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Featured: Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, the author of Senate Bill 1259, which was co-sponsored by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, who serves as Chair, House Committee on Transportation. Senate Bill 1259, which went into effect on Sunday, September 1, 2019, changed the Code of Criminal Procedure and Penal Code to expand the conduct that constitutes the offense of sexual assault. The measure is designed to prevent and prosecute the deceptive use of artificial insemination practices.

Photograph Courtesy SEN. JOAN HUFFMAN CAMPAIGN

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Rep. Canales cosponsors legislation classifying fertility fraud as sexual assault 

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Legislativemedia@aol.com

A new Texas “fertility fraud” law, cosponsored by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, and supported by the Valley’s state legislative delegation, is designed to prevent and prosecute the deceptive use of artificial insemination practices.

Senate Bill 1259, which went into effect on Sunday, September 1, 2019, changed the Code of Criminal Procedure and Penal Code to expand the conduct that constitutes the offense of sexual assault.

The legislation comes after Dallas resident Eve Wiley discovered that her mother’s fertility doctor used his own sperm during an insemination procedure instead of the donor her mother selected, according to statewide and national news coverage of the event. 

(https://www.texastribune.org/2019/05/16/texas-house-bill-fertility-fraud-crime/)

“As a result of Eve Wiley’s determination and courage to protect other families in the future from suffering the shock and trauma she went through, she came to the Texas Legislature, and we moved quickly and unanimously to deal with this type of travesty,” said Canales, who also serves as Chair, House Committee on Transportation.

Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, is the author of SB 1259, while Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Ft. Worth, was the main sponsor of the measure.

As cosponsor, Canales joined with the Klick, the primary sponsor, to guide Senate Bill 1259 through the legislative process in the House of Representatives.

The author is the legislator who files a bill and guides it through the legislative process (also called the primary author). The senate allows multiple primary authors for each bill or resolution. The House of Representatives allows only one primary author, the House member whose signature appears on the original measure and on the copies filed with the chief clerk. Both chambers also have coauthors, and the house of representatives has joint authors.

The sponsor is the legislator who guides a bill through the legislative process after the bill has passed the originating chamber. The sponsor is a member of the opposite chamber of the one in which the bill was filed.

Prior to the passing of Senate Bill 1259, which was approved by Gov. Greg Abbott, state laws dealing with sexual assault did not prohibit health care services providers performing assisted reproduction procedures from using their own reproductive material or the reproductive material of another donor unauthorized by the patient to impregnate the patient, Canales explained.

According to a bill analysis by the House Research Organization: “As assisted reproduction procedures become more commonplace, stories of “bad actors” have also, sadly, become more commonplace,” the House Research Organization further reported. “Additionally, as the popularity of personal genetic identification kits, such as “ancestry.com” rises, people are now able to find out that the person they thought they were related to, actually are not related to those individuals.” 

Although various definitions have been used for Assisted Reproduction Technology, the definition used by Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is based on the ART Success Rates Report. According to this definition, includes all fertility treatments in which both eggs and embryos are handled. In general, ART procedures involve surgically removing eggs from a woman’s ovaries, combining them with sperm in the laboratory, and returning them to the woman’s body or donating them to another woman. They do NOT include treatments in which only sperm are handled (i.e., intrauterine—or artificial—insemination) or procedures in which a woman takes medicine only to stimulate egg production without the intention of having eggs retrieved.

https://www.cdc.gov/art/whatis.html

In addition to Wiley, the following individuals also registered in support of Senate Bill 1259:

David Sinclair, Game Warden Peace Officers Association;
Mark Clark, Houston Police Officers’ Union;
Brian Hawthorne, Sheriffs’ Association of Texas;
Noel Johnson, Texas Municipal Police Association;
Justin Keener;
Doug Deason;
Maia Emmons;
Cheryl Emmons; and
Tahner Scott.

The House Research Organization is the nonpartisan research arm of the Texas House of Representatives.

Other key background on the issue and the legislation, as provided by the House Research Organization, follows:

Penal Code sec. 22.011 governs sexual assault offenses, which individuals commit when they intentionally or knowingly perform certain sexual acts on another person without the consent of that person. Sec. 22.011(b) lists the circumstances that constitute sexual assault without the consent of another person.

Sexual assault offenses are second-degree felonies (two to 20 years in prison and an optional fine of up to $10,000). If the victim was a person whom the actor was prohibited from marrying or purporting to marry or with whom the actor was prohibited from living under the appearance of being married, the offense is a first-degree felony (life in prison or a sentence of five to 99 years and an optional fine of up to $10,000).

Senate Bill 1259 expands the conduct that constituted sexual assault without the consent of another person to include if the actor was a health care services provider who, in the course of performing an assisted reproduction procedure on another person, used human reproductive material from a donor knowing that the other person had not expressly consented to the use of material from that donor. The offense would be a state-jail felony (180 days to two years in a state jail and an optional fine of up to $10,000).

The new law defines human reproductive material as human spermatozoa or ova or human organisms at any stage of development from fertilized ova to embryos.

The statute of limitations for the offense is now set at two years from the date the offense was discovered.

The new state law only applies to offenses committee on or after September 1, 2019.

UTRGV SCHOOL OF MEDICINE ANNOUNCES VAQUEROS MD, EARLY-ASSURANCE PRE-MED PROGRAM

Leaders with the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine, in partnership with the Honors College, on Monday, October 21, 2019, announced a new early-assurance, pre-med program for high school students throughout the Rio Grande Valley.

Vaqueros MD, designed to increase the number of high-achieving high school students who enroll and complete their medical education close to home, will be available for select students starting Tuesday, November 1, 2019.

“This program will identify and select highly talented high school students who will earn their undergraduate degrees at UTRGV,” said Dr. John H. Krouse, Executive Vice President for Health Affairs at UTRGV and Dean of the School of Medicine. “At the same time, these students will be accepted into our Honors College, where they will receive conditional acceptance into the UTRGV School of Medicine to enter the Class of 2024.”

Up to five candidates will be chosen for the program through a competitive selection process, with the application process opening Tuesday, November 1, 2019, and ending in January 2020.

To enter the program, students who are still in high school must apply and be accepted to UTRGV, and then must apply separately to the UTRGV Honors College through the online application system. Selected students will be guaranteed a seat in the School of Medicine’s entering class of 2024 if requirements for admission are met.

“This will be a pathway for students in South Texas into the university and into the Medical School here,” Krouse said. “At present, 32 percent of our student body in the School of Medicine are residents of the Rio Grande Valley; it is our goal to make that 50 percent.”

The program is open to high school juniors and seniors in South Texas who are interested in applying to UTRGV and have an interest in attending medical school or other health-related professional programs after earning their undergraduate degree.

McAllen native Patrick O. Ojeaga III, a third-year medical student in the UTRGV School of Medicine, said programs like these make the idea of graduating from medical school attainable.

“I came back home to serve this area and learn and train where I was born and raised and learn from this community, where there is so much health disparity,” said Ojeaga, an undergraduate from UT Austin. “Programs like this early assurance program are incredible for high school students who can look forward to becoming a medical student and know that it’s attainable close to home.” 

The program itself is a game changer for the area, said UTRGV President Guy Bailey.

“We have some of the best students in the United States,” Bailey said. “We’ve exported that talent for a long time. It’s time to keep that talent here, in the Valley.” 

Once accepted to the UTRGV Honors College, students choose the School of Medicine’s Early Assurance Program (EAP).

• Preferences for UTRGV’s EAP admission will be given to students who:
• Are the first-generation to attend college.
• Graduated from a Title 1 high school.
• Are eligible for need-based grants.
• And express and support an interest in a high-need medical specialty area.

“What we want to do is transform the Valley and this is a major step in doing that,” Bailey said. “We really appreciate everybody in the Medical School who has worked hard to make this happen.”

A complete list of requirements is available on the website at https://www.utrgv.edu/som/admissions/requirements/index.htm. For more details, contact VaquerosMD@utrgv.edu or call (956) 296-1600.

About UTRGV

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. 

UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.

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Amanda Taylor contributed to this article. Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, represents House District 40 in Hidalgo County, which includes portions or all of Edinburg, Elsa, Faysville, La Blanca, Linn, Lópezville, McAllen, Pharr and Weslaco. He may be reached at his House District Office in Edinburg at (956) 383-0860 or at the Capitol at (512) 463-0426. For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories which affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com)

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