STATEMENT: Texas House Committee Hears HB 1113, a Ban on Private Insurance Coverage for Abortion

Texas House Committee Hears HB 1113, a Ban on Private Insurance Coverage for Abortion

For Release: 5-3-2017

Contact: Sharmeen Aly, [email protected]

Austin, TX — Today, the Texas House State Affairs Committee heard House Bill 1113, which would ban private insurance plans from covering abortion care. The bill also does not make exceptions for rape, incest or fetal anomalies and applies to all health plans offered in Texas. Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, released the following statement:

“The Texas Legislature should not be in the business of banning people’s access to health care, including abortion, based on their income. HB 1113 threatens Texans’ health and safety and disproportionately impacts low-income Texans, people of color and their families, and young people.

HB 1113 jeopardizes the ability of private citizens to use their own money to buy health insurance that includes abortion coverage, making it so that Texans must purchase supplemental coverage instead. No one knows in advance what surgeries or medication they may need in the future, so why do we expect Texans to know if they will need an abortion? Putting restrictions on insurance coverage for abortion is dangerous and disregards that every person’s pregnancy is different. Pregnant Texans deserve access to the full range of reproductive health care, including abortion, no matter what kind of insurance they have.

We stand against all bans that deny access to vital health care.”

Texas Officials Push Harmful Measure That Would Require Fetal Tissue to Be Buried or Cremated

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On July 1, at the urging of Gov. Greg Abbott, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission published proposed rules that would require burial or cremation of embryonic and fetal tissue remains following an abortion or miscarriage. These rules dictate how healthcare facilities must dispose of tissue at all stages of pregnancy, with no exceptions for genetic testing, research or pathology and no consideration for best medical practices or patients’ wishes or religious beliefs. These rules have nothing to do with the safe practice of modern medicine, but instead are part of a nationwide effort to enact unnecessary regulations that restrict access to abortion.

The health agency could update these rules without making them a backdoor ban on abortion by holding public hearings, consulting with medical providers and writing rules that follow modern medicine. The addition of a non-medical ritual to current clinical practice only serves to further interfere with a patient’s autonomy and ability to make their own decisions about their medical care.

Every patient makes the decision to have an abortion for their own reasons based on their own experience. Instead of passing laws that further complicate a patient’s experience and force them to consider burial services or death certificates, we should focus on making sure that patients are supported and respected in their decision. Read more about why these rules are a problem here.

The public has until July 30 to comment on these rules, which are set to go into effect by September 1, 2016. Make your voice heard by sending an email to [email protected] with the subject line: “Comments on special waste from health care-related facilities.”

We encourage you to share your personal experience in your comments. Here is a sample letter you can send:

Dear Ms. Hughes,
The rules have nothing to do with the safe practice of modern medicine, but instead are part of a nationwide effort to enact unnecessary regulations to restrict access to abortion. Health care providers like hospitals and abortion clinics currently follow the state’s standards for the sanitary disposal of medical waste including embryonic and fetal tissue. The addition of non-medical ritual to current clinical practice only serves to further interfere with a patient’s autonomy and decision making in their own medical care.

Every patient makes the decision to have an abortion for their own reasons based on their own lived experience. Instead of passing laws that further complicate a patient’s experience and force them to consider burial services or death certificates, we should focus on making sure that patients are supported and respected in their decision.

Furthermore, families going through miscarriage or needing to terminate a pregnancy for medical reasons deserve the respect of having the option to have genetic testing performed on the embryonic and fetal tissue so they can successfully carry a healthy pregnancy to term in the future. Infants and children also benefit from medical research on embryonic and fetal tissue.

These rules also violate religious freedom. Not all faiths have the same tradition and ritual, and forcing a patient to violate the tenets of their faith to receive healthcare is unconscionable.

Finally, the regulations as published appear to require that a public death certificate be filed, violating patient privacy. The regulations turn what is currently a private matter–a medical procedure–into public record. This violates the patient’s constitutional right to privacy. Without a full opportunity to comment and receive feedback, healthcare facilities are left in limbo–not knowing if a death certificate will be required before cremation, or if these rules violate statutory dictates that families be allowed to take miscarried and stillborn fetuses home with them.

Any attempt to ban certain types of scientific research deserves to happen in the light of day,not through a rushed rulemaking process. Gov. Abbott should have the courage to rescind these rules.

The Agency should rescind these draft rules and not publish a final version for adoption until the Legislature can provide it with direct authority to do so.

Signed,
Your name & address

On August 4 at 9 a.m., DSHS is holding a public hearing in Austin on these rules. Sign our petition to make your voice heard and tell state officials that you don’t support medically unnecessary regulations enacted to restrict abortion access. Your comments will be included in our testimony during the hearing. You can also RSVP here to attend the hearing in person.

Republicans Vow to “Redouble” Efforts to End Abortion in Texas

Monday’s Supreme Court ruling was an incredible victory for Texans’ health and safety–and it doesn’t stop there. Not only does the decision mean that Texas abortion clinics can stay open, it has far-reaching impacts that effect people across the country. Following the decision, the Supreme Court declined challenges from Wisconsin and Mississippi that would have led to the implementation of similar restrictions in those states, protecting clinics and providers.

While this win is a turning point in the fight for reproductive freedom, it is also fueling anti-choice activists in their preparation for legislative session in January. Show your support for pro-choice policies with a donation today.

In a tweet, Governor Greg Abbott vowed to “redouble” his commitment to restricting abortion access.

And he isn’t alone. During a press conference in Houston, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick told reporters, “We’re going to go through [the decision] line by line and see what it is that we can address in a way that a Supreme Court would approve.” Whatever the outcome of this, he assured them, “We will be all in.”

Prominent anti-choice activists echoed Patrick, saying that “this ruling will help us to focus on what our goal is,” moving forward.

They pledged to pass a procedural ban in the upcoming legislative session, which would disrupt providers’ ability to provide basic medical care should it succeed.

Building upon the Planned Parenthood witch-hunts, they plan to focus on “the state interest about fetal life.” Citing precedent from a Supreme Court ruling in 2007, it is clear that they believe that procedure bans and restrictions focused on “fetal life” will be harder to challenge.

And it isn’t just legislation. Speaking on their Facebook page, a representative from a statewide anti-choice group said, “We need our cultural conversation to be about the pre-born child, not about how many miles it takes to get to an abortion clinic.”

Anti-choice activists in Texas are doubling down on their efforts in Texas. They have a plan in place to shift not only state laws, but also conversations around abortion in Texas.

We can’t let this happen, but we can’t stop it without you. Can you donate today to support proactive, pro-choice policy at the Texas legislature?

NARAL Pro-Choice Texas is already leading the fight for reproductive freedom in Texas, and we aren’t going to let them steal this win. We are actively working to challenge abortion stigma in Texas, stigma fosters the environment that allows harmful abortion restrictions to flourish.

The Texas Legislature has scheduled another meeting about fetal tissue

On Wednesday, the House State Affairs Committee scheduled a public hearing for April 28, and the top of the agenda includes the discussion of fetal tissue and its research:

“Study the policies used by research and medical entities to adhere to the highest ethical standards for acquiring human fetal tissue for medical and scientific purposes. Specifically, review compliance to ensure informed consent and that all state and federal laws sufficiently respect the dignity of the human body. Study criteria for which persons have standing when giving consent for the use of fetal remains and to investigate potential violations of state laws regulating organ/tissue donation. Determine whether additional disclosure and reporting requirements are necessary to ensure moral and ethical research practices. Review practices and statutes in other states regarding fetal tissue harvesting.”

As you may have guessed, discussions in this meeting will likely include abortion providers and the anti-choice sting operation that has targeted Planned Parenthood officials across the country. Leaders of this operation were indicted by a Houston grand jury last month after a Harris County District Attorney concluded an investigation into the abortion provider. Although David Daleiden – leader of the Center for Medical Progress and their so-called “Human Capital Project” – has promised to continue his crusade, it’s hard to imagine how he’ll manage to do that now that his project has landed him in multiple levels of hot water.

Never ones to be dissuaded by facts or laws that don’t work in their favor, Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have vowed to continue their three investigations into Texas Planned Parenthood affiliates on the allegations that they’ve been selling fetal tissue for profit, even though twelve other states that performed the same investigations have come up empty-handed.

As the Legislature continues to use Planned Parenthood for political posturing, it’s clear that they don’t care about the facts.  They are doubling down on harmful rhetoric to rile up their powerful anti-choice base in Texas – a base that will do everything they can to stigmatize abortion and reduce access to services. If the last meeting that lawmakers called regarding Planned Parenthood and fetal tissue tells us anything, it’s that this will be another anti-choice workshop on how to make abortion all but illegal in our state.

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In October last year, state officials delivered subpoenas to Texas Planned Parenthood clinics asking for everything from patient records to employees’ home addresses.

So here we go again, y’all. We’re currently not in a legislative session, but we encourage you to join us at the Capitol on April 28 to support Planned Parenthood as our own lawmakers continue to vilify them at every chance they get.

Anti-choicers don’t know what to do when something doesn’t go their way

Monday was a huge win for Planned Parenthood and for reproductive freedom. We finally saw justice when David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt – heads of the Center for Medical Progress and orchestrators of the undercover and heavily edited videos recorded at Planned Parenthood locations across the country – were indicted by a Houston grand jury while the health care provider was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing. The indictment was the exact opposite of what Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick wanted when they ordered the Houston DA to open up the investigation in July, making it quite the glorious plot twist in this ongoing sting operation.

Anti-choice lawmakers and organizations quickly denounced the outcome and reenergized their usual victim narrative, so much so that “pro-life” Houston DA Devon Anderson, who was endorsed by Texas Right to Life in 2014 and was in charge of the investigation into Planned Parenthood, went on camera on Thursday to explain how the justice system works for all of the grown adults in charge who can’t seem to understand (via KHOU):

“The inconvenient truth of a criminal investigation is that it doesn’t always lead where you wanna go. Anyone who pays attention knows that I’m pro-life. I believe abortion is wrong. But my personal belief does not relieve me of my obligation to follow the law.”

-Harris County DA Devon Anderson

Gov. Abbott even went on to say in an interview with WFAA that “the grand jury made no decision whatsoever about what Planned Parenthood did”, even though, if you’re following along, the grand jury did in fact make a decision about what Planned Parenthood did not do. Meanwhile, defense lawyers for Daleiden and Merritt continue to say that the indictments were given by a “runaway grand jury”, and that sneaking into a Planned Parenthood facility with fake IDs and hidden cameras somehow makes their clients journalists, granting them protection under the 1st Amendment.

The tantrums are expected. These folks have spent years building a system that’s designed to work in their favor – one where every time the anti-choice contingent in Texas wants the state government to do something for them, all they have to do is ask. So when someone actually does their job and serves justice where it’s due, anti-choicers will naturally default to their old tactic of ignoring reality and continuing the made-up fervor. What else do you do when your movement isn’t based in science or fact?

As Andrea Grimes put it in the Texas Observer, scoring an indictment against Planned Parenthood “was never really the point” for these people:

“The point was the noise. The froth. The media circus. The reporters who jump to be the first to catch images of state agents raiding clinics.

The truth is an afterthought.”

While we should count this indictment as a moment of vindication, it’s important to keep in mind that there are still two other investigations into Planned Parenthood happening in Texas, one of which is being conducted by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, the same Senate in which Dan Patrick presides.

In all likelihood the Legislature won’t find that Planned Parenthood did anything wrong, and the lawmakers in charge probably expect that, but they’ve already cut the organization from the Breast and Cervical Cancer Screenings program as well as from the HIV Prevention Program in the last year alone because some Planned Parenthood locations also provide abortion services.

This smear campaign isn’t over yet, and its motives remain clear: continue to vilify reproductive health care providers, increase abortion stigma and put barriers between people and the health care they need in the process.