State Rep. Dan Branch's campaign for attorney general on Tuesday issued a strong public response to a question it received from conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan in his role as a contributor to Breitbart Texas, a new conservative website.
In an email to the Branch campaign, Sullivan, seeking comment for a Breitbart column, asked how the campaign responded to the assertion that Branch in 2005 offered an amendment that would have "allowed third-trimester abortions of viable babies." Sullivan also noted that he was on a "tight deadline" and signed off with "Thanks!"
Rather than respond directly in private, the Branch campaign opted to do so publicly in a long statement from campaign manager Enrique Marquez, who told The Texas Tribune that Sullivan was included on the distribution list for the release.
In his statement, Marquez noted that, in addition to writing for Breitbart Texas, Sullivan "also leads an organization that has formally endorsed Ken Paxton for Attorney General and has contributed more than a quarter-million dollars to his campaign."
Indeed, Sullivan is the president of Empower Texans, an advocacy group that has endorsed and made major donations to Paxton, a state senator from McKinney who is running against Branch in the Republican primary runoff.
Sullivan did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. Neither did Brandon Darby, the managing director of Breitbart Texas.
In 2005, Branch offered an amendment to a bill seeking to add an exception to a restriction on physicians' ability to perform an abortion on a woman who is pregnant with a viable unborn child during the pregnancy's third timester if the fetus had a severe, irreversible impairment to a vital organ. Paxton was among those who successfully voted to table the amendment.
Marquez asserted that the "logic behind the false attack" referred to by Sullivan could also lead to the conclusion that Paxton had voted for legislation that, as Sullivan put it, "would have allowed third-trimester abortions of viable babies," because Paxton, who was a House member at the time, supported an amendment by another state representative — as did Branch — that created an exception for fetuses with severe, irreversible brain impairments.
While Branch's amendment dealing with fetuses with severely impaired vital organs failed, Marquez noted that similar language — using the phrase "severe fetal abnormality" — was included in anti-abortion legislation in 2011 and 2013, which both Branch and Paxton supported.
This observation prompted a response from state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, who in 2013 authored House Bill 2, which imposed strict abortion restrictions.
In a statement provided by the Paxton campaign, which she has supported, Laubenberg said, "I am highly offended that Rep. Branch is implying that his broadly-worded amendment is similar to HB 2, which was supported overwhelmingly by conservatives. His amendment was soundly defeated by Republicans while being backed, largely, by Democrats. Those results speak for themselves."