While campaigning for Texas Attorney General in the Republican primary, State Rep. Dan Branch of Dallas has sought to portray himself as a staunch pro-life conservative, but a leader in the Texas pro-life movement says Branch cannot be trusted on a mainstay issue for conservative primary voters–abortion.
At issue is an amendment authored by Branch back in 2005 that attempted to add to legislation dealing with health care issues. During floor debate, former Rep. Will Hartnett (R-Dallas) offered an amendment to ban third trimester abortions. Branch then offered his amendment to the amendment, that could have expanded the situations in which third-trimester abortions are allowed in the state.
His proposed language would have banned third-trimester abortions “when the viable unborn child does not have a severe, irreversible brain or vital organ impairment.” The original bill allowed for such late-term abortions in the instance of “irreversible brain” impairment only.
According to a Breitbart Texas interview with Texas Right-to-Life Executive Director Elizabeth Graham, Branch’s proposed amendment gave broader latitude to third-term abortions.
“Had Branch’s amendment passed, abortions would be allowed in the third trimester if the child suffered ‘impairment of a vital organ,’ a judgment call that would have been made by the abortionist who makes a substantial profit off these late abortions,” said Graham, whose organization has endorsed Branch’s opponent in the run-off. Graham added, “And what exactly was meant by ‘impairment’–diminished function? Temporarily slowed function? Function that could be improved or cured with treatment? The term was undefined, ambiguous at best, and left to the interpretation of the abortionist.”
After being asked by Breitbart Texas about the amendment and the criticisms, Branch’s campaign issued a lengthy press release detailing his defense of the amendment.
“Dan Branch offered language to strengthen SB419, not weaken it,” according to the release. The release also cited the support Branch has received from Joe Pojman of the Texas Alliance for Life as evidence of his pro-life credentials.
Branch’s amendment failed on a “motion to table,” but did garner 55 votes in the 150-seat House. Republicans overwhelmingly rejected the measure, with the exception of Rep. Joe Straus (then a first-time legislator from San Antonio) and a handful of others. The release sought to drive home his “pro-life” record.
“Dan Branch has a ten-year record of passing pro-life legislation including the landmark Sonogram Bill, requiring a 24-hour waiting period before performing an abortion, and the recently passed abortion restrictions in HB2 (2013) that are among the toughest in the nation.”
Branch’s campaign has said previously that the 2005 language was similar to exemptions found in the historic omnibus legislation passed in the special sessions of 2013 called by Gov. Rick Perry.
But Branch’s claim that the language was similar is disputed by Graham. She said the 2013 legislation included “an objective medical standard” in its protections, while Branch’s amendment did not. According to Graham, “Dan Branch’s language would have expanded third trimester abortions on viable unborn baby Texans, whereas the HB 2 exception only applies to babies who will not survive outside the womb.”
Mary Spaulding Balch, an attorney and the director of the Department of State Legislation for National Right to Life, agreed with Graham’s assessment. She told Breitbart Texas, “There is no definition of ‘vital organ”.” She continued, “When you look at ‘vital organs’ it would add to the number of third trimester abortions.”
Michael Quinn Sullivan is a contributor to Breitbart Texas. He heads an organization that has endorsed Branch’s opponent, State Senator Ken Paxton.