AUSTIN — Expansive abortion legislation has divided House members along party lines that few have crossed. Only a handful of representatives, one Republican and four Democrats, voted opposite Wednesday of the overwhelming majority of their fellow party members.
Two who did — Houston-area Republican Rep. Sarah Davis and Corpus Christi-area Democratic Rep. Abel Herrero — discussed their votes and the potential for political fallout, along with their efforts to offer amendments they said would improve the bill. Answers are edited for length and clarity.
Why did you vote contrary to the majority of your party?
Herrero: It’s important for people like myself that are pro-life, and wanting to make sure that women have access to health care, that we express that during the legislative process. There is a way to focus on what the real issue here is, and that is not partisan politics. Here, the issue is protecting the life of an unborn child while making sure that it is done in the most responsible way.
Davis: The bill, as written, is an unconstitutional bill, and I was trying to offer a version that would be considered constitutional. My amendment banned abortion at 20 weeks with the exceptions of rape, incest, health of the mother and severe fetal abnormality. Other parts of the bill, specifically requiring that physicians who perform abortions have privileges at a local hospital, is what’s ultimately going to make it unconstitutional. With those exceptions, the bill would be constitutional.
What have you heard from your constituents on your vote?
Herrero: I’ve received support for my work in support of the legislation; I’ve also received opposition from individuals in the district that do not support the legislation.
Davis: My constituents in Houston are overwhelmingly opposed [to the bill]. I’ve heard from many constituents; now, not all of them. We obviously get phone calls and letters from constituents that are supportive of the bill. Of the people that have contacted me about this bill that are my constituents, 80 percent to 85 percent have been asking me not to support HB 2. It seemed like the organized medical community was unilaterally opposed to this bill, and I represent the Texas Medical Center and a large number of physicians.
To what extent do you think your vote could be a factor in a primary election?
Herrero: My responsibility as a state legislator is to weigh all the information and testimony and communications that I’ve received from constituents … and make the best decision given the information. It’s up to the voters to decide.
Davis: I don’t vote based on what I think my next election is going to be about. I vote the way I think is correct and the way I think my constituents want me to vote. I was the only Republican last session to vote against the sonogram bill, and I did not draw a primary opponent. That is not to say that there won’t be one this time. If there is, my constituents will decide.