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Houston Breakthrough, Vol. 2, No. 5, May 1977
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Houston Breakthrough, Vol. 2, No. 5, May 1977 - Page 6. May 1977. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. University of Houston Digital Library. Web. May 6, 2021. https://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/4096/show/4080.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

(May 1977). Houston Breakthrough, Vol. 2, No. 5, May 1977 - Page 6. Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. Retrieved from https://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/4096/show/4080

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

Houston Breakthrough, Vol. 2, No. 5, May 1977 - Page 6, May 1977, Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters, Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries, accessed May 6, 2021, https://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/4096/show/4080.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

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Title Houston Breakthrough, Vol. 2, No. 5, May 1977
Publisher Breakthrough Publishing Co.
Date May 1977
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Women
  • Periodicals
  • Feminism--United States--Periodicals
  • Newsletters
Subject.Geographic (TGN)
  • Houston, Texas
Genre (AAT)
  • periodicals
Language English
Type (DCMI)
  • Text
  • Image
Original Item Location HQ1101 .B74
Original Item URL http://library.uh.edu/record=b2332724~S11
Digital Collection Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters
Digital Collection URL http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Repository URL http://info.lib.uh.edu/about/campus-libraries-collections/special-collections
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the UH Digital Library About page.
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Title Page 6
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File Name femin_201109_528f.jpg
Transcript Abortion bill still viable By Karen Barrett Since the U.S. Supreme Court decision of January, 1973, Texas has had no abortion statutes. The House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare tabled two bills sponsored by Rep. Tom Uher (R-Bay City) which included provisions to forbid abortions in public hospitals and to require a woman to obtain her husband's written permission for an abortion. Committee hearings, which are scheduled after the full legislative bodies adjourn each day, often last long into the night. So it was that a drowsy HEW Committee began at 11:30 p.m. on April 12 to hear testimony on Tim Von Dohlen (D-Goliad)'s abortion bill, HB 1875. This bill would legally define the viability of the fetus at 22 weeks gestation and restrict abortions after that time to those required to preserve the health of the mother. It would also forbid saline abortions except when there is no safer alternative and would require a positive pregnancy test before any abortional procedure could be performed. Compared to the other two bills' more drastic provisions, Von Dohlen's bill seemed to take a tone of moderation. "We ask simply that viability be established legally," pleaded Dr. Thomas Ballenger, a physician from Right to Life. "Surely this is a small request." His testimony was followed by that of Dr. Joseph Witherspoon, a professor of law at the University of Texas, who praised the bill's wording and defended its constitutionality. In testifying last, the bill's opposition had the disadvantage. It was well after midnight and several committee members appeared to be asleep. The chair had a habit of snapping back to attention just in time to summon each new speaker. SHEILA SHINEBERG Physicians challenged the necessity and appropriateness of legislative interference in this one medical procedure singled out from all others. Lawyers questioned the constitutionality of the bill in the light of landmark rases. Dr. Sheila Shineberg, a professor of sociology at the University of Houston, pleaded with the committee "not to disenfranchise poor and minority women." Those women who are ignorant of their bodies, unaware of their options or unable to scrape up the cash, very poor and very young women, would be most several impacted by the legal deadline for abortions proposed by Von Dohlen. As an Austin NOW representative pointed out, "this restrictive piece of legislation would do nothing to guarantee women better health care." Houston attorney Helen Cassi- dy pointed to deficiencies in the bill's premises. Referring to the concept of a hard and fast rule based on a 22-week gestation, she said, "While I have no intention of being earthy on the House floor, I must point out that for anyone with a normal sex life, it is very hard to determine the exact time of conception so as to compute the Restation." SARAH WEDDINGTON Cassidy then brought out the fact that under the bill's loose definition of an abortional act — an act committed... with intent to cause the death of an unborn child or the expulsion or removal of an unborn child from the womb of the woman other than for the principal purpose of removing a dead fetus — the Caesarean delivery of her son would have made her a felon and made him a ward of the state. Poppy Northcutt, speaking for the Texas Women's Political Caucus, questioned the legislature's concern for unborn children in light of "the lack of importance placed by this legislature on adequate sex education" which might serve to reduce the rate of unwanted pregnancies. Rep. Sarah Weddington (D- Austin) rounded out the testimony with a summary of medical and legal arguments against the bill. She praised "the responsible manner in which the physicians of Texas are handling the abortion situation," giving her vote of confidence to the medical profession's ability to voluntarily establish standards. Weddington called Ballenger on his quotation of an AMA journal statement that saline abortions were extremely dangerous, problem pregnancy? AARON WOMEN'S CLINIC PREGNANCY TESTING COUNSELING • REFERRALS Strict Confidentiality call 774-9706 pointing out that the statement had appeared in a letter to the journal's editor rather than in a piece of published research. Weddington challenged the interpretations of constitutional law put forth by Witherspoon, under whom she had studied at UT. Thus far, she said, the higher courts had decided in favor of the student rather than the professor. Weddington, it must be remembered, was the attorney who argued the case for legalized abortion in Roe v. Wade before the U.S. Supreme Court four years ago. Committee members questioned the speakers at some length. Chase Untermeyer (R-Houston) thought the bill lent itself to loopholes, questioning the precision of such wording as "best medical judgment" and "grave impairment of health," which occurred frequently. Wilhelmina Delco (D-Austin) wanted to know if other states had passed such legislation and if so, had it passed the test of constitutionality. Ernestine Glossbrenner (D- Alice) took exception to the bill's proponents who refused to consider impaired mental health as a consideration for permitting an abortion after the 22nd week. She suggested that a woman who discovered she was carrying a fetus with Downes' syndrome, a genetic defect which is not detectable until after the fifth month, might suffer great damage to her mental health if compelled to bear the child. Discussion dwindled and the bill was referred to subcommittee, where it seemed likely to remain. Von Dohlen's bill resurfaced unexpectedly from committee (see ALERT on facing page). Those wishing to lobby against it will have to work fast. Coleman appointed Anti-abortion backlash has been so strong of late that when Houston obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. John Coleman was appointed by the governor to the Board of Regents of Texas A & M University, the issue discussed at greatest length by the Senate Nominations Committee which reviewed qualifications was his partnership in the Cullen Women's Clinic, where abortions are performed. In questioning the appointee, Walter "Mad Dog" Mengden confined himself almost exclusively to such queries as "How many abortions do you perform a year?" and "Describe to us what a fetus aborted in the 12th week looks like." When asked if he thought the abortion objections were the real issue, Coleman said he felt that the objections were sincerely founded, although irrelevant to his qualifications. He said that there were other objections to his appointment initially: "At first, there were rumors of a political trade-out, that in return for the support of the Black Political Caucus for Calvin Guest as state Democratic Party chairman, Governor Briscoe agreed to name a black to either A & M or UT's board." Coleman is the first black to be appointed to the board of either university. It is interesting to note that two years ago, on the occasion of his appointment to the board of TSU, a predominantly black school, the same committee questioned him only as to whether his profession afforded him the time to devote to an additional position. About Mengden, Coleman said: "I feel just as strongly that women should have the option of JOHN COLEMAN abortion as he feels they should not. He was so melodramatic with his talk of Nazi executions; the other senators who had objections were gentlemen." "I was convinced all along that if I were judged by the same criteria as other nominees, I would be appointed," said Coleman. He was finally confirmed by a vote of 25 - 4. Asked for an opinion on HB 1875, Coleman called it "unnecessary" but did not seem unduly concerned. "It says that saline abortions could be performed only when there was no safer method available. Well, I am confident, in my own hands at least, that there is no safer method available for second trimester abortion. All the evidence to date shows that it is safer by far than the prostaglandin method, which is being tried as an alternative." He reiterated the fact brought out' in committee hearings on the bill, that saline abortion has a lower casualty rate than full-term delivery. — K.B. HOUSTON BREAKTHROUGH • MAY 1977 • PAGE 5