Texas Bill Would Revoke Medical Licenses of Doctors Who Perform Abortions

A measure proposed in the special session would ban physicians from providing almost all abortions.

Members of the House Freedom Caucus, including Swanson, gather around state Representative Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, as he defends a controversial amendment to SB 8.  Sam DeGrave

A bill filed in the Texas Legislature’s special session would revoke the licenses of doctors who perform abortions in the state, with limited exceptions.

The measure, filed by far-right Representative Valoree Swanson, R-Spring, would expand the “prohibited practices” that result in a physician’s license being revoked, a category that already includes several abortion-related measures. Under House Bill 86, almost all abortions would be prohibited, with very narrow exceptions for the health of the woman and fetus: when necessary to save the life of the woman or prevent “substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function, other than a psychological condition,” or when the procedure is necessary to ensure the viability of another fetus she’s carrying.

State Rep. Valoree Swanson, R-Spring  Facebook/Valoree Swanson

Swanson’s “Texas Physician Abortion Ban” is one of several anti-abortion measures filed for consideration during the 30-day special session called by Governor Greg Abbott, which began Tuesday. Abbott included three anti-abortion measures on his list of 20 must-pass agenda items that failed in the regular session. Swanson’s legislation did not make the list, but critics still fear legislative maneuvers and loopholes could give anti-abortion proposals outside the agenda a chance to pass the Republican-controlled Lege.

At a Texas Tribune event Wednesday, Representative Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, suggested that the sunset bill extending the operation of the Texas Medical Board “is a great vehicle for pro-life measures,” according to anti-abortion lobbyist Emily Horne.

Swanson’s original bill was the first filed by the freshman lawmaker during the regular session. It did not get a House committee hearing, but Swanson, who did not return requests for comment, is trying again during the special session.

The 85th Legislature has already been among the bleakest for abortion rights. Far-right legislators are no longer claiming their bills are in the interest of “women’s health,” with one House Freedom Caucus member even proposing to make obtaining an abortion a felony.

While that bill failed, lawmakers did pass a sweeping anti-abortion measure requiring the cremation or burial of fetal remains and banning the most common form of second-trimester abortions. The law, known as Senate Bill 8, takes effect September 1 and could send people who tangentially assist women in getting these soon-to-be-illegal abortions to jail. Reproductive-rights advocates are preparing a legal challenge this summer.

Last year, the Supreme Court struck down two major provisions of another sweeping Texas anti-abortion law, known as House Bill 2, which closed more than half the abortion clinics in the state. But the ruling has not deterred Swanson — the sole female member of the Freedom Caucus — or her colleagues, who aim to abolish abortion entirely.

“The time to end abortion is here,” Swanson told Breitbart in January. “As we approach the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, it is clear from science that the Court erred 44 years ago. While that remains the law of the land at present, Texas should not be in the business of licensing and thus endorsing its practice.”

Sophie is the public health reporting fellow at the Observer. She previously covered health care policy and politics at National Journal in Washington, D.C. You can contact her at [email protected].

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Published at 4:09 pm CST
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