AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Senate voted Thursday to initially pass a bill requiring that women have counseling before getting an abortion.

Senate Bill 2243 (SB2243) by Sen. Angela Paxton (R-McKinney) puts the state's Health and Human Services Commission over the creation and implementation of the counseling. According to the analysis attached to the bill, the counseling will "provide the woman with medically accurate information, assessment and offer of support services including housing, employment, resume development, child care, medical care, adoption services, health benefit plan coverage, education on available state and local resources for socioeconomic needs, and screening for human trafficking and domestic violence."

The services will be administered by a third-party that will then be reimbursed by the state. A fiscal note attached to the bill estimates each session will cost $72 per hour for a total of $1,920,852 for two years. During the debate on the Senate floor, Senator Paxton said leaders with HHS told her those costs should be covered by the state's alternatives to abortion program.

Paxton pointed out the State of Texas already requires abortion providers give pregnant women information, but he says SB2243 bridges the gap.

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"Current law in Texas requires that an abortion provider provide a woman with certain information, medically accurate information that is contained in the Woman's Right to Know material, that the father is liable for supporting the child, and then also that assistance may be available," Paxton said. "This bill ... is aimed at bridging the gap from assistance may be available to letting a woman know what assistance actually is available for her."

Paxton, who was given up for adoption, shared the story of her birth mother who told Paxton she felt alone, fearful and unsure of what help there was for her.

Senators who oppose the bill argued it creates another "hoop" for women to jump through to get an abortion. Texas already requires women to have an ultrasound 24 hours before an abortion.

Senator Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio) was able to add an amendment to require that counselors provide a certificate of completion within one business day so the woman can move forward with an abortion procedure.

Another amendment by him requiring the persons that provide the counseling to be licensed counselors, registered nurses, a doctor or health care provider, failed to pass. Instead, the HHS Commission will decide those details.

Senator Royce West (D-Dallas) also made it clear during his questioning of Paxton that a woman does not have to complete the counseling session in order to be granted a certificate of completion.

The bill will be voted on once more in the Senate, then it will be passed to the House for consideration.

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