Debate over "fetal pain" legislation at Texas Capitol


by MARK WIGGINS / KVUE News and photojournalist MICHAEL MOORE

Bio | Email | Follow: @MarkW_KVUE

Posted on April 10, 2013 at 6:16 PM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 10 at 10:59 PM

AUSTIN -- Inside a packed hearing of the House State Affairs Committee, supporters and opponents of the so-called "fetal pain" or "pre-born pain" bill prepared to square off.    
"I was in the abortion business for six years, and I watched babies under sonography pull away from the instruments when they were used on them. I know those babies must have felt pain," said Carol Everett.
Everett is a former abortion clinic owner now with the Women's Wellness Coalition of Texas.
"So I believe it's important for us to recognize that babies do have nerve endings; they do feel pain," she said.   
"This bill would be extremely harmful to women in very vulnerable and heartbreaking situations," countered Heather Busby with the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL) Pro-Choice Texas. "It takes away a choice that a very small percentage of women have to make, but when they do it's usually for very good medical reasons." 
"Over the last decade you've seen pro-life legislation passed not because the people aren't for it, they've done it because the people are for it," said Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas), announcing his support for fetal pain legislation at a gathering of Christian conservatives in December.
Filed by state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (R-Parker), the "Preborn Pain Act" (HB 2364) is considered by many the centerpiece of anti-abortion legislation this session. Current law limits abortions after around 27 weeks, and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates 1.3 percent of abortions are performed beyond 21 weeks' gestation. 
The bill would ban abortions after 20 weeks, when supporters believe research shows a fetus begins to feel pain. The science is still new, with some researchers suggesting a fetus can't feel pain until as late as 35 to 37 weeks. Yet most agree fetal pain still isn't fully understood. 
"That argument is a pretext that's based on faulty science. Reputable medical sources and researchers have disputed that argument," said Busby. "These decisions should be a private medical decision that is between a woman, her physician and her family, and the government should stay out of these types of medical decisions."
"When we err on the side of any other medical question, we err on the side of doing good," said Everett. "It's time for us to do good to the babies and the mothers. We need to protect those babies in utero."
A poll by the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune suggests 57 percent of Texans support fetal pain legislation, while 26 percent oppose it. The same poll suggests a majority of Texans support a woman's legal right to an abortion.
To proceed, the bill must first clear a House State Affairs Committee consisting of eight Republicans and five Democrats. The committee heard testimony on the bill Wednesday, and whether it fizzles out or charges forward will be up to them.