The Texas House finally held a public hearing on one of the pro-life movement’s top priorities Wednesday evening: closing a loophole in the state’s ban on abortions after the 20-week mark of a pregnancy.

The hearing, held by the Texas House Committee on State Affairs, lasted well into Thursday morning, wrapping up just before 7:00 a.m. The committee hearing, which took up a number of controversial and hot-button topics, was a marathon event. One lawmaker posited that it may have been the longest in the legislature’s history.

Even then, supporters of what Texas Right to Life refers to as the Preborn Non-Discrimination Act fared the grueling day, staying to nearly 3:00 a.m. to give lawmakers their pitch on ending discriminatory abortions in the third trimester of a pregnancy.

The proposition is not new to members of the Texas House. An amendment brought forward last session that would have eliminated the policy quickly developed into one of the strongest points of contrast in the 2018 Republican primary, pitting pro-life Republicans against establishment types who fought at length to maintain the state’s exception.

Now a piece of stand-alone legislation authored by State Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler), who also brought forward the lightning-rod amendment two years prior, offers an opportunity for lawmakers to put an end to the practice.

Currently, the State of Texas bans most abortions after 20 weeks, but a loophole in the law allows late-term abortions for children diagnosed with one of a few conditions deemed to be incompatible with life outside the womb.

If passed, House Bill 2434 would close that loophole.

Information from Texas Right to Life suggests that—though rare—misdiagnoses providing justification under the law to terminate the life of a child in the womb do happen, and more often than some in the medical field would prefer to admit:

“Unregulated and misleading prenatal testing contribute to the injustice of discriminatory abortions by misdiagnosing genetic diseases. In 2014, the New England Center for Investigative Reporting (NECIR) released an alarming report showing while the manufacturers of the test boast 99% accuracy, the company fails to clarify that such tests identify the presence of risk factors for genetic diseases, not an actual diagnosis. NECIR told stories of regretted abortions and near abortions of healthy children before their parents sought further testing.”

The bill also further codifies that abortions performed on the basis of a baby’s sex, race, or disability are prohibited outright, regardless of their stage of gestation. It also informs and makes available to parents the prenatal care services available, should a disability be suspected of existing in the child or if one is diagnosed outright.

The legislation would also require access to either those services or, in the worst cases, hospice is afforded, as opposed to promoting abortion as the only option.

After conversations about pro-life and abortion issues were forced back to center stage of the American political scene earlier this year, lawmakers in both parties are being encouraged to take a stance on the issue of life inside the womb. Proposals highlight the extreme position progressives and abortion advocates were willing to take to preserve the abhorrent practice in states like New York and Virginia have propelled Texas lawmakers to consider measures in the Lone Star State as well.

Despite efforts by establishment leaders in Austin to steer clear of engaging the topic in the Capitol this session, pro-life lawmakers have been successful in bringing several bills strengthening Texas’ protection of the unborn.

Bills ranging from measures that would mandate information of abortion alternatives at pregnancy clinics and abortion providers to ones that would protect a baby at the time a heartbeat is first detected, or even a bill establishing an outright abolition of abortion, have all been topics of discussion in both chambers.

However, currently no life-saving measures have been advanced beyond the committee process in either chamber of the Texas Legislature. And with time ticking on the legislative session, many Texans fear that lawmakers could leave Austin without passing any legislation to protect the lives of unborn Texans.

Destin Sensky

Destin Sensky serves as a Capitol Correspondent for Texas Scorecard covering the Texas Legislature, working to bring Texans the honest and accurate coverage they need to hold their elected officials in Austin accountable.