Bill protects babies born alive despite abortion attempts

April 23, 2019

Monica Rivera, son Omar Gonzalez, and her husband Rodolfo Gonzalez are shown in a recent family portrait. She recently testified in support of House Bill 16 at the State Capitol before the House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee on the importance of providing medical care for babies born alive despite abortion attempts or conditions assumed to be fatal. Photo courtesy of Monica Rivera.

HOUSTON — Providing medical care for babies even if survival may be slim is so important to Monica Rivera, a Houston hospital social worker, that she traveled to Austin to testify before a legislative committee, bringing her three-year-old son as living proof.

Rivera, on March 25, the day before Catholic Advocacy Day, waited several hours to testify, along with Omar who was diagnosed prenatally with Trisomy 13 or Patau Syndrome. The extrachromosomal condition is associated with severe intellectual disability and physical abnormalities. Only about 20 percent of babies born with Trisomy 13 survive the first year of life.

The long wait came because several committee members, including Rivera’s own State Representative Jessica Farrar, did not show up for the House Bill 16 (HB 16) hearing and delayed proceedings waiting for a quorum.

“I’m here in support of HB 16 because we believe every child should have medical care available to them if needed,” Rivera told the committee when it finally convened.

Despite her obstetric gynecologist discussing possible abortion, Rivera said she and her husband did not consider it. However, the doctor still encouraged them only to provide comfort care, which offers minimal nutrition and oxygen once the child was born to keep him comfortable and pain medicine if needed.

At the family’s insistence, a neonatal team agreed to provide Omar with full care, including life-saving measures.

“My husband and I were always realistic about the possibilities, but we wanted to fight for Omar, as long as he was willing. Omar would not be here today if we only provided comfort care. A baby born after a failed abortion deserves this same level of care,” Rivera testified.

“We are blessed to have Omar, as many children with his syndrome do not survive, even with medical care. He is a happy child, who knows he is loved and loves us. All children deserve this love,” she said.

In a joint statement, committee vice chairwoman Farrar, D-Houston, and Dallas-area Representatives Yvonne Davis, Julie Johnson and Victoria Neave noted that Republicans “enjoy a majority” and could conduct business without them.

The four in the statement said, “We refuse to offend our fellow Texas women, their families and licensed physicians by wasting time on unnecessary legislation designed to intimidate and restrict women’s access to health care.”

Other testimony in the hearing came from women who said they survived after their mothers received abortions, including one whose twin was aborted, but she lived.

HB 16 has since been voted favorably 4-1-19 from the House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee.