Legislators Take on State’s Maternal Mortality Crisis While Gov. Abbott Makes Empty Promises

This special session is all about attacking our rights and freedoms for the sake of Republican party primary election politics rather than finding solutions to any of a number of the issues our growing state faces. In fact, Gov. Greg Abbott promised to keep a list of all the lawmakers who supported his ideological war.

Texas Tribune reporter Patrick Svitek developed a ranking based on Abbott’s lists, and coming in among the proud zeros (hint: the lawmakers who put people over politics) is Rep. Shawn Thierry, whose Texas Moms Matter Act HB 11, passed the House unanimously this week.

Let’s not forget—It was Rep. Thierry who pushed Abbott to add maternal mortality to the special session call. If you were wondering where this falls on Abbott’s priorities, it came in last at item #20, behind hacking down heritage trees with abandon, despite Texas now having the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world. Yet he chose to champion a white female Republican’s bill, HB 10 by Rep. Cindy Burkett (you may remember Rep. Burkett from her sponsorship of SB 8, which outlaws the safest and most common second trimester abortion procedure, during the regular session) rather than the freshman representative who really gives a face to the issue.

The addition was a frustratingly small nod to the healthcare crisis that has been brewing in Texas since 2011, when the Legislature slashed programs and drastically reduced access to family planning. The maternal mortality task force has already issued two reports with recommendations that the Legislature largely failed to act on. Now rather than actually doing something, Gov. Abbott wants credit for its continuation.

Despite all this, we took solace in the fact that it was an opportunity to improve the work and focus of the task force and take concrete action towards saving mothers’ lives. It is an important step, and we urge lawmakers to implement lasting solutions to reducing maternal mortality in Texas and work with community organizations like The Afiya Center and Mama Sana in doing so.

Abbott’s focus on scoring political points rather than working to find solutions to public health challenges also erases the work of other legislators who have been working on the problem for years.  Rep. Armando Walle tried to establish this task force in 2011 and only succeeded in 2013. Rep. Thierry has worked tirelessly all year to direct the task force to study the real causes of the disproportionately high rate of maternal mortality among African American women, not just the racist causes other members of the Legislature might assume.

So while we appreciate that Gov. Abbott eventually realized the shame and tragedy of the maternal mortality rate in Texas, we’re not giving him any credit for only doing the right thing for women’s health after other members have worked on it for years. He continues to push anti-abortion bills in this same special session and further restrict local governments from partnering with organizations that provide medically accurate sex education and preventive reproductive health care just because they also offer access to abortion care. If Abbott truly cared about mothers, he wouldn’t be stripping us of our reproductive options. #soprolife