Texas Sen. Passes Bill Requiring Women to Get Counseling before Abortions

Bill ‘to provide support to women when they go through the decision-making process for perhaps one of the most challenging things that they’ll face their entire lives…’

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(Lauren McGaughy and W. Gardner Selby, The Dallas Morning News) Women seeking abortions in Texas would have to get outside counseling first under a bill the Texas Senate passed Thursday.

The bill was given initial approval on Thursday by a vote of 21-10 with two Democrats joining the Republican majority.

On Friday, the bill finally passed 20-10 with one of those Democrats absent. It now heads to the Texas House for further debate.

Senate Bill 2243 would require women to receive pre-abortion counseling from an individual not employed by an abortion provider. The counseling would also screen the women for family violence, “coercion of abortion” and human trafficking.

Sen. Angela Paxton, the bill’s sponsor, said the measure was meant “to provide support to women when they go through the decision-making process for perhaps one of the most challenging things that they’ll face their entire lives.”

She also told the story of one woman who “felt very alone, disconnected, fearful, unsure of what help or hope there was for her,” she said.

“I know this story because this woman was my birth mother,” said Paxton, R-McKinney, who was adopted. “And we can only imagine how many women go through a similar circumstance.”

The bill would cost the state $1.9 million a year to cover each expected one-hour counseling session at a projected cost of $72. That funding would come from the state’s “Alternatives to Abortion” fund, Paxton said.

Several Democrats questioned Paxton about the steps women in Texas are already required to go through before getting an abortion, including two trips to the clinic on two different days, looking at a sonogram and receiving information from the state about abortion, child care and the stages of fetal development.

“It just seems like it’s an extra step,” said Sen. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio.

Paxton responded that “the intention of this is aimed at helping a woman connect with resources to help her, and there’s nothing in the intent to do that.”

Paxton agreed to accept a change offered by Menendez, which would require the counselor to provide the certification “not later than one business day or as soon as practicable after the women’s initial appointment.”

But she declined a second change he offered to require the counselor to be licensed, or be a registered nurse, physician or “other health care professional.” That amendment failed by a 20-11 vote, with Lucio crossing the aisle to vote with Republicans against the change.

The bill’s passage into law is not assured. House Speaker Dennis Bonnen referred its companion bill to the Public Health Committee chaired by Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, an abortion proponent.

Thompson has not yet had a hearing on SB 24, which would tighten a 2003 requirement that abortion providers counsel women before the procedure and pass along state-written information.

The legislative session ends May 27.

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