Whole Woman’s Health Corporate VP: abortion clinics don’t need more regulations

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HB 3765 is unnecessary and unfairly targets regulation against abortion providers.

In recent years the Legislature has enacted extreme restrictions targeting abortion providers, including the partial birth abortion ban in 2003 which eliminated one of Roe v. Wade’s core protections. Also in 2003, the Women’s Right to Know Act started forcing physicians to provide biased and inaccurate information regarding the abortion procedure. In 2011, The Legislature added  a 24-hour waiting period for abortion, yet another unnecessary barrier for women accessing abortion care. In 2013, the dangerous and detrimental provisions in HB 2 created substantial obstacles to safe and legal abortion care and have disproportionately impacted those Texans living in poverty and in rural and underserved areas, especially young women.

Now, HB 3765 from Rep. Jodie Laubenberg attempts to amend the Texas Medical Board’s existing regulations for parental consent for anyone seeking an abortion under the age of 18. Although these current regulations are effective and there have been no demonstrated problems, this bill exclusively targets against abortion providers.

Abortion clinics have strong safeguards in place to screen patients for family violence, human trafficking and coercion. In addition to obtaining standard medical consent, clinics engage patients of all ages in one-on-one private counseling, and comply with Chapter 171 in the Texas Health & Safety Code, which this bill would unnecessarily amend. Coercion is neither practically nor physically possible with the procedures clinics voluntarily put in place.

Abortion providers offer a safe environment free of judgment where patients are offered a private and neutral ground regardless of their age, and are in complete control of their decision to terminate or continue a pregnancy. During these private sessions, each patient meets with a patient advocate to engage in a conversation triggered by open ended questions that allow her to tell her own story without pressure or fear of consequences. If at any point during this conversation a woman claims she does not want to have an abortion, this patient will not have one. Regardless of what consent forms have been signed or notarized, her word is what truly matters.

The amendment introduced in this bill shows the legislators’ severe lack of understanding of current regulations regarding parental consent. The document titled Disclosure and consent form: Medical, Surgical, and Diagnostic Procedures Figure: 22 TAC §165.6(f) requires the initials and signatures of the patient, the physician and the parent or legal guardian. The parent’s signature is required to be notarized. Therefore, requiring the added notarization of the underage patient is not only redundant but violates her confidentiality.

No other medical providers are included in this bill. If there is a problem with minors being forced to undergo medical procedures, the state should require family medicine physicians, plastic surgeons, all ambulatory surgical centers and other medical providers to comply with the same consent regulations as abortion clinics.

All Texans deserve access to the health care they need and should not be forced to jump through numerous hoops and mountains of paperwork every time they need to access a legal, medical procedure. Quality abortion providers seek to provide the highest quality of care for their patients and would not force an abortion upon someone against their will. HB 3765 is further harassment of abortion providers.

Support one bill this week and oppose two others

Update, 4/22 5:00pm: The House State Affairs Committee has started hearing bills. Watch our Twitter feed for when the following hearings come up, or live stream here.

This week we’ve got three bills for you to watch on Wednesday at the House State Affairs Committee, with one pro-choice bill, one big anti-choice bill and one anti-LGBT bill. Here they are:

  • SUPPORT HB 708: Written by Representative Farrar (D – Houston), this bill would require that the anti-choice “Woman’s Right to Know” pamphlet have medically accurate information included in its pages. Currently, the state requires all abortion doctors to provide this information to patients seeking abortion care, and the information included is inaccurate, biased and not based on scientific fact.
  • OPPOSE HB 3994: This bill requires all Texans who are seeking an abortion to show a valid government ID. It also effectively endangers vulnerable and abused teenagers’ safety by making the judicial bypass process more onerous and targets judges who grant judicial bypass. This bill is an anti-choice bill that targets teenagers seeking safe abortion care.
  • OPPOSE HB 3567This bill would grant a license to discriminate against LGBT Texans. According to the Texas Freedom Network, “Under the guise of protecting the right of clergy not to perform marriages—a right that is already constitutionally guaranteed—HB 3567 would grant religious entities unfettered authority to discriminate in a broad range of situations that have nothing to do with religion.

These bills are all being heard at the House State Affairs Committee in the John H. Reagan Building (15th and Congress), Room 140. You may register for HB 708/against HB 3994 and HB 3567 anytime after 10:30 am, but please remember that it is impossible to know when these hearings start, since they begin only after the House has adjourned for the day. Check our Twitter feed or use the hashtag #TrustTX to find out exactly when these bills will be heard. If you need help finding out how to register for these bills, head here.

Dust off your orange

Action Alert

Update 4/15, 3:41pm: HB 3183, HB 2924, HB 3374 have all been heard so far.

Update 4/15, 1:00pm: HB 3183, Marlise’s Law, will be heard in State Affairs soon. Live stream here.

Update 4/15, 12:15pm: Peña’s anti-LGBT bathroom bill, HB 2801, has been pulled down from the schedule.

Today’s the day! Here are the bills that we need you to support and oppose at the legislature:

Register FOR:

In House State Affairs:
HB 3183       Naishtat | et al.
This bill removes the “pregnancy exclusion” – which would grant pregnant people the same rights as other Texans when making end-of-life decisions (also known as “Marlise’s Law”). It gets a hearing today in John H. Reagan (15th and Congress), Room 140. 

Register AGAINST:

In House State Affairs:
HB 3446       Laubenberg | et al.
This requires that signs be displayed at certain facilities that perform abortions, and is a bill that’s unnecessary and targets abortion providers. It also sends a clear message that anti-choice lawmakers don’t trust Texans to make their own reproductive health decisions. It gets a hearing today in John H. Reagan (15th and Congress), Room 140. 

HB 3765       Laubenberg | et al.
This bill makes it more difficult for a minor to obtain a judicial bypass for an abortion by requiring parental consent to be notarized. It also sends a clear message that anti-choice lawmakers don’t trust Texans to make their own reproductive health decisions. It gets a hearing today in John H. Reagan (15th and Congress), Room 140. 

HB 2924       Landgraf | et al.
Relating to information regarding Down syndrome.This bill includes language that would prohibit medical providers from discussing all pregnancy options with their patients. It denies patients the full spectrum of information and interferes in the doctor-patient relationship. It gets a hearing today in John H. Reagan (15th and Congress), Room 140. 

HB 3374       Morrison | et al.
Relating to information regarding Down syndrome. This bill includes language that would prohibit medical providers from discussing all pregnancy options with their patients. It denies patients the full spectrum of information and interferes in the doctor-patient relationship. It gets a hearing today in John H. Reagan (15th and Congress), Room 140. 

HB 2801       Peña
Relating to the use of a bathroom, locker room, or shower facility in a public school. This is an anti-LGBT bill. It gets a hearing today in John H. Reagan (15th and Congress), Room 140. Pulled

In Juvenile Justice & Family Issues:
HB 3864       Sanford | et al.
Relating to protection of the rights of conscience for child welfare services providers. This bill seeks to impose lawmakers’ personal religious beliefs and limit access to health care for minors. This will be heard by the House Committee on Juvenile Justice & Family Issues in Capitol Extension E.2.016. 

Get ready to dust off your orange.

Don’t know how to register for or against a bill? Check out our guide here and watch this post for updates on when hearings start happening. If you can’t make it to the hearing, keep track of the broadcast schedule for live streaming of House committee hearings.

#TrustTX

This week at #txlege: a barrage of anti-choice, anti-LGBT hearings and one pro-choice hearing

Update 4/15, 10:15am: the house has convened for the day. Committee hearings are scheduled to begin at 10:30am or upon adjournment of the House, meaning that hearings will likely start much later than 10:30am. Remember to go to the John H. Reagan Building (15th and Congress), Room 140 for all anti-choice bills. We’ve updated the blog below with a list of more bills for you to oppose today.

Update 4/14, 3:15pm: HB 723 is left pending in committee, with the overwhelming majority of people having signed up against than for the bill. Check in with us tomorrow, Wednesday, April 15 for hearings on HB 3183, HB 3446, HB 3765 and HB 3864.

Update 4/14, 2:15pm: HB 723 is up first in this Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee hearing. Live stream here.

Update 4/14, 12:03pm: due to points of order called on the House floor that sent back top-level bills expected to push committee hearings late this evening, the House has adjourned for today and the committee hearing for HB 723 begins at 2pm. Watch live here.

Action Alert

This is a big week for us at the Legislature in quite a few bad ways and one good way.

First, the good news:  HB 3183, Rep. Elliott Naishtat’s bill that removes the “pregnancy exclusion” – which would grant pregnant people the same rights as other Texans when making end-of-life decisions (also known as “Marlise’s Law”) – will get a hearing on Wednesday, April 15. This is a bill that we need you to support!

Now here are some bills getting hearings this week that we need you to oppose:

  • HB 723, a bill which seeks to limit pregnant teenagers’ access to abortion, will be heard Tuesday, April 14.  This bill would change Texas’ judicial bypass law, which currently allows teens to go through the courts to obtain an abortion without parental consent. Judicial bypass is a safety net that was created to protect pregnant teens, especially those experiencing abuse and neglect from their own parents. The changes in this law would make it impossible for some teenagers to get a bypass, particularly young teens in abusive homes or teens who do not have parents in their lives. The House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee will hear testimony of this bill on Tuesday, April 14 in Capitol Extension E2.026 as soon as the House adjourns.
  • On WednesdayHB 3446 and HB 3765, both by Rep. Jodie Ann Laubenberg are bills that are unnecessary and target abortion providers. They also send a clear message that anti-choice lawmakers don’t trust Texans to make their own reproductive health decisions. Both of these bills will be heard on Wednesday, April 15 in the John H. Reagan Building (15th and Congress), Room 140 as soon as the House adjourns.
  • Also on Wednesday, HB 3864 – a bill that seeks to impose religious beliefs and limit access to health care for minors – will be heard on Wednesday, April 15 by the House Committee on Juvenile Justice & Family Issues in Capitol Extension E.2.016. 

Get ready to dust off your orange.

Don’t know how to register for or against a bill? Check out our guide here and watch this post for updates on when hearings start happening. If you can’t make it to the hearing, keep track of the broadcast schedule for live streaming of House committee hearings.

#TrustTX

 

Why we must keep judicial bypass as a safety net for pregnant teens

Recently a young woman, Mary*, called the Jane’s Due Process hotline. She sounded timid and scared and her voice wavered as she described her situation. At 16, she was pregnant and wanted to know how she could get an abortion. Her home life is anything but safe and healthy—she told us about growing up exposed to family violence, how her parents struggled to pay the bills and how a number of her family members have dealt with mental and physical health challenges. She was still living at home, but her situation was precarious at best.

She feared that her parents would beat her and throw her out of the house if they found out about her pregnancy. She knew that would happen because that’s exactly what they did to her older sister when she told them she was pregnant as a teenager. Mary had seen how her sister had struggled and the challenges she faced being homeless, abused and trying to raise a baby. Mary knew it wasn’t the right time for her to become a parent and she also knew that telling her parents about her desire to have an abortion would put her in physical danger.

In Texas, anyone under 18 who needs an abortion must get the consent of a parent or, if involving a parent is not possible, they must get a judge’s order, called a “judicial bypass.” For Mary to get safe, legal abortion care, she would have to overcome a number of hurdles beyond the parental consent law. In 2013, the Texas Legislature decimated access to safe and legal abortion when they forced HB 2 through in a special session. Since the bill went into effect, the number of clinics open in Texas has dwindled to just a handful in major cities. This legislative session, lawmakers are targeting abused and neglected teens like Mary, trying to destroy the safety net that is the judicial bypass.

Sound inhumane? It is.

Anti-choice lawmakers have filed six bills that would dismantle or alter the judicial bypass process.

For those teens who cannot notify a parent about their abortion decision because of abuse or neglect, judicial bypass not only provides a legal option to assist teens in accessing care, but also brings supportive adults into the picture: the judge, the guardian and, hopefully, an attorney.

For teens like Mary, judicial bypass is an absolute necessity to protect them from harm.

It is rare for a teen to not involve a parent in her decision whether or not to become a parent. In 2010, 2,720 minors in Texas chose to have abortions and less than ten percent of those young women obtained a judicial bypass. The small number of teens who seek judicial bypass are not doing so out of frivolity or trivial concerns; they are not concerned about confiscated cell phones or modified curfews. They are young women like Mary, facing difficult and often unsafe circumstances, doing their best to keep afloat.

When the adults in a young woman’s life have failed or abandoned her, the bypass process serves as a safety net, ensuring the involvement, support and guidance of stable adult figures. It absolutely goes against the best interests of these vulnerable teens to create barriers to accessing this safeguard.

After Jane’s Due Process hotline staff discussed all of Mary’s options with her, we found an attorney to help her. Then Mary had a long conversation with the attorney about her situation. She also met with a guardian ad litem, a person appointed by the court to interview Mary and report to the court about whether or not an abortion would be in her best interest.

After these appointments, Mary went to court with her attorney to speak to the judge, who after hearing her testimony, signed a court order allowing her to get an abortion without parental consent. Then she was able to go back to the clinic for her procedure.

Like anyone who has been to court knows, the process is not the easiest or the fastest, but Jane’s Due Process works hard to alleviate some of the fear and confusion surrounding the courthouse for these vulnerable teenagers. But beyond that, the judicial bypass process and Jane’s Due Process can bring so much more to an abused teenager’s life. Often the organization’s staff and volunteers or the court-appointed guardians will help connect their clients to other resources, like social workers, housing, clothing, food and trauma counseling. For many of these young people, this is their first point of contact with services that can help change the course of their lives.

The new legislation proposes a multitude of restrictions that would make judicial bypass more onerous for applicants. One of the harmful provisions in a couple of these bills, HB 723 (King, Phil R-Weatherford) and  HB 2531 (Krause, R-Parker), would require that a minor seeking a judicial bypass prove to the judge that she is mature and well-informed enough to make her own pregnancy decision and that it is not in her best interests for her parent to be notified of her decision to have an abortion and that notifying her parent could lead to sexual, physical, or emotional abuse. As current law stands, a minor must only prove one of these grounds. And, depending on the circumstances, it is often impossible to prove all three.

Mary is a teenager with an unthinkably terrible home life, but that would not be enough for her to get an abortion if either of these bills pass. Unfortunately, factors like language barriers (English is not Mary’s first language), cultural differences, level of education and communication can contribute to whether or not a judge believes a teenage is “mature.”

Reps. King and Krause are in no position to second-guess the abuse in Mary’s home. They don’t live her life. Neither they nor any other lawmaker should make these decisions for her or put her at risk, but that is exactly what HB 723 and HB 2531 would do.

Mary came from a violent home, but not all Jane’s Due Process clients are in the same situation – yet another reason why lawmakers shouldn’t have the power to determine what happens to these young people.

Jade* is a very mature 17 year-old who started college early and was living on her own, working two jobs and taking night classes. Her parents are not abusive, but are absent from her life. Her mother died years ago and her father is in prison, which makes it impossible for her to obtain the written parental consent current state law requires. If HB 2531 were to pass, Jade would have to prove that parental involvement could lead to abuse in order to get a bypass—which would be impossible given her situation.

HB 723 and HB 2531 would deny Jade access to abortion until she turns 18—effectively forcing her to continue her pregnancy.

By implementing barriers to accessing judicial bypass, the Texas Legislature is putting an already-vulnerable population in grave danger. The current safety net—the judicial bypass process—works to keep teens safe and looks out for their best interests.

It’s not too late to stop these bills from passing! Let your representative know you oppose these bills and visit janesdueprocess.org for more information about pregnant teenager’s legal rights.

* Names have been changed to protect confidentiality.