Take action at the Legislature: Oppose HB 3994, HB 3130 and HB 3446

Update 10:39 AM 5/14/2015: HB 3994 is up for a third reading at 11:00 AM. 

Update 6:13 PM, 5/13/2015: The House is taking up business for bills that were postponed earlier, but HB 3994 is next up on the calendar. 

Update 11:22 AM, 5/13/2015: The House is moving quickly through bills, and HB 3994 will likely be up in the next couple of hours. Come to the House gallery at the Capitol and wear orange! Live stream here.

As you may have heard, the House is taking up three harmful anti-choice bills this week. HB 3130, the House version of a ban on insurance coverage for abortion, is set on the House calendar on Tuesday, May 12. HB 3994, the very harmful bill that attacks abused and neglected teens’ access to abortion and requires all people seeking abortion to have a government ID, is set on the major state calendar on Wednesday, May 13. For more information on why judicial bypass is a safety net for teens, read this blog post from Tina Hester, Executive Director of Jane’s Due Process.

Click here to contact your state representative now to let them know you oppose HB 3130 and HB 3994!

Also on Wednesday is HB 3446, Rep. Laubenberg’s bill requiring abortion clinics to post certain signage. This bill is more targeted regulation of abortion providers.

If you would like to come to the Capitol to watch the debate, we encourage you to come on Wednesday and wear your orange shirt. On Tuesday, we cannot predict when HB 3130 will be heard. It is possible the House may not get to the bill at all that day. We also cannot give you an accurate time frame, but follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more updates on this.

This is a big week at the Legislature as Thursday is the final day for the House to pass House bills and joint resolutions (For a list of important dates and deadlines for the 84th Legislature, click here). There are a large number of bills on the calendar for the next few days. We will keep you up-to-date as things progress.

If you cannot be at the Capitol, you can always watch the live stream and follow along (or check you local cable listings to watch on TV). And don’t forget to contact your state rep now by clicking here.

If you’re at the Capitol on Tuesday, we want to alert you to a bad bill that attacks same-sex marriage rights. There are many times when other social movements intersect with reproductive rights, and that’s why we need you to oppose HB 4105, Rep. Cecil Bell’s bill that would prohibit any state or local funds from being used to issue same sex marriage licenses, which is also being heard this week. For more info on HB 4105, head on over to Equality Texas’ action page or check out the Texas Freedom Network’s blog.

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: two anti-choice bills hit the floor

Update 5/5/2015, 12:30 PM: SB 575 has passed out of the Senate. 
Update 5/6/2015, 3:00 PM: SB 575 has third reading, amendment requiring exception for rape or incest is tabled.
Update 5/6/2015, 3:18 PM: HB 416 has passed out of the House.
We’re officially less than a month away from the end of the regular session of the Texas Legislature, which means more anti-choice chatter in the House and Senate from our infamously out-of-touch lawmakers. Here are two bills we’re tracking as they hit the House and Senate floor:
  • SB 575Relating to health plan and health benefit plan coverage for abortion. This bill prohibits plans offered through health benefit exchanges to cover abortion, with a narrow exception for the mother’s life only. The bill also requires health benefit plans not offered through an exchange to only offer abortion coverage if it is separate from all other coverage, and offered for an additional fee. This bill passed out of the Senate on Wednesday. 
  • HB 416Relating to requiring personnel of abortion facilities and certain other facilities performing abortions to complete training on human trafficking. This bill would require abortion providers and all staff that come in contact with patients to complete a mandatory human trafficking training. First, abortion providers already provide this training to staff. This training should be required of other health providers who are far more likely to encounter trafficking survivors. Here’s more on the true intentions of this bill. This bill passed out of the House on Wednesday. 

As always, we can’t guarantee a definite time in which these bills will be discussed, but we can let you know as soon as they come up. Stay updated by signing up to be on our Legislative Action Team, watch our Twitter feed (follow #TrustTX or the bill number’s hashtag), our Facebook page and this post for updates on when these hearings will happen.

About John Seago’s testimony on a DPS officer saving human trafficking victims ‘forced into abortion’

John Seago from Texas Right to Life testified on Wednesday that he “knows” of a DPS officer who personally rescued human trafficking victims who had also been coerced into abortion. He’s talking about Captain Jeoff Williams, who Rep. Molly White quotes in a press release someone who has  “personally rescued victims of human trafficking who had been coerced into abortions in order to keep them working as sex slaves.”  The press release calls him, “Jeff” Williams and we had a little trouble finding this “Jeff Williams.”  Turns out his name is Jeoff Williams.  He is a Captain in the Criminal Investigation Division of the Department of Public Safety where he works on sex trafficking cases.  Here’s what he really said:

“One victim was forced to have an abortion in order to continue working as a sex slave.  And another was forced to undergo breast augmentation in increase her value for exploitation.  She now has some very serious medical problems associated with that.”

Joint Committee on Human Trafficking, Sept. 25, 2014, Testimony of Jeoff Williams, http://tlcsenate.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?clip_id=8689 at 1:01:01.  He did not testify he had rescued multiple victims who were forced to abort, as White alleges.  He discussed one, and more pointedly described a woman who had been forced to augment her breasts resulting in “serious medical problems.”  Funny, White’s bill wouldn’t require plastic surgeons to post notices about “coercion.” Nor would it create a criminal offense for coercing women to alter their bodies permanently or send parents who pressure their daughters to have plastic surgery to Child Protective Services, as HB 1648 would for abortion.


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!