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Bills Threaten Abortion Rights in Texas

Three Republican-sponsored bills restricting abortion rights passed in a Texas State Senate committee Wednesday, and will be brought before the full Senate.

The first measure, sponsored by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), would require women to wait 72 hours before getting an abortion. Under this measure, women would receive state-sanctioned information about fetal development and possible complications caused by abortions in an initial appointment with an abortion provider, and then return at least 72 hours later for the actual abortion procedure.

Nelson claims that this measure is necessary to ensure that women make an "informed decision" about their pregnancies. Abortion rights supporters disagree and argue that the waiting period would violate women's constitutional right to abortion by placing undue burdens on women, and especially on poor and rural women, who may not be able to afford repeated trips to an abortion clinic. Katie Hatziavramidis, a twenty-year-old who became pregnant last year after she was raped by a co-worker, testified against the waiting period. "A waiting period would have made it impossible for me," said Hatziavramidis. "The idea that 72 or 24 hours will bring a woman to her senses - that's insulting. One hour was too long to wait at that clinic," she declared.

A second measure, also sponsored by Sen. Nelson, requires girls under the age of 18 to receive consent from their parents before having an abortion. This measure would undoubtedly lead girls to seek illegal abortions or to risk family violence. Obstetrician Dr. Dave Kittrell testified that many of his young patients have been beaten, abused, or thrown out of their homes after telling their parents about a pregnancy. Kittrell said that the bill would prompt many teens to drive to Mexico for an illegal abortion, noting that "Teenagers will avail themselves of the path of least resistance."

Nelson argues that an exception in her parental notification bill that allows teens to seek permission from a judge instead of her parents is sufficient. Rev. James Rigby disagrees, arguing that laws will not force girls to confide in their parents, and will only result in tragic deaths from illegal abortions. Rigby asked the Senate committee, "The choice is, do we want to terminate pregnancies or do we want dead teenagers?"

The third and final bill, sponsored by Sen. Florence Shapiro (R-Plano) would require girls under 18 to notify their parents at least 48 hours before having an abortion. This bill has strong support and is expected to pass the Senate, as it did last year before it was defeated in the House.

Media Resources: Dallas Morning News - March 11, 1999

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