Thursday, May 19, 2005

Harris Threatens To "Kill Bill"

Yesterday, the Senate passed SB 1150 by Harris (R-Arlington), the "clean" parental consent bill, on a bipartisan 25-5 vote. Unlike previous attempts at parental consent legislation, this bill merely changes parental notification to parental consent, without altering any other language in current law on abortions for minors. The bill requires that physicians obtain the written consent of a parent before performing an abortion on a minor. Senator Harris laid out the bill making it clear he would not allow the bill to be altered at all. The conversation proceeded as follows:

Sen. Harris: “This bill provides for judicial bypass. Senators, I simply tracked the language as far as notification and changed that to consent.”

Sen. Royce West: “Sen. Harris, I am pretty sure I can vote for this bill in this form, but what assurances can you give me that it will come back from the House unscathed or out of Conference Committee in this particular form?”

Sen. Harris: “I pledge to everyone in this body that if this bill is any way changed I will pull the bill down. And I will not accept any amendments today.”

Sen. West: “So, it’s going to come back in this form?”

Sen. Harris: “Or I’ll kill it!”

As if he had slept through the whole conversation, Sen. Shapleigh introduced his floor amendment. Sen. Harris interrupted Sen. Shapleigh to say, “Sen. Shapleigh, I told you I couldn’t accept any amendments and I mean that. Now I’d ask you to pull it down sir so that I can keep my word.” Sen. Shapleigh pulled down his amendment. The bill now goes to the House State Affairs Committee where it is expected to vote out the Senate version upon lunch recess today, no amendments.

So, let’s consider the big picture. SB 1150, the clean parental consent bill, is accepted (over other consent bills) by most pro-choice groups, and allows Governor Perry to get what he wants- to stand up against Hutchinson as the Republican Gubernatorial candidate for parental consent (which some believe is essentially what this whole debate over parental consent is about).

The question is what will Rep. Phil King (author of HB 1212, a contested parental consent bill that already died) do with SB 1150? Rep. King's bill sought to drastically limit access to abortions for minors. Now, he must decide if he will accept a political compromise and agree to the clean parental consent bill, or try and stop it from passing. If the voices from above have anything to say about it, King will pick it up.