Texas House Dem Character Offended
by GOP Colleague's Stinging Rhetoric

Capitol Inside
August 14, 2022

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan may feel compelled to play the peacekeeper role in the wake of a verbal altercation that turned personal when a pair of influential lawmakers on his leadership team traded blows on abortion on social media this weekend.

The fracas erupted Friday night on Twitter when GOP State Rep. Jeff Leach took issue with a comment that Democratic State Rep. Donna Howard posted about the fallacy of claims that adoption is a viable alternative to abortion. Leach's biting characterization of Howard's words hit a nerve.

"It’s pretty sick and twisted to attack adoption, Donna," Leach, an attorney from Allen, tweeted. "The truth is: adoption is the loving option. Want proof? Just ask 100% of the kids whose moms chose it instead of abortion."

Howard countered - suggesting in a tweet that he'd attacked her integrity with the language that he'd used to voice his disagreement on the issue.

"Really disappointed in your characterizing me as sick and twisted," the Austin lawmaker said. "I am retweeting what is being said by those involved in this issue. You are welcome to your opinion. But I have never questioned your character for having a differing opinion."

Howard piqued her colleague's wrath initially with her take on a Texas Tribune report on Republicans touting adoption as an effective option to unwanted pregnancies in light of the state ban on abortions. Howard, who's a nurse, made several key points for her position in a relatively mild-mannered way.

“Adoption doesn’t do what abortion does," Howard said in the post that triggered the rhetorical skirmish. "It does not end a pregnancy, relieve the burden of pregnancy, avoid the health risks of pregnancy, alleviate the psycho-social harm of relinquishing for adoption. It is not at all a substitute for abortion.”

Leach wields significant clout at the Capitol as the chairman of the House Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committee. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, Howard has been a top Phelan ally across the aisle in a chamber where a bipartisan coalition is a prerequisite for victory in his bid for a second term with the gavel in January.

A charter member of the far right Texas Freedom Caucus before cutting ties eventually, Leach has seemed to be swimming against the current in recent months with moves that are unconventional for a staunch conservative. Leach played an instrumental role in the successful push to stop the scheduled execution of Melissa Lucio, who received a stay from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals two days before she was set to die. Leach called for a moratorium on the death penalty in the midst of the fight to save Lucio.

Leach went off the reservation again in July when he dropped his support for Donald Trump - a move that's extraordinarily rare for a Republican in Texas in the current climate.

"When he turned on VP Mike Pence - his incredibly effective VP, fiercely loyal friend and most faithful supporter," Leach tweeted. "That was THE moment for me. The turning point. The nail in the coffin. And all I need to know we Republicans need someone else running for President in 2024."









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