Governor Perry and the Legislature Are Putting Women in Danger
Whether a fetus can in fact âfeel painâ that early in a pregnancy is unclear; a 2005 review of available research, published in the Journal of the American Medical AssocÂiÂation, found that while a fetus may exhibit base reflexes by 20 weeks, it isnât until the third trimester that the nervous system is sufficiently developed to actually register pain. In any case, the incidence of abortion after 20 weeks of gestation is exceedingly rare: Of the 77,592 abortions performed in Texas in 2010 (the most recent year with complete statistics), just 420 procedures occurred after 20 weeks - and many if not most of those procedures were the result of serious medical complications.
Last week, in his opening day address to the Lege, Perry reiterated his claim, and may designate passage of a âfetal pain billâ as a legislative emergency item - more urgent than public education, water planning, or addressing the $4.5 billion Medicaid shortfall. In 2011, Perry designated an ultrasound-before-abortion bill an emergency item, touching off a protracted legislative battle. The law eventually passed, requiring women seeking an abortion to first undergo an invasive, narrated ultrasound procedure.
As of press time, Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed said there were as yet no announcements to be made on potential emergency items. Sarah Wheat, vice president for community affairs for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, said Perry might well wait until later this month, when the annual Texas Rally for Life converges on the Capitol. At that rally, Perry often delivers his most pointed attacks on reproductive rights. âIt will be interesting to see,â said Wheat, âif he designates something that is clearly not a public health emergency as a public health priority.â