DEFENDER OF LIFE

The Compelling Pro-life Record of Dr. Deuell

During his years of service in the Texas Senate, Dr. Deuell has compiled a record of defending life second to none. Moreover, he has done this in ways that not only protect those most vulnerable in our state – the unborn -- but also address the underlying causes of unplanned pregnancy.

Senator Deuell compassionately looks at the entire health situation of a disadvantaged woman who may find herself pregnant, and he believes she should receive guidance and, in some cases, assistance for her circumstances. He believes the whole person should be treated as well as the baby saved. Dr. Deuell also reviews the difficulties faced by the sick and their families at the end of life through the same caring perspective.

Soon after serving his first session in 2003, Senator Deuell conceived of the plan to defund state-supported health care providers who were also supported by Planned Parenthood. Even if a small clinic, such as in rural South Texas, may not actually offer abortions, Senator Deuell and others felt it was important to eradicate any Planned Parenthood influence from a such a clinic, as Planned Parenthood provides a network through which someone can obtain an abortion. Over the course of the next several legislative sessions, Senator Deuell and others worked at the Health Committee and through the budget process to cut back any and all connections between state assistance for women’s health and Planned Parenthood.

Key, however, to building support for the effort to block Planned Parenthood from Texas was Dr. Deuell’s plan to make sure any legitimate clinics which serve women’s health but don’t perform or refer abortions were able to stay open. Senator Deuell was finally able to completely sever Planned Parenthood’s ties to state women’s health assistance in 2011 when the Women’s Health Program came up for renewal. In order for clinics to participate in the state plan, a definition was amended to require them to offer comprehensive women’s health care. As the result of this important change, those clinics around the state open solely to sell abortions finally began to shutter.

During the 83rd Legislative Session, Senator Deuell again led the way on critical pro-life legislation, dealing with the protection of the unborn, women’s health, and those facing the end of their lives.

During the regular session, Dr. Deuell successfully got his bill, SB537, to require abortion clinics to meet the same standards of ambulatory surgical centers passed out of committee. Although Democrats blocked SB537 from floor consideration during the regular session, this bill became Section 3 of the Omnibus Pro-Life and Women’s Health Act, or SB5 during the first special session and HB2 during the second one. SB537 was the only piece of HB2 to pass committee during the regular session, thanks to Senator Deuell’s leadership. Dr. Deuell also advised his colleagues to include HB2364, Rep. Jodie Laubenberg’s Fetal Pain bill, as SB5 was being considered during the special session.

Senator Deuell also took a step forward for terminally ill patients and their families with Senate passage of SB303 during the regular legislative session. SB303 reformed the state’s Advance Directives law by protecting those facing a terminal illness in the following ways: the bill closed a loophole in state law which allows a doctor to unilaterally assign a Do-Not-Attempt-Resuscitation order; it provided minimum rules to providers and hospital ethics committees on how to consider a terminal case they may be treating; it put in place additional protections for those with disabilities prior to their terminal illness; and it tripled the time a patient has to find an alternative facility.

Considerable misinformation has been put out about SB303, specifically by one activist group, Texas Right to Life (TRL). The current Advance Directives law was passed in 1999 and signed by Governor George W. Bush with the support of TRL and the pro-life community. However, it soon became apparent that more improvements were needed. Hospital ethics committees existed well in advance of the 1999 law, but additional protections were needed as some committees tended to operate on an arbitrary, ad hoc basis, with variations from facility to facility that left patients and families vulnerable, hurt and confused. All of the terrible experiences related during last spring’s testimony against SB303 were the result of existing law – problems SB303 was designed to fix.

The first attempt at reform came in 2007 when Senator Deuell tried to pass SB439 during the 80th Legislature. This bill was similar to SB303 with the exception that it required a medical facility to treat a terminal patient until he or she could find a new facility – or indefinitely, regardless of anyone’s wishes or care. This provision, so-called “treat-to-transfer,” died in the Texas House before adjournment.

Senator Deuell then led all those affected by the Advance Directives law in a group effort to come up with reform that fairly respected everyone’s rights during such a difficult decision. Those involved in the work and ultimately endorsing it were pro-life advocates, doctors, religious leaders, disability advocates and hospitals. The product was SB303. In addition to protecting a doctor’s oath to first do no harm, the bill put in place for the very first time clear rules that a hospital ethics committee must follow when it evaluates treating a terminal patient. Among these rules is advance notice to a patient that a committee was about to meet to discuss his or her case – something that has been a significant problem with existing law. SB303 was a critical step forward in protecting patients and families and would have alleviated so many of the nightmares Texans had been experiencing at hospitals in recent years.

Regrettably, TRL decided that since SB303 did not contain “treat-to-transfer,” it was therefore a bad, anti-life bill. TRL then used deceit and misinformation to frighten House lawmakers with the label of being anti-life, thereby killing SB303 in committee. They have taken the additional, punitive step of assigning an entire third of their 2013 scorecard to SB303, the result being that if a Senator voted to pass it, they cannot score above 70 – even if their support of HB2 was unflinching!

Historically a Catholic-led organization, Texas Right to Life is owed a lot of the credit for protecting the unborn early in the pro-life movement. Their behavior over SB303, however, has put them at odds with the Texas Alliance for Life and its much broader, mainstream membership, not to mention the Roman Catholic leadership within the state, the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops. In a recent letter, Bishop Joseph Strickland of the Diocese of Tyler defended Dr. Deuell’s hard work on reforming the Advance Directives law by saying, “Your willingness to tackle such a controversial and political fight – especially after experiencing the issue in 2007 – demonstrates your commitment to human life and dignity despite misinformation and accusations to the contrary.”

Even with all these accomplishments on behalf of life, Senator Deuell believes much more remains to be done. This is one of the reasons he is seeking reelection. He also enjoys the respect of his colleagues and is regarded as one of the top experts on life issues in the Texas Legislature – even by those who disagree with him. Most importantly, Dr. Deuell believes that life can be protected and the well-being of vulnerable Texans assisted at the same time. He believes that a great state is one that defends life and liberty but also helps its less fortunate citizens in a responsible matter. Senator Deuell works hard to see that Texas is and remains that kind of state.

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