When SB 5, the back-door abortion ban that gained notoriety when Senator Wendy Davis filibustered against it, was introduced at the end of last summer's first legislative special session, the Texas Medical Association spoke out swiftly and strongly against it.
TMA called it a “legislative intrusion into the patient-physician relationship” that “sets a dangerous precedent of the legislature prescribing the details of the practice of medicine.”
TMA's opposition to the bill was frequently cited as proof that the bill was medically unsound. As a nonpartisan organization representing over 47,000 Texas physicians, the Texas Medical Association's position on the issue served as solid proof that the bill was bad medicine.
SB 5 was reintroduced as HB 2 in the second special legislative session, and it ultimately became law. Its provisions are incredibly harmful to women's health, and TMA was right to oppose it. TMA has continued its opposition to HB 2, and even released a statement praising Judge Lee Yeakel for suspending the bill in October.
Yet, nowhere in its opposition has TMA stepped up to take responsibility for its own role in helping HB 2 come into existence.
HB 2 was authored and sponsored by TMA endorsees, who received tens of thousands of dollars in TMA support. The legislators responsible for HB 2 are in office in part thanks to TMA's financial support, and have proceeded to advance legislation fundamentally at odds with TMA's principles.
To make matters worse, TMA is still giving money to one of the key proponents of HB 2.
Find out which authors of HB 2 received TMA support, and which HB 2 supporter is still receiving TMA money after the jump. Of the five State Representatives listed as authors of HB 2, four were endorsed by TMA in either 2012 or 2010:
- Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (R-Rockwall)
- Rep. Linda Harper-Brown (R-Irving)
- Rep. Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood)
- Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford)
In addition, State Senators Glenn Hegar (R-Katy) and Ken Paxton (R-McKinney), who respectively authored and co-sponsored the Senate bill, were also endorsed by TMA.
Not only did TMA endorse these legislators, they contributed an extraordinary amount of money to their campaigns. Reps. Laubenberg, Harper-Brown, King, and Bonnen have all received money from the Texas Medical Association PAC (TEXPAC) and TMA itself, as have Sens. Hegar and Paxton. The table below details how much each legislator has received from both the TMA PAC and TMA itself since 2010.
|Candidate||TMA 2012||TEXPAC 2012||TMA 2010||TEXPAC 2010||TEXPAC 2008||TEXPAC 2006||TEXPAC 2004||TEXPAC 2002||TMA|
In total, TMA has contributed over $200,000 to the legislators responsible for HB 2. Not once in their opposition to HB 2 have they acknowledged their role in the bill's existence.
TMA has never formally taken a position on the issue of abortion itself, but opposes government interference into the doctor-patient relationship. The TMA-endorsed HB 2 authors have repeatedly gone against TMA on this issue, but that hasn't stopped TMA from continuing to endorse and finance them.
For example, TMA spoke out against the 2011 bill that requires sonograms for all Texas women seeking abortions. They condemned it with strong language, saying it set “a dangerous precedent of legislation prescribing the details of the practice of medicine, [and]it also clearly mandates that physicians practice in a manner inconsistent with medical ethics.” TMA's condemnation again failed to mention that the Senate version of the sonogram bill was co-sponsored by TMA endorsee Glenn Hegar, and that TMA endorsees Jodie Laubenberg, Linda Harper-Brown, and Phil King had all voted for the bill. And even though he co-sponsored a bill that TMA warned would undermine medical ethics,, Senator Glenn Hegar still received $5500 from TMA in 2012.
Not only did TMA support the authors of HB 2, if they'd had their way, the woman who galvanized record opposition to the bill — Wendy Davis — wouldn't even be in office.
In 2012, TMA endorsed Wendy Davis's opponent, Dr. Mark Shelton. He received over $106,000 from the TMA PAC in the 2012 election cycle to defeat Davis. Had Shelton won, it's likely he would have supported HB 2–in 2011, he voted for the sonogram bill despite TMA's opposition.
TMA hasn't only given money to supporters of HB 2. State Senator Leticia Van De Putte, who memorably asked, “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?” during Wendy Davis's filibuster, has received a little over $9,000 from TMA since 2010, with contributions as late as June 2013. TMA has even given $10,000 to Wendy Davis, though she has received nothing since 2011. Overall, however, it appears that the highest-profile opponents of HB 2 have received less financial support from TMA than HB 2's co-sponsors and most vigorous supporters.
The fact that TMA has supported some lawmakers who have stood up for women's health makes their support for HB 2's proponents and others who have gone against TMA's wishes all the more puzzling. Yet a change in behavior, or even an explanation, seems unlikely. TMA is still endorsing and giving money to the people who made HB 2 possible. TMA has officially endorsed David Dewhurst in the GOP primary for lieutenant governor. In December 2013, TMA gave $10,000 to David Dewhurst, the man who attempted to fraudulently change Senate records to pass a bill TMA referred to as “a dangerous precedent” of legislative interference. If tampering with government documents to pass a dangerous bill isn't enough to lose TMA support, it's unclear what is.
TMA hasn't released its endorsements in most 2014 races yet, but if the past is any indication, it's likely the legislators responsible for HB 2 will continue to receive TMA's support. (In addition to Dewhurst, Mark Shelton's renewed campaign for the SD-10 seat has already gotten $10,000 from TMA.) TMA has only once rescinded an endorsement–in 2008, TMA withdrew its endorsement of John Cornyn after he voted to reduce Medicare payments to physicians by 10%. Unfortunately, repeated attacks on women's health haven't been enough for TMA to stop supporting Texas legislators.
TMA should be held accountable for their role in electing representatives who go on to pass legislation that hurts the state of health care in Texas.
It's not enough for TMA to release strongly-worded letters or testimony when their endorsees write bills that TMA thinks are dangerous. When TMA endorsees put forth bills that TMA says undermine medical ethics, TMA should withdraw its support. If TMA truly believes HB 2 is a dangerous intrusion into medicine, why has it given $10,000 to the man who tried to halt the filibuster against it? TMA hasn't made a statement about the actions of its endorsees, and it has never been asked to.
As election 2014 approaches, it's time to hold TMA accountable for its role in electing people who inevitably hurt the practice of medicine in Texas.