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article imageTexas gov fast-tracks abortion measure, ignores budget crisis

By Lynn Herrmann     Jan 24, 2011 in Politics
Austin - A new bill introduced in Texas would require women seeking an abortion to first have a sonogram and the measure will be given emergency status by the state’s governor, a move permitting the Legislature to take action on it before the 60th day of session
Speaking before an anti-abortion rally at the state Capital on Saturday, the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Gov. Rick Perry told the crowd: “It’s pretty hard to imagine people of good conscience sitting idly by through this, and in Texas we haven’t,” the San Antonio Express News reports.
The bill is backed by Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.
Perry’s announcement on the abortion measure puts it on a short list of four other items he has granted emergency status to and all are hot-button topics in the state as well as the nation: a voter identification bill, putting an end to policies not requiring police to check immigration status of those they stop or arrest, reforming eminent domain, and seeking a US constitutional amendment that would authorize a balanced federal budget.
Some see Perry’s actions on these five issues as a distraction from the real issue: a state budget shortfall of between $15 billion and $27 billion.
Kristen Gray, spokeswoman for the Texas Democratic Party, said: “Once again, Rick Perry is trying to distract from the real emergency --our state’s massive budget shortfall -- with divisive partisan issues,” according to the Express News.
Patrick is unfazed by criticism over the bill’s fast-track status, saying: “The people who would say that apparently put money before life. I refuse to allow myself to be offended by comments like that,” the Houston Chronicle reports.
A bill similar to the new sonogram bill died in the House in 2009 but the new measure is believed to have a better chance of passing, thanks to the two-thirds Republican majority it now has. The Senate is two votes short of a two-thirds Republican majority and at least one of the three Democratic senators supporting the 2009 bill is ready to co-author the new bill.
Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, said: “If it’s the same bill as last year, I’m very supportive and I’ll probably end up co-authoring the bill. I very much support making sure that those who are unborn have the protections they need.”
In addition to the sonogram requirement for women seeking an abortion, the new bill would also require those women to listen to audio of the fetus’ heartbeat as well as listen to a physician’s description of the fetus’ physical characteristics. Lastly, the bill would, if passed, require those women seeking an abortion to understand abortion alternatives at least 24 hours before the operation.
Planned Parenthood, a national provider of family planning services and abortions, denounces Perry’s action on the bill. Rochelle Tafolla, spokeswoman for Houston’s Planned Parenthood, is quoted in the Express News: “It’s pretty unbelievable, given the state of the state. We’re facing an unprecedented budget crisis, and this bill is completely unnecessary.”
Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, would not yet commit to supporting the bill until he first reads it. Like Lucio, however, he is concerned about the emergency status granted the bill. “It’s analogous to calling 911 and saying. ‘We have an emergency and it’s the sonogram bill.’ As far as I’m concerned, I would think that our budget, the fact that we’re in the hole $27 billion, is the emergency,” Uresti said in the Houston Chronicle report.
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