End-of-life talks stalled as Texas Right to Life will not come to the table

In letter, the group's attorney claims TEC could compel donor list release, other groups and their attorneys disagree

This story was originally published on the Quorum Report.

The thorny issue of how to reform Texas’ laws on end-of-life health care is front and center for prominent pro-life groups at the Texas Capitol. But, one of those groups is skipping out on negotiations about crafting legislation and in doing so the group’s lawyer is blaming the Texas Ethics Commission for rules aimed at transparency in elections.

Texas Right to Life is once again at odds with Texas Coalition for Life and Texas Alliance for Life, with the latter two of the three groups in agreement that there is no TEC rule standing in the way of productive talks on how to reform the Advance Directives Act.

Former Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, unsuccessfully pushed changes in 2013 that would have given patients’ families greater protections while providing clarity for doctors in situations when physicians and families do not agree about how to deal with a terminal illness.

During last year’s GOP primary runoff won by Sen. Bob Hall, Texas Right to Life seized on this issue and helped unseat Deuell by running broadcast advertisements that suggested he “turned his back on life and on disabled patients” and favored a “death panel.” Deuell has called those ads “slanderous” and the Texas Catholic Conference said Right to Life “has tried to stoke fear through ridiculous claims of non-existent death panels and assertions that doctors are secretly trying to kill patients. Both claims are absurd.”

Texas Right to Life is suing Deuell in Houston because, the group says, he infringed on their First Amendment rights by asking radio stations to cancel the advertisements. Deuell’s attorneys are working to get that case dismissed. A hearing is set in the next few weeks.

Given that backdrop, it might not surprise you to learn that Texas Right to Life is refusing to participate in talks at the Capitol aimed at coming up with a legislative solution on end-of-life care.

In an email obtained by Quorum Report, the group’s attorney Trey Trainor argued that a rulemaking by the TEC about coordinated efforts during elections applies to lobby efforts.

"Clearly such a focused effort, one that is sorely needed, would meet the common activity portion of the TEC's new acting in concert definition," Trainor wrote. "In fact, it is the singular focus of the group that wood evidence the common activity of the participating entities. If the end-of-life issue were ever discussed by any one of the participating entities in a campaign (notice the new rule, by design, has no limitation on when the cooperation or consultation had to occur in relation to a campaign expenditure) it could have the effect of forcing all the entities into donor disclosure," Trainor said.

"Participation by several non-profit entities in an organized and coordinated effort that has as its singular focus the discussion of one pending legislative/political issue jeopardizes the constitutionally protected private right of association of the donors to each entity because of the ambiguous and ill-conceived rulemaking of the Texas Ethics Commission,” Trainor said.

Trainor told Quorum Report that he could not comment on any advice he may have given his clients.

You can see a copy of the email here.

Executive Director of Texas Alliance for Life Joe Pojman said that his group’s attorneys do not agree the assessment in Trainor’s email.

“The TEC rule that he refers to does not apply to legislative activities, only to electioneering,” Pojman said. “The rule has no impact on our groups meeting to consider legislative action.”

Pojman argued that if Trainor were correct, the attorney would need to advise Texas Right to Life to withdraw from other activities in which end-of-life care has been discussed by multiple groups. Those activities include the Life, Liberty, and Property Coalition and the Texas Faith and Family Day at the Capitol headlined by Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Trainor said that those activities could not be equated with “a backroom meeting wherein all manner of political and legislative information may be exchanged,"

“We look forward to meeting with Texas Right to Life to discuss ways to work together on end of life and other critical pro-life issues, if they are willing,” Pojman said. “Our groups have a moral obligation to do no less. Our goal should be to protect vulnerable patients without forcing doctors to provide treatment that is immoral, has minimal chance of success, and risks inflicting further harm and great pain to the patient.”

Copyright March 09, 2015, Harvey Kronberg, www.quorumreport.com, All rights are reserved. Reprinted with permission.


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