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Texas Gov. Perry Calls for 20-Week Abortion Ban; New Suits Filed Over Women's Health Program

Texas Gov. Perry Calls for 20-Week Abortion Ban; New Suits Filed Over Women's Health Program

December 12, 2012 — Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) on Tuesday voiced his support for legislation that would ban abortion in the state after 20 weeks of gestation, the Houston Chronicle reports.

Speaking at a crisis pregnancy center in Houston, Perry stated that his intent "is to make abortion at any stage a thing of the past." Although he noted that outlawing all abortions violates the U.S. Constitution, he said that Texas has a compelling interest in "preventing the suffering of our state's unborn."

Elizabeth Graham -- director of Texas Right to Life, who appeared with Perry -- said her group would back a 20-week abortion ban that includes an exemption for when a woman's life is in danger but does not include exceptions for rape or incest. "Those decisions for children who are conceived in rape and incest will need to be made prior to the 20-week mark," she said. No legislation has been filed to date (Holley, Houston Chronicle, 12/11).

Seven states -- Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska and Oklahoma -- have banned abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on the disputed theory that a fetus can feel pain beginning around that gestational age. Arizona and Georgia also have passed similar measures that are now being challenged in court.

Opponents of "fetal pain" legislation contend that the proposals conflict with medical evidence. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has stated that there is "no legitimate scientific information that supports the statement that a fetus experiences pain" (MacLaggan, Reuters, 12/11).

Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, said in a press release, "This proposed abortion ban is a cruel attempt by anti-choice extremists to curb access to care for women in the most desperate of circumstances" (Houston Chronicle, 12/11). She added, "No politician can possibly decide what is best for a woman and her family in every circumstance" (Aaronson, Texas Tribune, 12/11).

Perry Hopeful for Other Abortion Restrictions

Perry also expressed optimism that the upcoming legislative session, which begins Jan. 8, will include passage of a measure that would require abortion clinics to abide by the same regulations as ambulatory surgical centers. He also called for a measure that would require doctors who provide abortion care to have admitting privileges at local hospitals (Houston Chronicle, 12/11).

"Again, the ideal world is a world without abortion," Perry said, adding, "Until then, however, we will continue to pass laws to ensure abortions are as rare as possible under existing law" (Bassett, Huffington Post, 12/11).

New Suits Filed Over Women's Health Program

In other Texas news, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas filed two more legal challenges against a state law that prohibits organizations that are affiliated with abortion providers from participating in its Women's Health Program, Bloomberg reports (Gullo, Bloomberg, 12/11).

Texas decided earlier this year to begin enforcing the law. In response, the federal government, which has covered most of the program's cost, announced that the funding will end because the state is not permitted to exclude certain providers. The state has announced it plans to launch its own program without federal money (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/20).

One of the new suits was filed on behalf of Planned Parenthood patient, Marcela Balquinta. The suit seeks to ensure that PPGT is not excluded from WHP when the state assumes control of the program on Jan. 1, which Balquinta argues would force "tens of thousands of Texas women like [her]" to forgo care. The suit also challenges the state's ability to enact a "poison pill" plan that would end the program if a court rules that Planned Parenthood must be allowed to participate.

The second suit argues that Texas' new program violates Planned Parenthood's constitutional rights (Cardona, Dallas Morning News, 12/11).