Last November the Texas Right to Life organization sent out to everyone on their email list their annual analysis of the pro-life voting record of the member of the Texas Legislature in the last General Session and the two Special Sessions of 2013. The analysis and the method used by TRL in grading the legislators is made known to the legislators prior to the sessions. In 2013 the TRL led the fight of prolifers in Texas which resulted in the defeat of bills that were dangerous to persons in end-of-life situations. Unfortunately the Bishops of Texas supported those bad bills and Jeffery Patterson, the Executive Director of their Texas Catholic Conference, took their defeat as a personal attack on his professional ability as the chief lobbyist for the Texas Bishops. In December Patterson mailed a letter viciously attacking TRL. The letter caused a great deal of scandal among Texas prolife people not only because it supported the position of the proponents of passive euthanasia but because of its intemperate language; the fact that he was writing on behalf of the bishops of Texas made the letter a source of popular scandal.
It was inevitable that the leading pro-abortion newspaper in the United States, The New York Times, would pick up the story of the attack by Jeffery Patterson and TCC on TRL in the name of the bishops of Texas in view of the viciousness of his attack and would join forces to defame TRL. Without a doubt the letter of Patterson and the article by the NYT is the opening salvo of the fight that will take place in Texas in preparation for the next bi-annual session of the Texas Legislature in 2015.
The Texas Tribune
Texas Right to Life Criticized for Playing Politics With Ratings
By BECCA AARONSON
Published: January 4, 2014
A rift on how to regulate end-of-life care that broke out during last year’s legislative session has carried over into this year’s election cycle.
Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune
Texas Right to Life gave even Senator Donna Campbell a low score.
And one group’s political scorecard has created a minefield in some Republican primary races, leading to heavy criticism from Roman Catholic bishops in Texas.
The 2013 scorecard by Texas Right to Life, which grades lawmakers based on their support of legislation related to anti-abortion and end-of-life issues, holds great sway in many Republican primaries. But the Texas Catholic Conference, which lobbies on behalf of the 15 Roman Catholic bishops of Texas and their dioceses, says the group has, in order to exert political power, misrepresented the positions of politicians committed to both anti-abortion causes and the rights of the terminally ill. The bishop’s group specifically points to the scorecard’s penalties for lawmakers regarding legislation that would have amended the state’s Advance Directives Act.
“What was most troubling to the Texas Catholic bishops was that the scorecard appears to attack those legislators who supported perhaps one of the most pro-life bills during the 83rd session,” Jeffrey Patterson, the executive director of the Texas Catholic Conference, wrote in a letter to legislators.
In defense of the scorecard, Elizabeth Graham, the director of Texas Right to Life, called the legislation endorsed by the Catholic bishops “an expansion of involuntary euthanasia.”
Texas doctors are allowed to discontinue treatment they deem medically futile. Patients or their surrogates can appeal a doctor’s decision to a hospital ethics committee, but advocacy groups say state law does not go far enough in protecting patients’ rights.
Senate Bill 303, which had the support of the Catholic group as well as Texas Alliance for Life and multiple medical associations, would have prohibited doctors from issuing “do not resuscitate” orders without notifying the patient or patient’s surrogate, extended the time frame to find an alternative provider to 14 days from 10 days and ensured that the patient or patient’s surrogate received assistance navigating the appeals process.
Meanwhile, Texas Right to Life endorsed Senate Bill 675, which would have required doctors to continue treatment until the patient or patient’s surrogate found an alternative provider. Neither measure succeeded.
Mr. Patterson of the Texas Catholic Conference said Texas Right to Life had selectively counted votes and haphazardly assigned points to attack lawmakers who had supported S.B. 303 instead of the bill it backed. As a result, he said, the scorecard misleads voters and unfairly characterizes lawmakers who have spent their careers supporting anti-abortion issues.
Ms. Graham said the scorecard was “calculated on our legislative priorities, which we communicate to members before and during the session.” Group members travel the state, seeking input from lawmakers and stakeholders, and remind lawmakers how they will be scored, she said.
Texas Right to Life dedicated a third of its scorecard to the end-of-life issue: Lawmakers who supported S.B. 303 or its companion, House Bill 1444, received 56 out of 100 points on average. Texas Right to Life deemed 12 Republicans in the Senate and 17 Republicans in the House “disappointments” — even though they backed strict new abortion regulations — because they supported S.B. 303 or H.B. 1444.
Although S.B. 303 passed the Senate, it stalled after Texas Right to Life told House members that the scorecard would punish anyone who supported the bill. Representative Bryan Hughes, a Republican from Mineola, who received the group’s third-highest 2013 rating, said that some might consider that a threat but that he appreciated the organization’s frankness.
“If you’re an advocacy group, you have to strike a balance,” he said. “You want to help your friends; you also want to hold up a standard.”
Mr. Patterson pointed out that Texas Right to Life had even criticized the records of politicians who played crucial roles in the passage of the anti-abortion regulations.
Senator Donna Campbell, Republican of New Braunfels, . called the point of order that effectively ended Senator Wendy Davis’s 11-hour filibuster of the anti-abortion regulations, but Texas Right to Life still labeled Ms. Campbell a disappointment. She supported S.B. 303.
In an email to The Texas Tribune, Ms. Campbell, who is facing three primary opponents in 2014, said that the way scorecards “reflect the truth is always open to interpretation” and that lawmakers had made great strides on anti-abortion issues this session.