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.



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 for more information about pregnant teenager’s legal rights.

* Names have been changed to protect confidentiality.

Show your support for Houston Men for Choice by reviving the Taco or Beer Challenge

As you may have heard, anti-choice folks are in a tizzy that we’re renting out a space at Saint Arnold Brewing Company​ for our Houston Men for Choice event, and they’ve taken to the Internet to harass and bully the brewery:


We want you to enjoy your beer with happiness. Important to note: as of today, most of the posts on the brewery’s page are overwhelmingly in support of our event, overshadowing the anti-choice comments from days before (via Saint Arnold’s Facebook page).

Well now there’s something you can do to support them – and it comes in the form of the Taco or Beer Challenge.

If you don’t remember, the Taco or Beer Challenge was started by progressive activist and journalist Andrea Grimes mostly as a response to the online phenomenon that was the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, but also to raise money for abortion funds. Now, as Saint Arnold’s Brewing Company faces the anti-choice bullies in Houston, the Taco or Beer Challenge rides again. Here’s a post from Andrea Greer, a pro-choice Houston activist who suggested the revamp:

The fearless feminist journalist Andrea Grimes challenged us all last year to eat a taco, or drink a beer, or both, or something else, and donate to an abortion fund. What a great challenge! This spring in Houston, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas is hosting an event at the Saint Arnold Brewing Company. Saint Arnold rents the brewery out to all kinds of organizations, and they don’t discriminate. They just like people who like beer. The same bullies who stand outside of clinics yelling at people who may or may not be going inside to have abortions have started yelling at Saint Arnold online for renting their space to NARAL Pro-Choice Texas.

Well, you know how we feel about bullies, right? Our enthusiasm for bullies is inversely proportional to our enthusiasm for beer drinking challenges. Our challenge to you – go buy a Saint Arnold beer. Hey, get a six-pack. And maybe get a taco. Or some burgers. Or tamales. Or fried chicken. Or donuts. Heck, whatever – just go get that beer to show the bullies that peace, love, and understanding conquers all, and goes down better with a cold one!Next, go make a donation – doesn’t matter how much – to NARAL Pro-Choice Texas.

Finally, send a picture of yourself enjoying your beer, or making your donation, or doing both at the same time, so we can post it & show our friends at Saint Arnold and NARAL Pro-Choice Texas how we feel about them.

You read it here, folks: go get yourself your favorite brew from Saint Arnold’s Brewing Company (available across Texas), have a taco, donate to our work and submit your photos!

Want to attend a Men for Choice event, whether it’s in Houston, Austin or Dallas? Head here to get your tickets to celebrate the diverse voices in our movement for reproductive freedom.

ED of TEA Fund: We can find ‘common ground’ with those who disagree with us on repro rights

At the beginning of the legislative session, I went to the “Trust. Respect. Access.” advocacy day to promote bills that restore trust in Texans, respect for health care professionals and access to the full range of reproductive health care. I was prepared to speak with anti-choice Texas legislators, but I did not anticipate that I would have a productive conversation with a stranger in the Capitol hallway who did not share my views on abortion access.

For advocacy day, I was grouped with a couple of student activists to visit legislators. My group was on our way to our first visit when I heard an older woman asking the students what our shirts, which said, “Trust. Respect. Access,” meant. She seemed excited to see young people at the Capitol. When the students told her they were at the Capitol to talk to legislators about reproductive health care she responded, “Oh, abortion. But you seem like such nice girls.”

I broke into the conversation and said, “They are nice girls.”

She responded, “We need to err on the side of life whenever possible.”

I didn’t expect the interaction to continue, but she seemed really open to talking to us even though she didn’t agree with us. She was very curious about our position. She had a lot of questions and was very respectful.

At some point, we brought up that not everyone can afford to have an abortion. She asked, “Who can’t afford an abortion? Doesn’t Medicaid pay for that?”

I told her that in Texas, Medicaid does not cover abortions.

She responded, “I’ve been told that Planned Parenthood charges five hundred dollars for an abortion. Who can’t come up with five hundred dollars?”

I told her about how a couple of weeks ago I was in a car accident and it was hard for me to come up with the five hundred dollars for repairs. I said some people make half what I make and might have children or additional expenses. I told her about how a lot of the people my organization, the Texas Equal Access Fund, helps with abortion are parents already and can’t afford to take on a child and find it difficult to pay for an abortion.

We also gave her a chance to share her position. We weren’t hostile or disrespectful and that opened a gateway for her to ask questions and learn about abortion access. She had some common misconceptions about abortion, and we were able to give her correct information.

Eventually we parted ways, but ran into her at lunch later. She asked us to come sit with her. We talked about our families and realized we have a lot of things in common in the general sense; we just have different ideas about how to achieve positive outcomes for our families.

We found a little bit of common ground.

We have to remember that even when we don’t agree with people about reproductive rights, we can still have conversations with them. The woman at the Capitol told us she had never talked to anyone about reproductive rights issues who she didn’t agree with before.

A lot of the time, if we sit down one-on-one with people and talk through an issue we disagree on we can find common ground and help people understand our perspectives. In my mind, being pro-choice is about supporting the need for abortion to be legal and accessible. When I have these conversations, a lot of people who think they’re anti-choice end up expressing pro-choice values—they’re just conflicted.

Report Reveals Texas Women’s Health Program Inflates Number of Medical Providers

Some Texas counties do not have any valid providers under the program. 

We recently conducted an in-depth spot check of all the Texas Women’s Health Program (TWHP) provider listings in 26 Texas counties to check and see if the providers it lists on its website are actually offering full gynecology services. Of the 681 TWHP provider listings, there are only 113 actual providers offering services and taking new TWHP clients. Of these places we called, many did not routinely offer the preventative gynecological services that TWHP is meant to cover because they are emergency rooms, fertility clinics and, in one instance, a Subway Sandwich shop.

Want to read the full report? Head here to get the download link.