Anti-choicers don’t know what to do when something doesn’t go their way

Monday was a huge win for Planned Parenthood and for reproductive freedom. We finally saw justice when David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt – heads of the Center for Medical Progress and orchestrators of the undercover and heavily edited videos recorded at Planned Parenthood locations across the country – were indicted by a Houston grand jury while the health care provider was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing. The indictment was the exact opposite of what Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick wanted when they ordered the Houston DA to open up the investigation in July, making it quite the glorious plot twist in this ongoing sting operation.

Anti-choice lawmakers and organizations quickly denounced the outcome and reenergized their usual victim narrative, so much so that “pro-life” Houston DA Devon Anderson, who was endorsed by Texas Right to Life in 2014 and was in charge of the investigation into Planned Parenthood, went on camera on Thursday to explain how the justice system works for all of the grown adults in charge who can’t seem to understand (via KHOU):

“The inconvenient truth of a criminal investigation is that it doesn’t always lead where you wanna go. Anyone who pays attention knows that I’m pro-life. I believe abortion is wrong. But my personal belief does not relieve me of my obligation to follow the law.”

-Harris County DA Devon Anderson

Gov. Abbott even went on to say in an interview with WFAA that “the grand jury made no decision whatsoever about what Planned Parenthood did”, even though, if you’re following along, the grand jury did in fact make a decision about what Planned Parenthood did not do. Meanwhile, defense lawyers for Daleiden and Merritt continue to say that the indictments were given by a “runaway grand jury”, and that sneaking into a Planned Parenthood facility with fake IDs and hidden cameras somehow makes their clients journalists, granting them protection under the 1st Amendment.

The tantrums are expected. These folks have spent years building a system that’s designed to work in their favor – one where every time the anti-choice contingent in Texas wants the state government to do something for them, all they have to do is ask. So when someone actually does their job and serves justice where it’s due, anti-choicers will naturally default to their old tactic of ignoring reality and continuing the made-up fervor. What else do you do when your movement isn’t based in science or fact?

As Andrea Grimes put it in the Texas Observer, scoring an indictment against Planned Parenthood “was never really the point” for these people:

“The point was the noise. The froth. The media circus. The reporters who jump to be the first to catch images of state agents raiding clinics.

The truth is an afterthought.”

While we should count this indictment as a moment of vindication, it’s important to keep in mind that there are still two other investigations into Planned Parenthood happening in Texas, one of which is being conducted by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, the same Senate in which Dan Patrick presides.

In all likelihood the Legislature won’t find that Planned Parenthood did anything wrong, and the lawmakers in charge probably expect that, but they’ve already cut the organization from the Breast and Cervical Cancer Screenings program as well as from the HIV Prevention Program in the last year alone because some Planned Parenthood locations also provide abortion services.

This smear campaign isn’t over yet, and its motives remain clear: continue to vilify reproductive health care providers, increase abortion stigma and put barriers between people and the health care they need in the process.

House Bill 2 is officially heading to the Supreme Court. What’s next?

The Supreme Court of the United States officially signaled Friday that they would hear Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, the case against Texas’ most damaging anti-choice law, House Bill 2. It’s been 20 years since the Court has heard a case concerning access to abortion, the last time being Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992.

Planned Parenthood v. Casey set the legal standard of an “undue burden” –meaning that those who take anti-choice laws to court have to prove that the law creates a “substantial obstacle” to abortion access. In Texas, House Bill 2 has closed swaths of clinics, especially those in West Texas. The Rio Grande Valley in particular would have no abortion provider had the Supreme Court not placed a stay on the law – otherwise, patients would have to make the 200+ mile drive to San Antonio to get the care that they need.

The other component of the case, according to SCOTUSblog, is “whether the Fifth Circuit erred in concluding that this standard permits Texas to enforce, in nearly all circumstances, laws that would cause a significant reduction in the availability of abortion services while failing to advance the State’s interest in promoting health – or any other valid interest.”

The timeline of abortion access in Texas since 2013.

The timeline of abortion access in Texas since 2013.

Since Senator Wendy Davis’ historic filibuster of House Bill 2 in 2013, Texas abortion providers have opened and closed their doors as the law has bounced around the court system, having successful rulings by a federal judge in Austin only to be struck down by the more-conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Now that the court has taken up Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, the nine justices will hear the case sometime during Spring 2016. Like many of the current Court’s rulings on contentious issues, they will likely be split in their ruling, with Justice Anthony Kennedy serving as the swing vote. Similar to their order to put a stay on House Bill 2, Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Scalia, Justice Alito and Justice Thomas will likely dissent, while Justice Ginsberg, Justice Breyer, Justice Sotomayor and Justice Kagan will probably vote to strike down House Bill 2. Justice Kennedy will likely hold a lot of power, and Texans’ access to abortion care, in his hands.

BREAKING: SCOTUS temporarily blocks HB 2

SCOTUS block

In a 5-4 decision, the United States Supreme Court has granted a temporary stay of House Bill 2 while the 9 justices decide whether to hear Whole Woman’s Health v. Lakey, the case that’s been making its way through federal courts since August 2014 (read the order here). Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Scalia, Justice Alito and Justice Thomas voted against the order.

Had the Court not stepped in, the law would have gone into effect on Wednesday, July 1, shuttering all but a handful of clinics throughout the entire state and leaving a vast majority of Texas without a provider of safe, legal abortion care in many communities that need them.

This is the second time the Supreme Court has granted an emergency request to stay HB 2, the first being in October 2014 before going back for another hearing in front of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in January of this year.

Read our statement below:

Supreme Court Order Delays Anti-Abortion Texas Law From Going Into Effect

Lawmakers are using human trafficking to disguise anti-choice legislation

If there’s anything the anti-choice movement loves more than passing bills to keep people from making decisions about their own lives, it’s couching those bills within other issues to make them seem more palatable. In a move that is particularly callous, the anti-choice movement is using the terrible crime of human trafficking to manipulate the public in their never-ending quest to demonize and attack abortion providers.

Human trafficking – the recruitment, harboring, transporting, or procurement of a person for labor or services for the purpose of involuntary servitude, slavery or forced commercial sex acts – is the fastest growing business of organized crime and the third-largest criminal enterprise in the world. Here in Texas, we’re outranked only by California in human trafficking survivors and Houston has the most human trafficking survivors among U.S. cities. It’s certainly a growing threat that should be addressed with pragmatic legislation, especially in our state, and that legislation should always aim to identify and assist survivors in the best way possible.

Health care providers are in a unique position to identify human trafficking survivors (one study shows that 28% of victims will seek health care while under the enslavement of their captors), particularly emergency rooms, community health providers, dentists and others. However, the two bills proposed this legislative session only require human trafficking training for one type of health care provider: abortion clinics.

We know what you’re thinking: why would someone use a  devastating issue like human trafficking to push an anti-choice agenda in a state that already has so few abortion providers? Who would use the tragedy of sex trafficking to achieve political gain?

SB 1873 by Sen. Donna Campbell (R) and its companion bill HB 416 by Rep. Debbie Riddle (R) represent not only another legislative attempt to over-regulate abortion clinics, but also a dire lack of understanding about the populations of human trafficking victims that live in Texas. Both bills apply only to abortion clinics of which, because of targeted efforts from previous legislative sessions seeking to restrict access to abortion, there are very few left.

If Campbell and Riddle really cared about identifying victims of human trafficking, they wouldn’t use the issue as a vehicle to pass more laws that would be yet another regulation on abortion care.  Their assumption that the few abortion providers left should carry the sole responsibility of identifying human trafficking victims is irresponsible, ignoring the true nature of the crime and experts’ research. Both lawmakers should instead be modeling legislation after the recommendations of The Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force, which makes recommendations on what the Legislature should do to combat human trafficking. During the 2013 Legislative Session, Rep. Senfronia Thompson passed HB 1272 to not only continue the task force but also to develop curriculum and tools for all medical providers.

The good news is abortion providers already provide comprehensive training on human trafficking, domestic violence and coercion to their staff and clinic workers are devoted to assisting their patients in violent situations. The patients’ personal safety is of the utmost concern, and they’ve been doing one-on-one counseling sessions with their patients for years – they didn’t need the state of Texas to mandate it. But if the Legislature is going to require this training, they should do so in a comprehensive way that is most likely to help the maximum amount of survivors.

SB 1873 and HB 416 should be amended to reflect the true nature of human trafficking and not exclude all health care at facilities survivors might encounter. Not expanding these bills to include all medical providers represents a serious missed opportunity for intervention. If Campbell and Riddle really want to claim that they intend to counteract human trafficking in an effectual and research-based manner and not just make it harder for abortion providers to operate, they should accept an amendment.


This week: three anti-choice bills and one pro-choice bill in House State Affairs

Update, April 29, 3:00 PM: House State Affairs has begun hearings. We’ll let you know when any of the below bills come up, and you can live stream here.

Update, April 28, 3:45 PM: HB 1942 has been pulled from the hearing schedule. 

Another week in the legislature means another week of hearings that we need you to be present for! All bills will be heard at the House State Affairs Committee in the John. H. Reagan Building (15th and Congress), Room 140 on Wednesday.

To start off, here are the anti-choice bills that need your opposition:

  • HB 1942 Relating to judicial authority to issue orders allowing minors to consent to abortions and disclosure of that authority. This bill would “out” judges who grant judicial bypass, a form of intimidation meant to keep judges from granting them!
  • HB 1648 Relating to voluntary and informed consent to an abortion and prevention of coerced abortions; providing penalties; creating an offense. Rep. Molly White’s bill with a number of bad provisions, including a 72 hour waiting period for abortion if you are a victim of violence or trafficking!
  • HB 832 Relating to reporting requirements for a physician performing an abortion at an abortion facility. Rep. Matt Schaefer’s bill – which you may remember from his HHS sunset bill amendments – that targets physicians who perform abortions for unreasonable, onerous and unnecessary reporting requirements.

There’s also one pro-choice bill that needs your support: 

  • HB 2643 Relating to parental leave for certain state employees. This bill provides a modest 20 days paid parental leave for state employees after all sick and vacation time is exhausted. While we’d love it to go further, it’s a great start for the state of Texas to support families, especially after decimating the reproductive health care system!

Want to show your position on the legislation but don’t have time to stay for the hearing? You can swing by the Capitol, register and leave anytime after 10:30 a.m. Read more here about how to register from a mobile device or at one of the many iPad kiosks spread throughout the building.

As always, the House State Affairs committee will not convene until the House itself has adjourned for the day, meaning that these bills could get hearings in the early afternoon or they could be pushed into the evening. Watch our Twitter (follow #TrustTX or the bill number’s hashtag), Facebook and this post for updates on when these hearings will happen.

Rest up, wear orange and don’t forget your phone charger!