Ken Paxton works with extremist activists to attack abortion access

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has no qualms about breaking the law for his own benefit, so it comes as no surprise that he’s working with a group with ties to domestic terrorists to further limit Texans’ access to abortion.

Paxton is wasting taxpayer dollars and state resources on a sham investigation into Planned Parenthood, and by launching this witch hunt and failing to investigate the real crime—anti-abortion activists’ violation of patient privacy laws—Paxton is supporting the dangerous tactics anti-abortion activists employ. The people who created a fake company in order to get the secretly-recorded videos have a long history of harassing abortion providers and patients. They have even been linked to clinic bombings and murderers who kill doctors in church.

The extremists behind the videos spent years harassing abortion providers and violating patients’ privacy to get material for their smear campaign. And the attacks didn’t stop there. Anti-abortion activists are using a variety of tactics to go after abortion care, including illegally hacking and deactivating reproductive health care organizations’ websites, effectively blocking access to the health care services and information.

Attacks on abortion providers and patients happen in our communities every single day. Anti-abortion organizations have trained activists to be “in front of every abortion facility during all hours that abortions are being performed.” Protestors stand outside of clinics harassing providers and patients. They use graphic, and often photoshopped, images of abortion in an attempt to traumatize others. They brag about abortion clinic staff quitting and patients canceling their appointments because of protestors’ presence outside of clinics. Anti-abortion activists have proven that they will do anything to keep a person from accessing abortion.

The threat anti-abortion protestors pose to clinic staff and patients is very real. Since 1977, 182 abortion clinics have been set on fire, 42 have been bombed and eight abortion providers have been murdered. The recent attacks on abortion providers rile up anti-abortion extremists and put abortion clinics’ staff and patients in further danger.

By attacking Planned Parenthood instead of investigating the people behind the highly-edited videos, Paxton is sending a clear message: when it comes to limiting abortion access, anything goes.

In Austin, Crisis Pregnancy Centers are still suing over their “right to lie”

“When I called the crisis pregnancy center to make an appointment, they were immediately pushy about their ultrasound services. They didn’t even know how far along I was in my pregnancy or if I was truly pregnant. When I went in to the CPC for my appointment, I was taken to the ultrasound room after a volunteer counselor and missionary discussed my pregnancy options with me and discouraged me from seeking an abortion. They never gave me a pregnancy test. The missionary performed the ultrasound. At first she told me she could not see anything, but after several minutes she told me she was pretty sure she could see my ‘baby’ even though in reality, I wasn’t pregnant.”

In 2010, the Austin City Council unanimously passed an ordinance requiring crisis pregnancy centers to post a sign stating they do not offer abortion services or contraceptives. The measure was intended to protect consumers who unwittingly enter the centers seeking legitimate medical care, but instead are given sermons and scare tactics.

Of course, the centers promptly sued, claiming the ordinance “unconstitutionally seeks to suppress unpopular ideas and information relating to pregnancy, and to manipulate the public debate by attempting to dissuade women from hearing pregnancy information from a religious perspective.”

Those “unpopular ideas” are medically and scientifically incorrect statements about miscarriage, abortion and contraceptives, such as widely debunked claims that abortion leads to breast cancer or that condoms are ineffective. And if pregnant people want pregnancy information from a religious perspective, they should be given the option to seek it from the religious provider of their choice, not be duped into it.

A CPC in Austin (Jana Birchum, Austin Chronicle).

A CPC in Austin (Jana Birchum, Austin Chronicle).

The Austin city council then passed a revised ordinance that took out the language about abortion and birth control and replaced it with the requirement that the sign simply state whether the center provides medical services, if those services are provided under direction and supervision of a licensed health care provider, and whether the center is licensed by a state or federal regulatory agency. Why wouldn’t these centers be willing to comply with that?

But they weren’t, primarily because their business is built on deceiving pregnant people into coming into the centers without knowing their true purpose. Many crisis pregnancy centers are located near clinics and often have misleading names, intended to give the impression that they are legitimate health care centers.

Crisis pregnancy centers have been proliferating in Texas while the number of abortion clinics dwindle. Pregnant people often find the number to a crisis pregnancy center, thinking the center offers abortion services, and the centers’ volunteers are trained to try and get the caller to come in under the guise of needing a pregnancy test and an ultrasound, services the centers offer free of charge. What these volunteers don’t explain is they want to get someone in the door so they can talk them out of seeking an abortion.

Here’s an actual chat with a “counselor” on the Option Line, which was the second search result when I googled “Where can I get an abortion in Texas.” From first glance, the site appears neutral – there’s no mention of religion and they give information on abortion and emergency contraception. But on each page, there is a hard push to get visitors to call their hotline or live chat with them.

Me: I need to get the number for a place that does abortions.
Counselor: We dont have that information. but it will be important to go or call if you want to learn more about it.  The center will be able to provide the free test and the ultrasound. an ultrasound will tell you how far along you are… this is important to  know if you are considering abortion
Me: Doesn’t the abortion place do an ultrasound?
Counselor: I don’t know.
Counselor: The center can talk to you more about questions and concerns that you may have about pregnancy.

Unlicensed volunteers at crisis pregnancy centers often perform ultrasounds and as NARAL Pro-Choice Texas’ 2014 investigations into crisis pregnancy centers reveal, the centers routinely interfere with visitors’ access to medical care and put their health at risk. For example, they use stall tactics that delay a pregnant person from getting prenatal care or increase the term at which someone has an abortion.

One crisis pregnancy center volunteer advised a NARAL Pro-Choice Texas investigator against seeing a doctor, and told the investigator that if she saw a doctor about her pregnancy, she would no longer be able to access the center’s ultrasound services for free.

Many crisis pregnancy centers receive state funding through the Alternatives to Abortion Program. This most recent session, the Texas Legislature nearly doubled the funding for the program to $9.1 million per year.

In 2014, Austin’s crisis pregnancy center ordinance was struck down for being too vague. Without an ordinance in place to address these centers’ deception, what can be done? NARAL Pro-Choice Texas is working to expose these centers. If you’d like more information, please contact us and visit our investigative website, txpregnancy.org.

If you are pregnant and need information on where to get an abortion in Texas, visit NeedAbortion.org

 

Paxton wants you to ignore his legal woes and applaud him for attacking Texans’ health care

 

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is doing everything in his power to try to distract people from his legal scandals, and although his tactics aren’t working, they’re putting Texans’ health care at risk. Paxton is not only wasting taxpayers’ money on a sham investigation attacking abortion providers, but he’s now going after access to contraceptives.

Last Monday, Paxton filed a brief with the Supreme Court in support of a lawsuit over the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act, which requires employers with over 50 full-time employees to provide health insurance that covers contraceptives. Paxton’s brief argues that employees of religious nonprofits should not receive contraception coverage if their employers have religious objections to contraceptives.

The nonprofits that filed the lawsuit, two Baptists universities in Texas, argue that they shouldn’t have to cover IUDs and emergency contraceptives because they believe that these types of contraceptives are abortifacients—which is completely false as no type of contraceptive causes abortions.

Religious nonprofits can already seek an accommodation from the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate on religious grounds, but the universities and Paxton don’t think that’s enough. The current accommodation allows religious nonprofits to be exempt from the mandate by simply filling out a form that allows their employees to receive contraception coverage directly from insurance companies instead of from their employers.

So what’s the problem?

In the brief, Paxton argues that by filling out the form, the universities’ religious beliefs are being violated because it “still triggers a process through which employees can obtain contraception.” This line makes it clear that this lawsuit isn’t about religious freedom: it’s about limiting access to contraception. Paxton even goes as far as to call the requirement that employers provide their employees with contraception coverage “draconian.”

What’s draconian is using religion as an excuse to deny a person access to health care. Every person should have coverage for the full range of reproductive health care, no matter where they work. A person should not be denied insurance coverage for a medication or procedure just because their boss or some politician is opposed to it.

Paxton is attacking Texans’ access to reproductive health care from every angle in the hopes that something will stick. At NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, we hope the only things that stick are the multiple felony charges he’s currently facing.

Want to create a political witch hunt? Look no further than the Texas Legislature.

On Wednesday my staff and I attended the Texas Senate Health and Human Services hearing meant to investigate the practices of Planned Parenthood regarding fetal tissue donation. This hearing was clearly nothing more than an opportunity for anti-choice politicians and special interest groups to have a soapbox to attack abortion access.

The true intent of the hearing was evident from the moment the witness list was released, which included the directors of four separate anti-choice lobbying organizations. NARAL Pro-Choice Texas was not invited to testify. And given the timing of this hearing – conducted before any actual investigation was done – it’s clear this was never meant to be a fair or honest inquiry.

Let’s be clear: this is a witch hunt. The group behind these videos is widely discredited and has close ties to domestic terrorists and extremist groups. The videos are misleading and heavily edited. Their intent is to whip anti-choice forces into a frenzy and incite further attacks – both political and physical – against the brave providers who risk their lives every day to be there for their patients.

Attorney General Ken Paxton’s statements were pure political grandstanding. We know that elected officials like Ken Paxton will continue to put their personal agenda above the law, distorting the facts and manipulating the public in order to achieve their overall goal of making safe, quality abortion care completely inaccessible to those who need it.

Paxton stated in the hearing that he thinks “we treat bodies better in prison than we do in abortion clinics.” However, we have yet to see anything from Paxton’s office denouncing the wrongful arrest and suspicious death of Sandra Bland in a Waller County jail. On Thursday, the House County Affairs committee is holding a hearing to investigate jail standards and the treatment of mental health issues in jails. I don’t expect that Mr. Paxton will testify at that hearing about his office’s plans to investigate jail policies and procedures.

There are much bigger problems in our state that these lawmakers should be addressing. NARAL Pro-Choice Texas denounces this political theater. We support our abortion providers and stand with Planned Parenthood.

We have been fighting for reproductive freedom in Texas since 1978 and we will not back down now. Thank you for supporting our work as we seek a Texas where every person in this state can decide whether, when and how to become a parent and to do so with dignity, support and respect.

ACTION ALERT: Support Planned Parenthood

Edit: Planned Parenthood Texas Votes will be holding an action outside of the Capitol that you can also attend.

After an extremist anti-choice group created for the sole purpose of attacking abortion providers released illegal, heavily-edits recordings, anti-choice Texas lawmakers are wasting taxpayer money and state resources to “investigate” Planned Parenthood. This is nothing more than an attempt to trick the public and slander an organization that has provided preventative health care to millions of people for almost 100 years.

Fill out the form below to send Chairman Schwertner a message and RSVP for the hearing at 9 AM on Wednesday, July 29 at the Texas State Capitol, Room E1.016. Join us as we support Planned Parenthood during the attacks they face from anti-choice politicians and extremist groups. After you’re done filling out the form, RSVP for this event from Planned Parenthood Texas Votes outside of the Capitol. Because this hearing is nothing more than a political ploy to help anti-choice politicians like Greg Abbott gain points with their Tea Party base, public testimony is not allowed. We need you to show up and let them know we’re watching and that we vote! Contact the members of the committee to let them know you support Planned Parenthood and our independent abortion providers. Tell them that you oppose this political witch hunt.