ACTION ALERT: Women’s Health Advisory Committee Meeting on 9/23

Join us this Wednesday for a public hearing as the Health & Human Services Commission (HHSC) convenes a Women’s Health Advisory Committee to make recommendations on the future of the state’s women’s health programs.

The last three legislative sessions have been an ongoing attack on reproductive health care. We’ve seen cuts to family planning, the implementation of severe abortion restrictions that forced more than half of the abortion care clinics to close and to increased attacks on pregnant teenagers’ access to safe abortion care.

Let the committee hear from you and let them know that Texans’ reproductive health needs to be protected and expanded. We can’t afford to keep having access to reproductive health care rolled back session after session.

Will you join us? RSVP below!

Gov. Abbott celebrates arrest of Latina woman who was seeking medical care

Earlier this week, Greg Abbott tweeted in celebration of the arrest of Blanca Borrego, the undocumented Houston mom of three who was seeking medical care with her established doctor at a Houston reproductive health clinic. In his tweet he insinuated that a Latina mother who only was trying to access medical care while undocumented is a criminal.

She was seeking treatment at the clinic for a painful ovarian cyst. It was her first time at this clinic but not the first time seeing this particular doctor whom she had an ongoing patient-doctor relationship with. In order to access medical services, she used a fake ID with her real information and a valid insurance card. She waited over two hours until she was finally called back, only to be met with a sheriff’s deputy instead of a doctor.

Blanca Borrego has lived in Houston for more than twelve years. Like many people, she came to this country through legal channels, on a visa which later expired. Her older daughter is a recent college graduate and a beneficiary of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and her youngest child is a U.S. citizen. They both witnessed their mother taken out of the doctor’s office in handcuffs.

Protesters march outside of a Memorial Hermann hospital, the medical provider that called police on Blanca Borrego (via Natalie San Luis, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas).

Protesters march outside of a Memorial Hermann hospital, the medical provider that called police on Blanca Borrego (via Natalie San Luis, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas).

Blanca would have not been in this situation if Greg Abbott, while attorney general, had not filed a lawsuit challenging President Obama’s executive order to expand DACA and implement of DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans). By halting the President’s executive action not only were Blanca and her family put at risk, but over 5 million more immigrant parents and their children who call this country home are forced to continue living in the shadows.

Blanca’s story hits close to home. I’m a Houstonian, this could have easily been one of my own family members. I know what it means to put off seeking medical care in fear of deportation because I saw my own family members do it one too many times.

This negative rhetoric Greg Abbott and extremist politicians perpetuate about immigrants in the United States is dangerous and puts our community at risk. It makes targets out of immigrants, whether they are undocumented or not. Healthcare is a human right and no one should have to fear deportation or profiling while trying to take care of themselves. Greg Abbott, shame on you. Blanca’s arrest is nothing to celebrate and breaking families apart is not a Texas value.

El Paso Meet and Greet!

We want to hear from you! Join NARAL Pro-Choice Texas Executive Director Heather Busby on Thursday, Sept 17 for a casual meet and greet. Come enjoy free food and drink specials and get the latest on reproductive health policy. We’d love to hear your views on how NARAL Pro-Choice Texas can support pro-choice activism in El Paso and the needs of the community. RSVP here to attend:

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