With Democrats saying “we will not join this charade,” Texas House committee delays hearing on abortion bill

Texas State Capitol.
Texas State Capitol.
Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas Tribune

A frustrated Texas House Republican committee chairman was forced to postpone a hearing on his anti-abortion bill Monday morning after five members on the nine-person panel didn’t show up for the meeting — prompting what’s known as a lack of quorum.

At issue is a bill by state Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano. The measure, House Bill 16, would require doctors to care for a baby who survives an abortion procedure. It was unveiled earlier this month and already has more than 70 House members signed on as co-authors.

Four Democrats and one Republican on the committee were absent for Monday’s meeting, which was scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. Leach said state Rep. Morgan Meyer, R-Dallas, missed because of a flight delay. Meyer’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The four Democrats, meanwhile, signed onto a statement Monday saying that they would not “join this charade,” apparently referring to Leach’s anti-abortion proposal that was on the committee’s calendar for consideration.

“While some members of the Texas Legislature insist on attacking as well as offending women directly and indirectly, we will not join this charade by participating in this political grandstanding on issues which are already codified in Texas and Federal law,” read a statement signed by state Reps. Victoria Neave of Dallas, Julie Johnson of Carrollton, Jessica Farrar of Houston and Yvonne Davis of Dallas. “We refuse to offend our fellow Texas women, their families, and licensed physicians by wasting time on unnecessary legislation designed to intimidate and restrict women’s access to healthcare.”

The drama Monday morning drew disappointment from Leach, who insisted as he unofficially dismissed the committee out that members “will make quorum today.”

“We are going to have an incredibly productive, meaningful conversation about what I think is an important issue,” Leach said, apologizing to people who had traveled to Austin to testify before the committee “on behalf of the entire Texas House of Representatives.”

Leach, who declined to provide additional comment afterward, said the committee would reconvene later Monday.

Another Republican on the committee told The Texas Tribune that he was “shocked” other members weren’t present at Monday’s hearing.

“I drove last night from 3:15 to 6:15 just to get here,” said state Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, who said his flight to Austin was canceled Sunday afternoon. “So, if you want to make the effort to be there, you got to find a way to be there. Sometimes you can’t — I know there were weather issues for [Meyer] coming down. We just need to make sure we’re doing all we can to make the process work as efficiently and effectively as it can.”

Arya Sundaram contributed reporting.

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