What you need to know about the Fight Back Texas Truth Tour

Since the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 2 in 2013, abortion clinics across the state have been forced to close because of the law’s needless restrictions, taking away access for so many Texans who need abortion care. In March, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case that challenges the law, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.

Leading up to this hearing, we’re reaching out to all Texans in our Fight Back Texas Truth Tour.TruthTour_SocialTemplate1 We pledge to give people the resources to tell their own stories and to voice their own support for access to abortion, support local clinics and abortion funds, and register people to VOTE for leaders that share their values. Whole Woman’s Health, Shift., NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, NARAL Pro-Choice America, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, Texas Research Institute, the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, ACLU of Texas and URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity are teaming up to spread the word across Texas that abortion is still legal and that we’re fighting harder than ever keep it safe and accessible.

Find a Truth Tour stop in your area:

College Station: Friday, February 5

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Houston: Saturday, February 6

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San Antonio: Tuesday, February 9

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McAllen: Wednesday, February 10

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El Paso: Friday, February 12

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Can’t make it to one of these events or just want to stay updated with Fight Back Texas? Fill out the form below:

Support activists heading to D.C. for Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole!

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We want the nation to hear the voices of Texas activists, especially those from communities most affected by House Bill 2. That’s why your help is needed to get these young people to Washington, D.C. for oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, the lawsuit that’s fighting back for Texans’ access to abortion. We’re also looking for places for these activists to stay, which you can sign up for at the link below.

Click here to contribute!

In the summer of 2013, Texans from diverse backgrounds came to the Texas Capitol so lawmakers could hear their voices in opposition to harmful abortion restrictions. These restrictions caused more than half the state’s clinics to close. Now that a challenge that could impact abortion access nationwide is before the Supreme Court, we want the nation to hear the voices of Texas activists, especially those from communities most affected.

Thank you for helping us make this possible!

Greg Abbott’s staff meets with extremist anti-choice group linked to violence and terrorism

On the same day that Governor Greg Abbott issued the call for a Constitutional Convention, his staff took a meeting with another group whose sole mission is to combat the “tyranny” of the federal government.

Operation Save America, an outgrowth of Operation Rescue, was meeting with Abbott’s staff to promote their Rally the Lesser Magistrate Campaign. Like Governor Abbott, the supporters of the campaign (or “saints,” as they call themselves) believe that the federal government has gone too far and must be challenged. At issue for Abbott and the “saints” are the recognition of gay marriage as the law of the land, and the constitutionally protected right to abortion services.

While much of the Lesser Magistrate Campaign’s recent work has been spent encouraging states to pass laws and resolutions calling the recent Supreme Court decision regarding gay marriage null and void, Operation Save America and Operation Rescue are almost exclusively focused on anti-abortion actions in every other program under their control.

Throughout it’s troubling history, Operation Rescue has been associated with violent attacks on abortion clinics and abortion providers, as well as those who seek out abortion services.

Founder and former President Randall Terry was quoted calling the 2009 murder of Dr. Tiller, an abortion provider who had been shot previously in 1993 before his murder at his church, “vengeance” for his work. The anti-choice activist who murdered Tiller was active on Operation Rescue’s message boards, where he received support for his violently anti-abortion beliefs.

In 1988, Operation Rescue’s Senior Political Advisor, Cheryl Sullenger, attempted to bomb an abortion clinic in San Diego.

It should not come as a surprise that Greg Abbott or his staff would meet with such these extremists. And he isn’t the only prominent Texas politician to rub elbows with the violent, anti-abortion group.
Days before the 2015 shooting at a Colorado Planned Parenthood, Texas Senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz announced that he had been endorsed by Operation Rescue’s president, Troy Newman.

Newman, known for his 2003 book Their Blood Cries Out, in which he calls for the execution of those who perform abortions, is not only the President of Operation Rescue. He was also one of the founders of the Center for Medical Progress – best known for the highly edited and misleading videos that have led to a veritable witch hunt against Planned Parenthood and abortion providers across the country.

While other developed nations are banning Newman and his organization’s harmful and violent anti-choice rhetoric, Greg Abbott’s staff is taking meetings with their political operatives and entertaining discussions on when it is appropriate to overthrow a federal government.

What’s more, even as Abbott and Cruz encourage this violent and extremist rhetoric by association, they continue to distance themselves from any responsibility for its inevitable outcomes.

When the Colorado Springs shooter said he didn’t want any more “baby parts,” Operation Rescue and Ted Cruz denounced the violence as inexcusable, despite the roles they play in stoking the fire of anti-choice terrorism around the country.

Greg Abbott is tasked with working for the best outcomes for all Texans, not just those who agree with him and his Tea Party platforms. By taking meetings with groups like Operation Rescue, he and his staff give a legitimate platform for domestic terror and anti-choice violence – and that is completely unacceptable.

San Antonio City Council passes an anti-choice TRAP law

This has been crossposted from an article on Burnt Orange Report written by our Development Coordinator, Genevieve Cato. 

Last week, the San Antonio City Council approved an amendment targeted at facilities providing abortions, the San Antonio Express News reported. The amendment, supported by anti-choice activists and brought by Councilman Mike Gallagher, uses zoning restrictions to place yet another burden on facilities providing abortions in the city.

Gallagher, Mayor Ivy Taylor, and Councilmembers Alan Warrick, Rebecca Viagran, Ray Lopez, Cris Medina and Joe Krier supported the amendment, leading to its passage. Councilmembers Roberto Treviño, Rey Saldaña, Shirley Gonzales and Ron Nirenberg opposed the measure.

Specifically, the amendment created restrictions on where ambulatory surgical centers, or ASC’s, can be built. Under House Bill 2, the omnibus abortion bill passed in 2013, all facilities that provide abortion services must meet the standards of an ASC in order to remain in operation once the bill is fully implemented. By restricting zoning laws regarding ASC’s, the Council effectively targeted any future abortion providers in the city.

San Antonio’s Unified Development Code, which governs zoning – what kinds of businesses can be built in which areas – does not explicitly mention ASC’s, the San Antonio Express News reported. Under current zoning rules, facilities providing abortions have been built in areas classified for differing levels of commercial use: C-1, C-2, and C-3. The new amendment would prohibit an ASC from being built in a C-1 area without permission from the Zoning Committee and the City Council, both of which will then have to vote on each individual case.

Supporters of the amendment were transparent in their motivations for the move, according to the Express News’ coverage. A new Planned Parenthood facility was recently built in an area zoned as C-1 on Babcock Road, near a residential area. For some proponents of the new zoning rule, the City Council’s amendment was not worded clearly enough. They would have preferred the rules to explicitly mention “abortion facilities” instead of ASCs more broadly.

There are three clinics in San Antonio that currently offer abortion services. Of these three, only the Planned Parenthood facility on Babcock Road was built in a C-1 area. The other two clinics, Alamo Women’s Clinic and Whole Woman’s Health, occupy space in areas designated C-2 and C-3, respectively.

While the amendment was targeted at the Planned Parenthood clinic, it is not retroactive and will not impact that clinic’s ability to provide abortion services to the community.

This move by the San Antonio City Council matters both because it is a local initiative to increase targeted restrictions against abortion providers (commonly referred to as “TRAP laws”) and also because of San Antonio’s strategic importance in maintaining access to abortion for those whose local clinics have closed in the aftermath of House Bill 2. For many living along the border, the clinics in San Antonio are their closest options.

Should the law be fully implemented as passed (which rests with the Supreme Court as it prepares to consider the case challenging certain provisions in the law this spring), the number of clinics providing abortion services could drop below ten in the entire state. In order to increase access, any new clinics would have to built as ASC’s. The Councilmembers who voted for this amendment, including Mayor Ivy Taylor, have set a precedent with potentially disastrous impact on the future of abortion access in Texas.

Though San Antonio, and those communities along the border that rely on its clinics, may have three facilities that will survive the implementation of the bill, the passage of similar laws in other municipalities without such facilities could severely restrict the capacity of providers to expand back into areas that have little to no access today.

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.