You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks


Welcome to

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on

Texas Senate launches latest round in abortion wars


GOP bills would bar fetal tissue donations and “dismemberment” abortions; require fetal burial or cremation.

Opponents say bills attack dignity of women and insert politicians into the doctor-patient relationship.

The proposals, Republicans argue, would limit “barbaric” practices, treat fetal remains with respect.

The Legislature kicked off the latest round in the abortion wars Wednesday as state senators and the public took advantage of their first chance to address bills that seek to limit certain procedures and regulate the treatment of fetal tissue.

Much of the Democratic firepower was supplied by state Sen. Kirk Watson of Austin, who repeatedly pressed the Republican authors of the three bills to justify regulations or explain how the proposals would improve women’s health.

The Republicans fired back during Wednesday’s Capitol hearing, saying the changes would correct regulatory shortcomings, outlaw “barbaric” practices and ensure that fetal remains are treated with respect.

More than three hours of public testimony featured a familiar back and forth. Abortion advocates said the bills would further stigmatize women and improperly interfere with the doctor-patient relationship, while abortion opponents voiced appreciation for any effort to crack down on a procedure they consider murder — although many criticized the bills for not going far enough.

“Stop regulating murder and instead abolish abortion altogether,” one witness said in a frequently echoed statement.

TEXAS POLITICS DELIVERED EVERY DAY: Sign up for our Texas Politics email

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee didn’t vote on whether to send the bills to the full Senate, but, with Republicans holding a 6-3 edge, committee approval is all but assured when the panel next meets.

The hearing opened with state Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, the committee’s chairman, saying that his Senate Bill 8 was needed to correct abuses, including potential offers to change abortion procedures to better procure fetal organs, that he said were revealed by undercover videos taken of Planned Parenthood officials in 2015.

SB 8 would bar the donation of all fetal tissue from abortions, create a state ban on selling fetal body parts that mirrors a federal ban, and prohibit “partial-birth” abortions, a second-trimester procedure also prohibited by federal law.

Watson disputed whether the Planned Parenthood videos, taken by undercover abortion opponents, showed the abuses Schwertner alleged. Watson also questioned whether the bill would ban DNA testing on fetal remains to identify a rapist or identify the genetic cause of fetal abnormalities. Schwertner said he was willing to consider adding language to clarify that such testing wouldn’t be affected by SB 8.

A separate bill by state Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, would ban “dismemberment” abortions performed in the second trimester. Senate Bill 415 requires that there be no fetal heartbeat before a “dilation and evacuation” abortion can be performed, he said.

“You are required to terminate the life of a child before you tear it apart piece by piece,” Perry said. “We are not outlawing D&Es,” which he said account for 96 percent of second-trimester abortions.

Watson asked whether the bill would enhance the health and safety of women.

“If you are going to allow abortions, then (the U.S. Supreme Court has said) the state has a vested interest in doing it as humanely and civilly as possible,” Perry said. “The health and safety of a woman is not the target, not the intent of SB 415.”

LIKE US ON FACEBOOK: Our Lone Star Politics page brings Capitol news to your Facebook feed

The third piece of legislation, Senate Bill 258, would give women the option of choosing to bury or cremate fetal remains after an abortion. It also would outlaw the most common disposal method after an abortion — depositing incinerated ashes in a sanitary landfill.

The bill, which also would apply to miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies treated in hospitals or surgical centers, but not to women who miscarry at home, would require health centers to ensure that fetal remains are buried or cremated, with the ashes appropriately scattered.

State Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, said the changes were needed to protect the “dignity of the most vulnerable among us, the unborn.”

Watson again asked if SB 258 would enhance the health and safety of women. “My bill is not about that,” Huffines said. “My bill strictly deals with the dignity of the unborn.”

Watson also questioned whether the bill’s restrictions would add significantly to the cost of abortions and said only one provider has been identified that was willing to accept and cremate fetal remains at an affordable rate — factors identified recently by a federal judge who blocked enforcement of a state rule requiring abortion clinics to ensure that all fetal remains be buried or cremated.

“I believe that when the demand is there, the market will respond,” Huffines said.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Texas News & Politics

Police increased presence around Pflugerville High after stranger approached girl
Police increased presence around Pflugerville High after stranger approached girl

Pflugerville police increased the number of officers who patrol near Pflugerville High School after a stranger approached a high school girl, then screamed at her when she walked away from him, the Pflugerville school district said in a letter to parents. This incident happened at a driving school adjacent to Pflugerville High School, the letter says...
UT survey details data on campus sexual assault, harassment, stalking
UT survey details data on campus sexual assault, harassment, stalking

The University of Texas has released the results of a survey on sexual violence and misconduct in which 15 percent of undergraduate women said they had been raped since being enrolled. The “Cultivating Learning and Safe Environments” report was sent to the UT community via email. “This survey is a wake-up call to me, as it should...
Police: Georgetown bank robber caught after fingerprints found on note
Police: Georgetown bank robber caught after fingerprints found on note

Police caught a bank robber in Georgetown after he left behind a note with his fingerprints on it, according to an arrest affidavit. Calvin Patterson, 33, of Killeen, was charged with robbery, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. The robbery happened at 4:25 p.m. March 3 at the BBVA Compass Bank at 10 Spring St., the affidavit...
Murder charges dropped in shooting over drugs at Austin H-E-B
Murder charges dropped in shooting over drugs at Austin H-E-B

Murder charges were dropped this week after investigators took another look at a drug deal gone bad outside of an H-E-B store last spring in Southeast Austin. John Paul Montoya, 20, is cleared in the May 20 shooting of Jeffry Rudy Sierra Lopez, pending further investigation, court records show. He was released from jail on Wednesday, but was sentenced...
8-week-old boy found strapped to car seat in parking lot; parents arrested
8-week-old boy found strapped to car seat in parking lot; parents arrested

A Texas couple was charged with child endangerment Thursday after a woman told Harris County sheriff’s deputies that she found their 8-week-old child in the middle of a parking lot, according to multiple reports. A woman called police Tuesday night after finding the baby boy strapped to a car seat in a parking space in a Katy strip mall, ...
More Stories