Published 8:26 pm Friday, February 17, 2017

Three bills aiming to restrict certain practices related to abortions came before a Senate panel on Wednesday. Two deal with the disposition of fetal tissue, and one would add new requirements to a controversial procedure. Health and Human Services Committee Chair Charles Schwertner of Georgetown said it’s important the state affirm its commitment to protecting unborn children. “The state has a moral obligation to protect our most vulnerable Texans, a group that I believe must unquestionably include the unborn” he said.

The first bill, SB 8 by Schwertner, comes in response to a series of undercover videos taken at a Houston Planned Parenthood clinic. Schwertner said these videos allegedly showed employees discussing the sale of fetal tissue and changing surgical procedures to ensure more tissue can be recovered in violation of federal law.   His bill would make it illegal in Texas to sell human fetal tissue recovered from elective abortions, and creates a criminal offense for receiving funds garnered from the sale of fetal tissue. Hospitals would only be permitted to donate fetal tissue from non-elective abortions or miscarriages, and then only to approved university research facilities. “This bill is meant to address the sincere concerns of literally tens of thousands of Texans, including myself, regarding the donation and potential sale and profit of human fetal tissue derived from elective abortion,” said Schwertner.

Another bill before the committee would require that fetal remains be buried or cremated. “Today the remains of unborn humans are put in the garbage disposal or a landfill,” said Dallas Senator Don Huffines. “Unfortunately the way Texas is treating deceased unborn humans is shockingly abhorrent,” he said.  His bill, SB 258, would rely on charitable organizations to help with the cost of interring fetal remains, and would allow women to retain discretion in what manner they want the remains handled.

The third bill, SB 415 by Lubbock Senator Charles Perry, would require that a fetus’ life be terminated before a process called a dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortion is undertaken if the procedure involves the dismemberment of the fetus. “In other words, the dismemberment cannot be the cause of the demise of the baby,” he said.   The bill would not prohibit second trimester abortions or the D&E procedure itself. Perry added that Texas would be the eighth state to enact such a law.

The bills remain pending before the committee.

Also Wednesday, two Senators held a press conference to announce their support for reforming the system by which law enforcement seizes personal property allegedly used in the commission of a crime. This practice, called civil asset forfeiture, can happen in the absence of a criminal conviction, or even the knowledge of the owner. This isn’t right says Fort Worth Senator Konni Burton “The seizing and keeping of personal property in the absence of a criminal conviction is in opposition to everything this country was founded upon, and it must change,” she said. Burton has filed a bill to require due process and a criminal conviction before the government can take a person’s property.   This maintains the tool for law enforcement, said Burton, while still preserving the property rights of Texas. She was joined by McAllen Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, who said past attempts to fix this problem were half measures. He believes the standard of evidence required to seize property needs to be raised to a higher standard.   Burton’s bill, SB 320, has been referred to the State Affairs Committee for consideration.

The Senate will reconvene Tuesday, February 21st, at 11 a.m.