Texas Senate passes ban on "discriminatory" abortions and removes some exceptions allowing the procedure after 20 weeks of pregnancy

Texas Tribune News

State Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, during a 2018 committee hearing.
State Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, during a 2018 committee hearing.
Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune

The Texas Senate passed a bill on Tuesday that would ban abortions on the basis of sex, race, or disability status, and criminalize doctors who perform so-called “discriminatory abortions.”

Current law prohibits abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, but there are certain exceptions such as when a fetus is unviable or has “severe and irreversible” abnormalities. Senate Bill 1033 would do away with those exceptions — which particularly inflamed Democratic senators, who worried that the legislation would unfairly penalize doctors and force women to follow through with unviable pregnancies.

Still, the bill passed in a 20-11 vote, with Brownsville Democrat state Sen. Eddie Lucio bucking his party to support it.

“Discriminating against another human being based on race, gender, and disability are never okay, even in utero,” said North Richland Hills Republican state Sen. Kelly Hancock, the bill’s author.

But abortion proponents worry that the bill would force women to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term — even if the fetus is likely to die.

“Your intention is, in fact, to force the woman to carry a fetus that has no chance of survival,” said state Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso. “It is sheer cruelty to deny this woman her constitutional choice.”

In response, Sen. Hancock cited a Duke study, which found that women who got an abortion after a life-threatening fetal diagnosis reported more despair and depression than those who continued their pregnancy. He said the bill was created to ensure “all the needs — the health needs, the welfare of that mother — comes first.”

He also noted that the bill would also require doctors to give certain informational materials to pregnant women whose fetus is diagnosed with a life-threatening disability. The woman would receive details about “perinatal palliative care,” or support services for people who want to follow through with such pregnancies – which he said many parents don’t know about.

Democratic senators also criticized the bill’s practical enforcement, like how the government would monitor the doctor’s actions, rationale, or knowledge of the woman’s reasons for having an abortion. Hancock said that the woman could choose to tell a physician about her reasons for seeking the procedure, but the bill would not require her to do so.

“How would you know that a physician is performing an abortion on the basis of gender?” said Nathan Johnson, D-Dallas. “I think it’s the vehicle for the persecution of people practicing a lawful profession.”