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NARAL Pro-Choice Texas points out that abortions after 20 weeks are already extremely rare, comprising just 420 out of the 77,592 abortions performed in Texas in 2010. Such abortions are almost always the result of a serious medical situation, said director Heather Busby in a prepared statement.

"It is especially outrageous to take options away from women who could be in tragic situations."

Perry said his "goal and the goal of many of those joining me here today is to make abortion, at any stage, a thing of the past." While Roe v Wade prevents that, Perry insists states can curtail abortion if they can demonstrate a compelling state interest in doing so. "I don't think there is any issue that better fits the definition of a 'compelling state interest' than preventing the suffering of our state's unborn," he said.

Drug testing welfare recipients

In late November, Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst begansounding off approval for SB 11, a pre-filed legislation by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), that would mandate drug testing for families receiving public assistance through TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), along with plans by Senate Finance Committee Chair Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands) that would require drug testing for those applying for unemployment insurance. Rep. Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio) has filed his own bill, requiring drug testing for anyone applying for state "financial assistance benefits," except for those applying solely on behalf of a child. The Houston Chronicle recently pointed out that TANF recipients number about 114,000 people, just .4 percent of Texans, and that 85 percent of those recipients are children.

The State of Florida provides a case study for how this fight could play out should the Lege approve drug testing for welfare recipients. There, lawmakers discovered that welfare applicants actually have significantly lower incidence of illicit drug use than the general public (no surprise, since drugs cost money). Moreover, the tests cost more than the benefits withheld under the program, nullifying the argument the testing would save the state money. Florida's program was ultimately suspended pending lawsuits questioning its constitutionality under the Fourth Amendment.

Immigration

"People say that Texas Republicans have learned not to mess with minorities," said state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio), chair of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus. "They certainly haven't."

But compared to the flood of anti-immigrant bills that hit the Lege last session (GOP state Rep. Debbie "Terror Babies" Riddle camped out on the Capitol steps before last session to ensure her immigration crackdowns would be the first filed), legislators have largely been mum on the issue in the lead up to this session.

Martinez Fischer fears immigration crackdowns will still be debated later in the session. Gov. Perry has again come out in support for anti-sanctuary cities measures, which he made an "emergency" item in 2011. And San Antonio's Lyle Larson is one of the few reps who has filed immigration-related bills before the 83rd session, including a measure to repeal the state DREAM Act giving in-state tuition to undocumented students, and a bill that would require institutions that get state funds, like hospitals and schools, track the immigration status of anyone receiving services. Rep. Bill Zedler (R-Arlington) has filed a measure that would ban local governments from spending any money on day labor centers undocumented immigrants use to find work.

"There are people who still have this insatiable appetite to polarize Hispanics and immigrants," Martinez Fischer says. While President Obama's stellar numbers with Hispanic voters may be taken as a national referendum on anti-immigrant rhetoric, Martinez Fischer doesn't think that translates to the Texas GOP. "I still believe there are many people here who believe the future of the Republican Party lies in being more extreme and polarizing on that front," he said.

"When you have somebody like Lyle Larson, who considers himself a moderate Republican … who files a bill to eliminate the state DREAM act for immigrant children, if that's the definition of a moderate Republican, then I think the Republican Party's moving further and further off the right-wing cliff."

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