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Dewhurst Urges Action on Abortion Bills

Ahead of a Wednesday bill-passing deadline, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has sent an email to supporters urging them to ask their senators to vote out several anti-abortion measures.

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Ahead of a Wednesday bill-passing deadline, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has sent an email to supporters urging them to ask their senators to vote out several anti-abortion measures.  

Among those bills are Senate Bill 25, or the "fetal pain" bill, which would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy; SB 537, which would require abortions to be performed in ambulatory surgical centers; and SB 1198, which would require physicians performing the procedure to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion clinic.

"After murderer Kermit Gosnell was brought to justice, there are gruesome allegations that Houston abortionist Douglas Karpen murdered babies and operated a 'house of horrors' clinic," Dewhurst wrote in an email blast sent to supporters early Tuesday morning. "For too long, abortionists have run roughshod over the law. It's time to hold them accountable for their actions."

Harris County authorities and the Texas Department of State Health Services are investigating allegations by an anti-abortion group that Karpen performed late-term abortions in 2011; Karpen has not commented on them. 

Although SB 25 has the support of Gov. Rick Perry, the so-called fetal pain bill has not received a hearing in the Senate. A federal court on Tuesday struck down a similar ban in Arizona. A companion bill, House Bill 2364, died on the clock in the lower chamber.

The other two measures, SB 537 and SB 1198, were removed from the Senate's daily calendar because their authors have not been able to garner enough support for a vote.

Supporters of SB 537 and SB 1198 argue the measures would increase women's safety by requiring abortions to be performed in safer environments, and under safer circumstances.  

But abortion rights advocates argue that the bills would actually harm women seeking abortions by limiting access to safe, legal procedures. SB 537, for example, would effectively shutter 37 of the state's 42 abortion facilities; only five existing ones would meet the regulatory standards in the bill. Advocates also say doctors who perform abortions have agreements with other physicians who have hospital privileges to treat a patient in an emergency. Requiring those physicians who perform the procedure to also have hospital privileges could limit access to abortions in areas where hospitals refuse to grant them privileges to avoid political controversy.

Use the Tribune's interactive bill tracker to see the status of legislation related to abortion.

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