Calendars committee chairman Torn Massey huddles with Speaker Bill Clayton. Abortion Since the landmark Texas case won -before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973 by former Austin legislator Sarah Weddington hasn’t had any restrictive laws dealing with abortion, and the feminist game plan ever since has been to keep it that way. This year abortion rights advocates suffered their first lossone bad bill passed and the governor signed itbut they managed to head off at least ten other measures that were far worse. Most were introduced early in the session with the fanfare and bluster typical of “pro-life” forceson the January anniversary of the Supreme Court decision, a thousand or so rallied at the Capitol to lambaste lawmakers who have voted “wrong” in the past, release 4,000 balloons symbolizing aborted fetuses into the Austin sky, and listen to a rousing speech by U.S. Congressman Henry Hyde, the man responsible for federal legislation prohibiting use of Medicaid funds for abortions for poor women. The anti-abortion bills dropped in the hopper this yearsponsored by the likes of Sens. Mengden and Jack Ogg and Reps. Bill Ceverha, Clay Smothers, and Gene Greenwere designed either to limit the availability of abortions or to harass or intimidate women who want them. These bills were killed off without too much trouble; most died in committee without getting hearings and none reached the floor of either house. There were floor votes on a series of attempts by Representative Smothers to encumber the appropriations bill with a rider barring state spending for abortions or any activities “that may lead to the performing of abortions” rider was knocked down with a little help from the speaker and that was that. What it boils down to is that the speaker and the lieutenant 6 JUNE 22, 1979 governor pretty much controlled what would pass and what wouldn’t, and they were generally sympathetic to the concerns of the various abortion rights groups. But they did apparently decide to allow Senator Mengden one victory. His SB 117 grants full legal rights to fetuses that survive abortions, imposing on doctors an obligation to do all they can to keep viable fetuses alive. The law also authorizes the Department of Human Resources to take custody of children born in such circumstances and to sue to terminate the mother’s parental rights., Of course, laws governing medical.malpractice and murder already make a doctor’s failure to provide adequate care for a live fetus punishable, so the only . real purpose of the bill is to threaten doctors who perform abortions and women who want them. The House judicial affairs committee figured this out and killed HB 125, the companion bill sponsored by Green. The trouble was that later, when the Senate passed SB 117 and sent it to the House, the speaker referred it to the wrong panel, the state affairs committee chaired by the more-sympathetic Tom Uher, which promptly approved the bill for floor action. The next hope of the bill’s opponents was for a good deed by Rep. Tom Massey, who chairs the calendars committee and used his position all session to block legislation he personally opposed by never scheduling it for floor debate. Massey did in fact try to bottle up SB 117, but was done in by a little pact his committee members had made among themselves. They had decided early on that it was okay to hold up other members’ bills but not their own, and so had agreed never to block a bill whose primary sponsor sat on calendars. Committee member Tim Von Dohlen, a fervent pro-lifer, badly wanted SB 117 to pass and after throwing a ‘screaming fit at one meeting, he declared himself the bill’s primary sponsoran announcement that came as news to the rest of the committee who, along with everyone else, had assumed that its sponsor was Gene Green,
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The Texas Rangers are tasked with investigating corruption and crimes by public officials. Those officials are rarely held accountable.