Every two years, thousands of delegates gather at the Republican Party of Texas Convention to determine the party’s legislative priorities for the upcoming legislative session. The legislative priorities committee compiles a list of 15 possible priorities, which the delegates to the convention then whittle down to eight.

One proposed priority that didn’t make the final cut was the priority of protecting the medical freedom of Texans. 

The proposal stated:

All Texans must be free to make their own medical decisions and have those decisions followed in all situations. This is not limited to life-sustaining treatment (repeal the 10-Day Rule), vaccinations, and COVID-19 treatments (oppose vaccine passports and mask mandates). Allow providers to offer alternative treatments without fear of retribution, discrimination, or privacy violations for all persons involved.

The 10-Day Rule

One of the laws that many medical freedom advocates wish to repeal is the 10-Day Rule, which was enacted in 1999. Under the reign of the 10-Day Rule, a hospital committee has the power to decide to withdraw treatment—even life-sustaining treatment—when doctors and patients reach an impasse. Even if the patient is conscious, coherent, and actively requesting the continuation of life-saving treatment, the 10-Day Rule gives the hospital the power to overrule the patient’s wishes. 

The patient or their family then has 10 days to find a facility that will accept them. If they can’t, the hospital can stop life-sustaining treatment on the 11th day. Virginia and California have a similar law, while the other 47 states don’t put time limits on transfers. 

The deficiencies of such a system have been seen in Texas before, particularly in the case of baby Tinslee Lewis. Born with a congenital heart defect, Cook Children’s Hospital made vague “quality of life” arguments to end life-sustaining treatment on 9-month-old Tinslee in late 2019. After many legal fights, Tinslee, now 3 years old, is home with her family. 

Vaccinations

Under Texas law, any person may claim religious, moral, or personal reasons to refuse a vaccine. However, according to Texans for Vaccine Choice, people are still being wrongfully terminated for failing to receive a COVID vaccine.

In August 2021, Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order prohibiting public officials and private employers from mandating that employees receive the COVID vaccine in the state of Texas. Although the order says employers cannot fire employees who refuse to get the COVID vaccine for personal, medical, or religious reasons, officials and employers have continued to disregard the order.

During an interview with Texas Scorecard during the Texas GOP convention, Texans for Vaccine Choice Operations Director Rebecca Hardy explained that people are still losing their jobs or having difficulty finding employment because they exercised their medical freedom.

“All Texans have just lived through two years of the most egregious overreach when it comes to informed consent and vaccine choice,” said Hardy. “Even today, there are people still losing their jobs over the vaccine mandates.”

Mask Mandates

Although masks are less prevalent now and more of a personal choice after Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order prohibiting mask mandates, some courts throughout the state are still requiring masks in their courtrooms, including for jury duty. 

In order to fully protect Texans from local government mandates, the Legislature would need to codify the prohibition on mask mandates, which they failed to accomplish last year. 

While protecting medical freedom will not be forgotten by the Texas GOP, it will not be afforded the same funding and attention as the eight legislative priorities.

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