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Senate OKs bill to allow construction of anti-abortion monument on state Capitol grounds

By Lucy Tompkins, The Texas Tribune and The New York Times

Senate OKs bill to allow construction of anti-abortion monument on state Capitol grounds” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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The Texas Senate on Tuesday advanced legislation that could initiate the process for construction of a sculpture of a mother with a fetus visible in her womb on Capitol grounds.

The sculpture would be a replica of the “Life Monument,” a bronze sculpture created by Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz. The original sculpture was installed in the Church of San Marcello al Corso in Rome last year and is often interpreted as a depiction of the central figures of Christianity, Mary and Jesus. Replicas have since been installed elsewhere.

The Senate approved Senate Continuing Resolution 24, filed by Sen. Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound, in a 20-10 vote on Tuesday. The legislation itself does not mean the monument will be erected, but it gives the State Preservation Board permission to begin accepting plans and raising private funding.

The resolution will now go to the House. An identical House resolution, filed by Rep. Tom Oliverson, R-Cypress, will be considered in the House Culture, Recreation and Tourism Committee later this week.

Several senators opposed the resolution, saying the statue seems to promote anti-abortion and religious beliefs in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. The Texas Legislature previously passed a law to ban nearly all abortions in the event that the court took such action.

“It’s going to feel to a lot of people like the celebration of a political victory last session of outlawing abortion in Texas,” said Sen. Nathan Johnson, D-Dallas. “And now you’re going to put it in concrete on the Capitol grounds.”

Parker said the statue is intended as a celebration of life and motherhood and not meant to make a political statement.

The artist has said that the statue carries a political message. In an interview with Vatican News, Schmalz said he set out to create “one of the most beautiful, life-affirming sculptures possible, a pro-life statue, that is all about the hope that beauty can save life.”

Lucy Tompkins works for the Tribune as a housing and homelessness reporting fellow through The New York Times’ Headway Initiative, which is funded through grants from the Ford Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), with Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors serving as a fiscal sponsor.

Disclosure: The State Preservation Board has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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