New report reaffirms that the Healthy Texas Women program is still failing Texans

Blake RocapBy Blake Rocap, interim executive director and legislative counsel

Motivated by Texas’ alarmingly high maternal mortality rate, North Texas-based East Dallas Persistent Women activists investigated the providers listed on a state website as participating in the Healthy Texas Women program. Their findings, released in a report last week, affirm what our student-led research at NARAL Pro-Choice Texas and other organizations have consistently uncovered about Texas’ state-funded family planning programs—thousands of phone numbers are duplicates and therefore give an inaccurate picture of provider capacity; a wide range of health care providers listed as participating in the family planning program don’t actually provide reproductive health services, while others confirm that they don’t participate in the program at all.

This latest report is further evidence that the HTW program is inaccessible to the Texans who need it most because anti-abortion legislators, in decimating the program year after year, continue to prioritize politics over women’s lives.

Gov. Greg Abbott and his yes men at the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) have failed in their attempt to recreate a once successful program that received a $9 to $1 match of federal dollars before funding was slashed and effective community based providers were kicked out in 2011. HHSC now touts this third iteration of the program as a success but inflates the number of providers and can’t provide an accurate list of participating doctors. The agency also points to a client enrollment number inflated by auto-enrollment as a sign of success without any data that successful public health programs and researchers use to evaluate programs such as: unduplicated patient numbers, services provided, and a population level analysis of other costs avoided by providing preventative healthcare. Further, the agency has violated its own policy by awarding a significant amount of Healthy Texas Women funding to an ideological anti-abortion organization, the Heidi Group, with no experience providing medical care in an ongoing attempt to legitimize anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers over actual medical providers.

Despite a consistent outcry about the litany of problems with Healthy Texas Women, politics and ineptitude have allowed the dysfunction to continue while thousands of Texans go without health care. Let’s be clear—this is the direct result of the decisions made by Gov. Abbott, LT. Gov. Dan Patrick and the anti-abortion contingent in the Texas Legislature. If we change the decision makers this November, this failing program can be reformed to the success it once was.

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Inside an Austin Crisis Pregnancy Center

By Laura Gorsky and Breanna Wenke, 2018 NARAL Pro-Choice Texas interns

On March 9 we visited a local Austin crisis pregnancy center. CPCs are fake women’s health centers that intentionally lie about abortion and deceive pregnant people, manipulating them into carrying unwanted pregnancies to term. What’s worse, the Texas Legislature is funding them with our tax dollars to the tune of $9.1 million a year.

The two women who spoke to us never disclosed their role in the clinic, and therefore for someone who is not familiar with these clinics, it is not made clear that these women are not medical personnel. The two women conducting the consultation asked a lot of personal questions about family, faith, and background to try to dissuade me from getting an abortion. They asked about the father, and even when we disclosed that he was not in the picture, and would be disinterested, they encouraged us to tell him about the situation. In addition, even when I stated that I was not Christian, the woman insisted that God had a plan for us, and that I needed to ask why he had put us in this situation.

When discussing our options, the women told stories about the negative emotional “side-effects” of abortion, in an obvious attempt to dissuade us. They talked about how abortion causes emotional distress, however the American Psychological Association’s task force on mental health and abortion found that women who choose abortion are at no greater risk for mental health problems than those who carry an unintended pregnancy to term. They also used fear-mongering and graphic imagery to discourage abortion, implying that the procedure was very painful, and that we would “hear the vacuum sucking the fetus out.” In addition, they showed us pictures of the tools used during surgical abortions to show how painful the procedure would be for both the woman and the “zygote” after it was “scraped out of the uterus.”  However, the most alarming aspect of the consultation was the amount of misinformation we were given about the procedure. We were told that 90 percent of women who have abortions are infertile afterwards, which is not a scientifically proven fact.

Additionally, the women gave false information surrounding the abortion pill, and instead described it as Plan B, stating that the pill acts to stop the sperm from implanting in the woman’s body. As the session concluded, the women encouraged us to make an appointment for an ultrasound, and to take the weekend to really consider all of the options.

Crisis pregnancy centers like the one we visited are putting people’s health at risk. These centers divert pregnant people away from necessary medical care and provide false information with no medical basis. It is especially disturbing that the Texas Legislature continues to give millions of taxpayer dollars to these fake women’s health centers that mislead and lie to pregnant Texans while the state is in the middle of a maternal mortality crisis that disproportionately impacts black women. We need to end the lies that fake women’s health centers are spreading to Texans, and ensure women are able to access timely and trusted reproductive healthcare.

Learn more about crisis pregnancy centers in Texas by clicking here

U.S. Supreme Court Could Prevent Fake Women’s Health Centers in Texas from Lying to Pregnant People

Emily MartinBy Emily Martin, program director

On March 20, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a challenge to a California law intended to regulate crisis pregnancy centers, or CPCs, which operate nationwide under the guise of full service women’s health clinics but in fact deceive pregnant people and lie about abortion. The law in question requires that California’s CPCs provide accurate information about state reproductive health programs and that the unlicensed centers publicly notify visitors if no licensed medical professional works on site. The high court’s ruling, expected no later than this summer, could have national implications and could pave the way to prevent Texas’ CPCs from deceiving pregnant people seeking medical care.

For more than a decade, the Texas Legislature has allowed these fake women’s health centers to operate with no accountability and little oversight and continues to tout them as actual health care providers. This is especially disturbing, as our state grapples with addressing the rising maternal mortality rate.  Since 2005, the Legislature has been funneling millions to unlicensed and unregulated fake women’s health centers that intentionally mislead pregnant people and function primarily to dissuade them from accessing abortion care, but provide no prenatal care. That year, the Legislature created the Alternatives to Abortion program, siphoning money away from the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant and other public health programs like family planning and redirecting that money to non-medical, biased organizations that lie and manipulate to keep pregnant Texans from getting an abortion. The 2018-19 two-year budget, which went into effect last year, includes $9.1 million in taxpayer funding annually for fake women’s health centers.

The lack of clarity and truth about crisis pregnancy centers is exactly what allows them to thrive, especially in Texas where many clinics have closed and where many residents aren’t aware of the current abortion restrictions. Through NARAL Pro-Choice Texas’ investigative work into fake women’s health centers, we have evidence that the leaders of the anti-abortion movement are aware of the knowledge gap and take full advantage of it to lure unsuspecting pregnant people seeking legitimate medical care to their centers. Once inside, pregnant people are often subjected to coercive and religious counseling, bad science, fake medicine and misinformation about pregnancy, abortion, and contraception, creating a delay in accessing real health care. It is especially sickening to delay care as Texas’ maternal mortality rate—the highest in the country and developed world— continues to rise.  

These fake women’s health centers that advertise and represent themselves as health care professionals should not be allowed to deceive patients, lie about medical facts or pretend to be real medical facilities. Each of us should have access to licensed medical care when we need it, not ideological coercion, and regardless of the outcome of this case NARAL Pro-Choice Texas remains committed to exposing their deceptive practices and ultimately defunding them in Texas.

Learn more about CPCs in Texas by clicking here.

Release Alejandra Now!

On this International Women’s Day, we call for an end to injustices in our country against immigrants and demand the immediate release of powerful immigrant and reproductive justice activist Alejandro Pablos, who the U.S. government unjustly detained this week. Alejandra’s arrest follows a pattern of retaliation against immigrants’ rights organizers. Immigrant justice is reproductive justice and activists should never be detained for speaking up for the concerns of their community.

Although her immigration status should not matter, according to the petition from Mijente, Alejandra is a legal permanent resident who was placed into deportation proceedings after an arrest and she spent two years in detention. Alejandra has credible fear of being deported to Mexico based on dangers she would face as a political organizer and is currently in the process of seeking asylum. As Mijente reports, while leading chants at a peaceful protest in Virginia in January, Alejandra was abruptly detained. One of the Virginia agents called her deportation officer in Tucson and this week during her check-in with ICE in Arizona, she was held without the possibility of release or bond without a judge’s order.

Alejandra is not only a fierce advocate for immigrants’ rights, but a community organizer with the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health and a We Testify abortion storyteller. We urge all our supporters to let the U.S. government know that we will not tolerate the unlawful detention of activists. Please take a moment to send a message of support for Alejandra’s release.

For more on Alejandra’s story, check out this Rewire article.

 

 

A letter from our executive director

Heather BusbyIn late 2012, I came into my role as Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas on the heels of the Texas Legislature gutting the family planning infrastructure and amping up attacks on abortion access. I’d been taking calls on the abortion fund hotline and hearing firsthand how the sonogram law and the 24-hour waiting period were affecting the most vulnerable people in our state. From day one of my coming into this position, my goal was to do whatever I could to play a part to revitalize a resistance to the anti-choice agenda. I had a vision for building a strong organization and strong movement for reproductive health, rights, and justice in Texas.

I always saw my role as part of a transition, the bridge between a difficult period and the beginning of a strong long-term movement that will not settle for less than a society that honors all reproductive decisions, free from barriers, shame, and stigma. A movement that supports every person in Texas to decide for themselves whether, when, and how to parent and to do so with the support of their community.

I am heartened by the strong, diverse movement for reproductive health, rights, and justice emerging in Texas and nationally. And the goals I set out to achieve have for the most part been accomplished: we have a strong, growing majority of people across Texas speaking out for abortion access, family planning, and support for Texas families. I know the time is right make room for new leadership to take this movement to the next level. Therefore, I will be stepping down as executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas at the end of March 2018.

I am grateful to have this opportunity and I know there is a wealth of talented individuals ready to take on this challenge, especially among the people of color who are making important changes and improvements in the movement for reproductive health, rights, and justice.

When I took the helm of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, I could have never envisioned that seven months later I’d be part of building the “unruly orange mob” that came forth to make it possible for Sen. Wendy Davis to filibuster an omnibus abortion bill. I would never have predicted that our partners at Whole Woman’s Health would take the fight all the way to the Supreme Court, in one of the strongest decisions supporting access to abortion since Roe.

It has been an incredible ride and the greatest pride of my life to be part of this movement. I have had the honor of traveling around this great state over the past five years and seeing firsthand the spirit and resilience that lives in communities large and small. This movement’s strength does not reside in the state capital; it breathes fire in places like Lubbock and Waco, Brownsville and Bastrop.

NARAL Pro-Choice Texas has been a leader in protecting access to reproductive health in Texas for 40 years. This is a time of transition, but more than that it is an exciting opportunity for the organization and I eagerly anticipate where the next leader will take us.

In the past five years, the organization’s budget has increased by 500% and I am confident the next leader will continue to grow and strengthen this organization. I want to thank our members for continuing to support NARAL Pro-Choice Texas at this significant turning point in the organization’s history, so we can remain strong for the years to come.

I am so grateful to all the people who have been part of this movement over the past five years. Thank you to everyone who has sent an email or made a phone call to your elected officials, to everyone who has come to a lobby day or a rally or signed a petition. Every person I’ve met as I’ve traveled from El Paso to Houston, Plano to McAllen, has kept me going when this work has been incredibly hard. You are this movement and you are all leaders in your communities. Thank you for the love you have shown me and for continuing to support the important work of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas.

With love and solidarity,

Heather Busby

Click here for more information our search for a new executive director.