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February 18, 2011 - Session Watch

No easy votes when life and rights are on the line

By Sen. Carlos Uresti

Not many of the votes we take in the Texas Senate are easy, but none are more difficult than those affecting our most fundamental philosophies of human life and human rights.

I joined a majority of my colleagues this week in supporting a bill that makes sure women are provided with an opportunity to have the medical information they may need before making the most important decision of their lives — whether or not to have an abortion.

Under Senate Bill 16, women must be given an opportunity to see a sonogram, taken within two hours of the procedure, and listen to any detectable heartbeat. If that opportunity is declined, the doctor must describe what the sonogram shows — unless the fetus has irreversible medical conditions or if the women was the victim of rape or incest.

The bill we sent to the House is fundamentally different from the version that was originally introduced and amended in committee. Before the debate, I met with the bill's author in a round of intense negotiations that resulted in significant changes that were imperative for my support.

First, the measure no longer contains a provision that would require a woman to provide documentation about being raped or any other information about her family or personal life.

Second, because of the vast size of Senate District 19 and the limited availability of medical facilities, I insisted that the waiting period between the sonogram and the procedure be shortened from 24 hours to two hours. And once again, doctors can communicate with their patients via telephone.

Because of these amendments, which were adopted by overwhelming margins, the bill is consistent with legislation that I supported in previous sessions. It respects the rights of women and does not intrude on the doctor-patient relationship.

Working with my colleagues in the spirit of both compromise and determination, I helped craft a meaningful, compassionate policy that thoughtful people on both sides can accept.

I will stand against any significant changes that may be made in the House.

I also hope that as the session proceeds, my colleagues will move with equal caution in protecting other human and civil rights.

This week also saw the filing of another bill targeting so-called sanctuary cities in Texas. Under this bill, local governments could lose state grant money if they prohibit state or federal immigration laws from being enforced.

It is not clear, even from the bills' sponsors, that any Texas city would have to change its current policy to comply with such a law. Yet Gov. Perry declared the issue an emergency, giving it a special place in line ahead of other, more pressing issues.

If the sanctuary city bill is enacted, local law enforcement will be obliged to enforce federal immigration law, distracting from its primary mission — protecting local citizens against crime.

And the new focus on checking immigration status threatens to discriminate against citizens of Hispanic descent, legal immigrants and tourists.

As chairman of the Senate Hispanic Caucus, I am concerned about the potential discriminating effect of such a law. As a father, a grandfather and a homeowner, I worry that the officers who patrol our streets will be diverted to another watch.

As a citizen, I am fearful of the damage such a law could do to the Constitution and its guarantees of liberty.

Visit Senator Uresti's News page and Calendar
to keep up to date with Senate District 19.

©2011 Carlos Uresti Campaign  •  A.M. Hernandez, Treasurer  •  P.O. Box 240431  •  San Antonio, Texas  •  78224