Texas House Comm. Considers 20-Week Abortion Ban

April 12, 2013 — A Texas bill (HB 2364) that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy drew sharp responses from advocates, doctors and lawmakers at a House State Affairs Committee hearing on Wednesday, the San Antonio Express News' "Texas Politics" reports (Parker, "Texas Politics," San Antonio Express News, 4/10).

Supporters of the bill -- proposed by state Reps. Jodie Laubenberg (R) and Jeff Leach (R) -- claim that fetuses can feel pain after 20 weeks, a notion that is disputed by the medical community (Aaronson [1], Texas Tribune, 4/10). Texas currently prohibits abortions beginning at 28 weeks, unless a woman's physical or mental health is at risk or the fetus has a "severe and irreversible abnormality," according to the state health department.

HB 2364 would allow exceptions if a woman's life is at risk or to avoid "substantial or irreversible physical harm." Physicians who violate the 20-week ban would face a revocation of their license but would not be subject to criminal penalties.

Debate on 20-Week Bill

Laubenberg said the measure would give a woman "more than enough time to decide whether she will choose to have an abortion." She added that the bill "does not impose an undue burden or substantial obstacle on a woman's ability to have an abortion before 20 weeks."

Laubenberg held up a pile of studies she said indicate fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks.

State Rep. Jessica Farrar (D) challenged Laubenberg's claims, citing a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that found a fetus cannot feel pain until 29 or 30 weeks (Lindell, Austin American-Statesman, 4/10). According to CDC, 1.3% of abortions occur after 20 weeks, Farrar said. "We're putting [women's] health at risk because somehow we think this is going to stop women from having abortions," she added.

Heather Busby -- executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas -- said the bill is unconstitutional because it would ban abortions before fetal viability. Similar legislation in other states faces legal challenges. Busby noted that the bill lacks exemptions for cases of rape, incest or fetal anomalies, adding, "This bill has a serious lack of exceptions that leave women in the most dire situations with no alternative" (Aaronson [1], Texas Tribune, 4/10).

The bill will proceed to the full House if a majority of the 10-member committee votes in favor of it ("Texas Politics," San Antonio Express News, 4/10).