AUSTIN, Texas – The lone Democrat in the Texas Senate who backed the state's new abortion laws says he'll keep pushing for women to be required to complete an adoption course before terminating a pregnancy.
Sen. Eddie Lucio first proposed the measure in July, when Republican Gov. Rick Perry and GOP leaders made good on vows to pass tighter abortion restrictions previously stalled by an 11-hour Democratic filibuster and hundreds of shouting protesters.
The new laws ban abortions after 20 weeks in Texas and only allow the procedure in surgical centers. But Lucio wants the state to go further and mandate that women seeking an abortion complete a short course that would lay out options for putting the child up for adoption.
Critics call Lucio's proposal simplistic and burdensome. The Brownsville lawmaker told the Austin American-Statesman that the requirement could help prevent more abortions.
"This is just one way I think I can really help do that," Lucio said. "We're not trying to hurt the mother, we're trying to help the unborn be born. I want to give them a chance to live."
Leaders of two anti-abortion groups, Texas Right to Life and Texas Alliance for Life, said they knew of no similar laws in other states.
The Legislature is in an unusual third special session after repeated failure to pass a transportation bill. Approving more money for roads is the only item Perry is currently letting lawmakers consider, so the prospects of Lucio's proposal being added to the agenda are dim.
If it doesn't come up, Lucio said he would refile his bill again early in the 2015 session.
In Texas, there were 1,302 infant adoptions and more than 81,000 abortions in 2007, according to a National Council for Adoption study.
Rory Hall, executive director of the Austin-based nonprofit Adoption Advocates Inc., said Lucio's proposed classes would be ineffective because the information is unlikely to change minds. She said the decision to place a child for adoption is often a long, wrenching process that involves fear, guilt and worry about whether the child would be raised in a good home.
"What I don't like about it is it seems punitive," Hall said of Lucio's proposal. "It's another hoop for women to jump through when they face an unplanned pregnancy."
Abortion clinics in Texas are currently required to provide women with a 22-page informational booklet that emphasizes fetal development and potential side effects of the procedure. But the booklet only makes a passing reference to adoption.
Under the proposal by Lucio, who is Catholic, state health workers would put the free course on a website. The class would not last more than three hours, and a certificate of completion would need to be presented to a doctor 24 hours before an abortion.
"If we do want women to make fully informed decisions, then they should know all the options," said Elizabeth Graham, head of Texas Right to Life, a group that opposes abortions.