AUSTIN, Texas — When he filed an abortion-related bill with only one day remaining in the recently completed second special session, Texas state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. was hoping to make a statement, not change the law — at least not right away.
Lucio’s bill, requiring women to complete an adoption course before they could receive an abortion, had zero chance of passing in such a short time. But coming shortly after Gov. Rick Perry signed new abortion regulations into law after a bruising legislative battle, the effort struck a nerve.
News stories about Lucio’s bill spread to social media, fueling debate that has only grown despite the bill’s demise when the session ended Tuesday.
The controversy is guaranteed to continue.
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Lucio, the only Democratic senator to vote for the stricter abortion regulations passed last month, refiled a tweaked version of the bill Friday, and he’s reached out to Perry’s office in hopes of getting the measure added to the new special session’s agenda.
If that fails, Lucio vowed to file the bill early in the 2015 regular legislative session.
“I will obviously try my best to save the unborn in the future. This is just one way I think I can really help do that,” Lucio said.
Lucio’s Senate Bill 17 directs the state Health and Human Services Commission to develop a course, lasting no more than three hours, on “a pregnant woman’s option to place her child for adoption.” The course would be available at no charge on the commission’s website, and the agency would provide a certificate of completion for a woman to present to her doctor at least 24 hours before an abortion.
Women would be exempt if their pregnancy poses a serious health risk or if they are a minor whose pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
Amy Hagstrom Miller, president of Whole Woman’s Health, which has abortion clinics in Austin and four other Texas cities, dismissed Lucio’s idea as a government intrusion into difficult and personal decision.
“This is just another barrier,” she said. “And it’s tremendously insulting to women.”
Last month, the Legislature approved a measure that will ban abortions after the 20th week post-fertilization, about four weeks sooner than under current law, and require abortion doctors to obtain admitting privileges in a nearby hospital. The law also requires women to make at least one additional clinic visit for drug-induced abortions.
In 2011, the Legislature required women to receive a pre-abortion sonogram, with the doctor describing what the procedure revealed, including the size of the fetus and the presence of internal organs. Republican sponsors of that measure said they hoped the information would persuade women to forgo an abortion.
Lucio’s proposal, Hagstrom Miller said, is piling on. “Women know their options, and women are capable to decide without this proposed coercive delay,” Hagstrom Miller said.