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Meet Jodie Laubenberg, The Local Lawmaker Behind Texas’ Controversial Anti-Abortion Bill

By Tara Culp-Ressler  

"Meet Jodie Laubenberg, The Local Lawmaker Behind Texas’ Controversial Anti-Abortion Bill"

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Texas Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (R) (Photo courtesy of the congresswoman)

Over the past several weeks, thousands of Texas activists have been protesting their GOP-controlled legislature’s decision to push through a controversial package of abortion restrictions. Nonetheless, the anti-abortion bills are successfully advancing this week. The Texas House gave preliminary approval to the legislation on Tuesday evening — after Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (R), the bill’s sponsor, kicked off the debate by prominently displaying a pair of baby shoes “to represent aborted babies who can’t speak out against the procedure.”

Laubenberg has been thrust into the national spotlight amid the ongoing protests over Texas’ proposed abortion bill. And, even as the rest of the country continues to follow the contentious debate in the Lone Star State, the Republican lawmaker has steadfastly refused to back down from her stringent anti-choice agenda. For more than nine hours on Tuesday, Democratic lawmakers attempted to tweak the abortion legislation. They suggested adding an exception for victims of rape or incest, adding an exception for Texans who can prove they didn’t receive accurate sex ed, and repealing the provision that will force abortion clinics across the state to close, among other changes — but Laubenberg rejected each one.

But it’s hardly the first time that the GOP lawmaker from Parker, TX has stubbornly staked out an extreme position. Laubenberg, who ran unopposed in the 2012 election, has a long history of far-right politics in the Texas legislature:

She’s ranked the third most conservative member of the Texas House.

The Texas Conservative Coalition gives Laubenberg a 94.15 out of 100 on the “comprehensive TCC scorecard,” which rates lawmakers on their right-wing credentials. That’s the third highest score among all the legislators in her chamber, securing Laubenberg a place in the conservative group’s “Member Spotlight” hall of fame. She joined the state’s Tea Party Caucus in 2010, and she was one of a handful of representatives endorsed by the Texas Tea Party in the 2012 elections.

She recently claimed rape kits are a form of abortion.

During Texas’ first special session, Laubenberg attempted to defend the fact that her proposed 20-week abortion ban didn’t include an exception for rape victims. “In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out,” Laubenberg claimed on the House floor, suggesting that rape kits include an optional abortion procedure. In fact, rape kits collect DNA evidence that could be useful in a criminal investigation, and are completely unrelated to pregnancy. The AP reported that Laubenberg “has difficulty debating bills” and chose to remain silent during the rest of the discussion about her abortion legislation, rejecting all future proposed amendments to the bill without speaking.

She accused Texas’ budget board of using “government math” when it pointed out that cutting family planning funds would lead to more unplanned births.

In 2011, when the Texas legislature approved deep cuts to family planning programs, the state’s Legislative Budget Board warned lawmakers that decision would have some financial consequences. The government estimated that funding affordable contraception would save Texas $80 million in its next two-year budget because fewer babies would be born to low-income women enrolled in Medicaid (a health outcome that the Health Department regularly measures). “We’re going to save on the non-babies that are being born? We’re going to prevent baby births?” Laubenberg responded. “This has got to be government math.”

She argued that low-income pregnant women shouldn’t get government-sponsored prenatal care because their fetuses aren’t born yet.

Laubenberg has been arguing in favor of her proposed abortion restrictions under the logic that life begins at conception. “If you believe that (a fetus) is a human being, then that human being also has rights, and we must protect that baby’s rights,” Laubenberg said earlier this month. But she doesn’t necessarily take that stance when it comes to poorer women’s fetuses. In 2007, she proposed requiring pregnant women to wait three months before becoming eligible to receive prenatal and perinatal benefits under the Children’s Health Insurance Program. When Democratic Rep. Rafael Anchia pointed out that change would kick more than 95,000 low-income women — and their unborn children — out of the government program, Laubenberg responded, “They’re not born yet.” When Anchia suggested her amendment wasn’t pro-life, Laubenberg yelled at him — but later withdrew her amendment.

She backs unconstitutional legislation to allow Texas to defy federal gun regulations.

It’s already harder to get an abortion than it is to get a gun, but Laubenberg wants to keep furthering the divide. As just one of many pro-gun advocates in the Texas House, she recently sponsored a bill that would allow firearm and ammunition manufacturers operating inside Texas to exempt themselves from federal gun laws. She also co-sponsored an even more far-reaching proposal that would make enforcing federal gun laws a felony in Texas. Laubenberg’s positions on gun issues have earned her a 92 percent approval rating from the NRA.

She’s the state chair for ALEC in Texas.

Perhaps unsurprising given her legislative positions, Laubenberg serves as Texas’ state chair for ALEC, the right-wing group that coordinates conservative legislation across different states. The lawmakers who are appointed to state chairmen positions help recruit new members for the group, as well as help push ALEC’s draft legislation — like measures to ban paid sick days, eliminate environmental protections on public lands, allow the use of deadly force for self-defense, bust unions, and ultimately further corporate interests — toward approval in their states.

Update

This post has been updated to include Laubenberg’s affiliation with ALEC.

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