3 Concepts That Have Lost All Meaning in the Texas Abortion Debate

As the Texas abortion debate continued on Tuesday night, several familiar terms kept creeping back into the vernacular of certain Republican representatives. And, as such, the contradictions and rule-breaking that have become commonplace in this legislature maintained an embarrassing presence.

Here are three concepts related to the state's anti-abortion legislation that just don't make sense anymore, thanks to their repeated misuse by Texas GOP legislators.

1. Time

The first special session for this legislation infamously ended in mass confusion, as no one could quite figure out whether or not the senators had voted on then-named Senate Bill 5 before midnight — the cutoff for all deliberation.

While some news sources reported the bill's passage, spectators in the Senate gallery and the over 185,000 people watching the live stream (that had earlier broadcasted Sen. Wendy Davis' 11-hour filibuster) weren't so sure.

Finally, it was revealed that a vote on SB 5 had indeed taken place — after midnight. It should have been immediately rendered invalid, if not for a so-called "clerical error" that showed the vote took place at 11:59 p.m.. Soon enough, the "valid" vote results were shown to be fabricated, and the vote was confirmed to have taken place after the special session ended.

On Tuesday, the full Texas House convened to discuss the second special session's version of the bill, House Bill 2. Soon enough, the Republicans were caught in an issue with time yet again when Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio) raised a point of order about the time noted on the committee report from Monday evening. Although the vote to bring House Bill 2 to the full House was taken at 12:12 AM on July 3, the paperwork from that evening said it took place on July 2. And according to the Texas House rules — Rule 4, Section 32, (b) (4), to be exact — all committee reports must "contain the date the committee made its recommendation." Presumably, dating committee reports incorrectly could have resulted in certain consequences for the offenders.

Predictably, though, this point of order was overturned. Because, in all likelihood, July 3 probably did occur on July 2.

2. "Germaneness"

For those unfamiliar with the term "germane," it has to do with the relevance or appropriateness of the discussion to do with a bill. It also happens to be a term that Texas Republicans have an issue conclusively defining.

Wendy Davis' 11-hour filibuster on June 25 ended after she succumbed to Texas' "3 strikes" filibuster rule. Her first strike came as she discussed Planned Parenthood's budget, which was ruled "not germane" to the conversation about Senate Bill 5.

But wait a minute — when a male Republican representative brought up Planned Parenthood's budget during House Bill 2 discussion on Tuesday, there was no issue whatsoever. Suddenly, it was considered germane to the discussion. No one moved to call it otherwise, because those who saw the contradiction also considered it germane when Sen. Davis discussed it two weeks before.

3. "Pro-life"

During House Bill 2 debate on Tuesday, Texas representatives presented 26 amendments to bill author Rep. Jodie "Rape Kit" Laubenberg. As expected, Laubenberg used the Republican majority to table — or set aside indefinitely — 22 of them, while 4 were withdrawn.

But while some of the proposed amendments were only included to make a point, such as Rep. Harold Dutton, Jr.'s suggestion to abolish the death penalty in Texas, several brought up situations in which the bill's current text could prove to be dangerous or unrealistic.

Rep. Dawnna Dukes' amendment would have allowed people forced to carry a pregnancy to term if the 20-week ban was instated with pre-natal care benefits and Medicaid coverage. Nope, said Laubenberg, and the amendment was tabled.

Meanwhile, Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon's amendment would have ensured Texas public school students receive necessary sex education — because, as is hopefully common knowledge, sex education leads to safer sex, which leads to fewer unplanned pregnancies, which leads to fewer abortions. But Laubenberg again resisted, assuring McClendon that "kids today don't have any problem understanding what sex is" (which is probably why the state of Texas is #4 in teen births and #1 in repeat teen births). Boom, tabled.

Rep. Jose Menendez introduced an amendment that would have offered exemptions to the 20-week ban for pregnant people who have psychological conditions or issues with psychotropic medications that could adversely interfere with the pregnancy. But, according to Laubenberg, "a woman can feel good one day and be down the next day," so there's no need to consider her mental health in this context.

With these provisions for new mothers and their children willfully ignored, who's to say what "pro-life" means anymore to these Texas representatives? If it doesn't refer to "recent fetuses," ignores evidence showing that proper sex education in school reduces the abortion rate, and disregards the pregnant person's health, then exactly whose "life" are they "pro"?

If these representatives believe "pro-life" refers to allowing a fetus the chance to be born, then they've got a lot of explaining to do. Because according to the Texas majority legislature, it sure doesn't seem like anything living outside the womb is truly wanted.

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Christine Salek

Christine is a writer and perpetual student living in Des Moines, Iowa. Her writing can also be found on Medium, the Gonzaga Bulletin, and ResearchGate.

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