Texas Politics

‘Former fetus’ signs cause stir at Texas Capitol

Stickland says the sign was a message to Planned Parenthood: “Organizations that murder children are not welcome in my office.”
Stickland says the sign was a message to Planned Parenthood: “Organizations that murder children are not welcome in my office.” Facebook

Signs calling some lawmakers former fetuses are causing a stir at the Capitol, with one Tarrant County representative accusing another of intimidating his staff by removing them.

One of the signs appeared Wednesday morning on the wall outside Rep. Jonathan Stickland’s office. It identifies the Bedford Republican as a “FORMER FETUS,” using a format similar to the plaques near most members’ doors.

“It’s just been ripped down and thrown in my staffer’s face by Charlie Geren,” Stickland said, referring to the Fort Worth Republican, who chairs the House Administration Committee.

“I thought it was absolutely handled in the wrong way,” Stickland said. “I wish Rep. Geren was more professional about it instead of intimidating my staff.”

Calling Stickland’s account inaccurate, Geren said he removed the signs because they violated rules from the State Preservation Board, which is responsible for making sure the Capitol grounds are maintained.

“Tearing them down is hardly the deal,” Geren said minutes after Stickland shared the story on Twitter. “If Stickland wants to act like a child, that’s fair, but I did not rip it down.”

Stickland said the sign and others were distributed to some representatives by Texas Right to Life on Tuesday, a day before Planned Parenthood supporters were scheduled to visit the Capitol.

“In honor of their visit, I put this sign up on my office door,” Stickland said in a Facebook post with a photo of the sign. “Organizations that murder children are not welcome in my office.”

Right to Life tweeted Wednesday morning that it was “sad that signs are being torn down.” Spokeswoman Melissa Conway said the group worked with a “few” legislators to produce the signs and let them decide how to use them. The anti-abortion group, she added, is “saddened by reports of intimidation to remove the signs.”

More than 100 Planned Parenthood supporters attended a rally at the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon. Many came to lobby state lawmakers to continue funding the state’s breast- and cervical-cancer screening program for low-income women. The conservative Texas Senate is considering restructuring the program, which served about 34,000 women last year.

“I believe we will get to a point where decisions that are made in this building, when it comes to issues of women’s health, will be decisions based upon health and not based upon politics,” Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, said at the rally.

He also urged those in attendance to keep the discourse civil: “It is going to take all of us visiting in a respectful way and talking to people that many times we will talk to that don’t share our point of views.”

That will be a challenge.

At its root, the exchange between the two members actually might be a foreshadowing of stormy times in the House.

“I think the Kumbaya is about to be over,” Stickland said. “It’s time to start telling the voters where we stand. I think people are beginning to get anxious.”

This report includes material from the Austin American-Statesman.