If—as just about all social conservatives are hoping—the Legislature passes a pre-abortion sonogram bill, it will likely be thanks to Sen. Carlos Uresti. The San Antonio Democrat paved the way for a deal between the House and Senate when he agreed to support a measure requiring the sonogram to occur at least 24 hours in advance of the abortion. Of course, there was a caveat: rural counties, which make up almost the entirety of Uresti’s district, get an exemption. After weeks of negotiating, the bill will very likely become law—and the waiting period will make it among the most stringent in the country.
When I talked to Uresti Wednesday, the senator said says he’s only being consistent. “The intent—at least my intent—is to give women an opportunity to have more information, to make more of an informed decision,” he told me. “Perhaps, by having the waiting period, whether it be 24 hours or two hours because of the logistics involved, maybe they’ll understand that there are some other options available to them—perhaps.” It wasn’t exactly a firm endorsement of the 24-hour provision.
That’s probably because while he now accepts a 24-hour waiting period (at least for the parts of the state he doesn’t represent), Uresti previously fought to get rid of the provision. Back when the Senate first debated sonogram legislation, Uresti successfully passed an amendment to whittle the lengthy waiting period down to two hours—statewide. He still would prefer a two-hour waiting period for the whole state “in an ideal world.”
“I think that would probably work best,” he said, pausing. “In order to pass a bill you have to compromise as well—and so do I.”
Still, Uresti says, he’s being consistent. He argues the rural exemption makes sense, because in such sparsely populated areas, women will already have to drive hours to have the procedure. “In essence it becomes almost a 24-hour waiting period,” he says of the logistics. “It seems like it serves the same purpose.
“At least for me it’s to be able to give them additional information,” he says, “and a little bit more time to think about the very difficult choice that they’re about to make—and I’m not trying to judge anyone.”
Uresti is still reviewing the bill currently headed to the floor. New components, including four pages of case law and legal precedent, have him slightly perturbed and he says he wants to make sure there are “no additional burdens” or “unintended consequences.” While he worked on the carve-out with the bill’s Senate sponsor, Houston Republican, Dan Patrick, he did not actually see the new version of the bill until it passed out of Senate State Affairs.
“I have not signed off on the bill yet and I think there’s an assumption in there that I have,” he says.
But when it comes to the 24-hour waiting period, he’s content with the bargain he’s struck. He’s also under no illusions about why the bill sponsors negotiated—rural communities make up for less than five percent of abortions statewide, he says. The 24-hour provision will still apply to 95 percent of abortions.
“In order to pass any bill you have to learn to compromise around here,” he says. “Nobody gets everything they want.”