor for debate last week but has stalled largely over use of the Rainy Day Fund.
  • In a memo obtained by the Austin American-Statesman, the chairman of the University of Texas System Board of Regents floats an increase in undergraduate enrollment at UT-Austin by 10 percent annually for the next four years, a 50-percent system-wide tuition reduction and the addition of a "high quality, low cost degree" to the system's schools. A system spokesman says the memo is "for discussion only" and that the regents are "not scheduled to take action with regard to these suggestions," but the goals are sure to further stir the state's ongoing debate over the future of higher education, about which one controversial figure opened up in an email on Monday.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court is deciding whether to block the execution of Cary Kerr, who is scheduled to die tonight and would be the first inmate to be executed with Texas' new drug cocktail. As with inmate Cleve Foster, who was scheduled to die last month but was given a temporary reprieve by the court, attorneys are arguing for Kerr's life on the basis that he received inadequate legal representation.

"The president's patience, leadership, wisdom, and determination have led directly to the demise of the most wanted man in the world, and have hardened this nation’s resolve to defeat the forces of malevolent fanaticism." — A motion proposed in the Texas House on Monday to congratulate President Barack Obama for ordering the military action that led to the death of Osama bin Laden

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