86th LegislatureHealthcareState HouseA Dozen House Democrats Join GOP in Approving “Born Alive Infant Protection Act”

The GOP passed a bill protecting infant survivors of abortion with the support of 12 Democrats as the debate moves to the Senate.
April 16, 2019
The Texas House voted late on Tuesday, April 16 to send HB 16 — the “Born Alive Infant Protection Act” — to the Senate. The bill adds to already existing law, requiring medical practitioners to provide the same medical care to “preserve the life and health of the child as a reasonably diligent and conscientious physician would render to any other child born alive at the same gestational age.” Failure to do so would render the physician liable to civil suit on behalf of the child.

The bill passed with 93 “Yeas,” 50 as present-not-voting (PNV), and the lone “No” vote belonging to Rep. Harold Dutton, Jr (D-Houston). Eighty-one of the “Yes” votes were Republicans, who were joined by 12 Democrats: Terry Canales (Edinburg); Joe Deshotel (Beaumont); Ryan Guillen (Rio Grande City); Tracy King (Uvalde); Oscar Longoria (Mission); Eddie Lucio (Brownsville); Armando Martinez (Weslaco); Sergio Muñoz (Palmview); Poncho Nevárez (Eagle Pass); Leo Pacheco (San Antonio); Richard Raymond (Laredo); John Turner (Dallas). Those twelve bucked their party even after Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin) encouraged all Democrats to vote “Present.”

Rep. Sarah Davis (R-West University Place) was the lone Republican who did not vote for HB 16. Davis was presiding over the vote in the Speaker’s chair at the time, in which it is customary to vote “Present.” Davis is a prominent pro-choice Republican. She won re-election by 5,640 votes in 2018 over her Democrat opponent in the general election after overcoming a conservative primary challenge from Susanna Dokupil, who had the backing of Gov. Greg Abbott.

By presiding over the vote, Davis effectively avoided taking a position on the issue of whether an infant’s life should be protected should a child survive an abortion procedure.

House Bill 16 was authored by Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano). About the bill, Leach said in a statement, “I am proud to join my colleagues in setting in stone the strongest protections in the nation for babies who survive abortion.” Leach then encouraged other states to follow Texas’ lead.

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The bill will now move to the Senate for debate.

Earlier this month, Sen. Lois Kolkhorst introduced a similar bill (SB 23) that was approved on April 9 and was received by the House the next day. Lt. Governor Dan Patrick lauded SB 23 for its “defen[se of] the lives of babies who survive an abortion.” Gov. Abbott praised both HB 16 and SB 23 for “ensur[ing] the most vulnerable among us are protected.”

The “Born Alive Protection Act” is not the only bill to address abortion in the Lone Star State this session. Rep. Tony Tinderholt’s (R-Arlington) “Abolition of Abortion in Texas Act” gained national attention due to its inclusion of abortion as a crime within the state’s penal code. The bill would codify the physician and mother as wrongful parties according to chapters 19 and 22 (criminal homicide and assaultive offenses, respectively) of the Texas penal code.

However, the abortion abolition bill has yet to make it out of the Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Leach.


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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.