Lawmakers Must Prioritize Proactive Bills That Expand and Protect Reproductive Health Care

For weeks, Texas lawmakers have debated measures designed explicitly to reduce access to abortion and stigmatize Texans seeking vital health care. Misinformation and ideological rhetoric abound, and politicians continue to interfere with the doctor-patient relationship. These bills are harmful, endanger the lives of Texans and blatantly disrespect physicians and patient privacy.

While bills like this are flying through the Legislature, others that actually protect and promote access to health care are languishing. As we approach a key deadline for House bills to be voted out of committee, we call on lawmakers to hold hearings on the following good bills:

  • House Bill 262 by Rep. Donna Howard respects a physician’s medical training and allows them to exercise their best medical judgement when providing abortion care to their patients. This bill ensures doctors can practice medicine without political interference by protecting them should they opt out of giving their patients state-mandated misinformation.
  • House Bill 745 by Rep. Jessica Farrar repeals Texas’ 24-hour waiting period before an abortion. This bill strikes a medically unnecessary restriction from state law and restores dignity to Texans seeking abortion care.
  • House Bill 746, also by Rep. Jessica Farrar, strikes from state law a pervasive lie peddled by the anti-abortion movement—that abortion leads to an increased risk of breast cancer. For more than a decade, Texas law has required physicians to share with their patients this baseless claim. By removing this language from statute, HB 746 ensures that patients have the accurate medical information they deserve.

In addition to holding hearings on these bills, legislators should also vote on Rep. Mary Gonzalez’s House Bill 330, which expands access to birth control for parenting minors by allowing them to consent to their own health care, and Rep. Jessica Farrar’s House Bill 747, which makes accurate information about emergency contraception available to sexual assault survivors.

These bills deserve attention and a vote. We call on lawmakers to prioritize HBs 262, 330, 745, 746 and 747 and abandon the misguided, medically inaccurate and stigmatizing legislation they have taken up so far this session. Click here to send an email directly to the chairman of the committee responsible for taking up these bills.

Statement: Texas Senate Passes SB 20, A Ban on Private Insurance Coverage for Abortion

For Release: 3-22-2017

Contact: Sharmeen Aly, [email protected]

AUSTIN, TEXAS — Today, the Texas Senate passed on second reading Senate Bill 20, which would ban private insurance plans from covering abortion care. The bill also does not make exceptions for rape, incest or fetal anomalies. Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, released the following statement:

“Access to health care, including abortion, should not be limited by one’s income. In restricting insurance coverage for abortion, Senate Bill 20 jeopardizes Texans’ health and disproportionately impacts low-income Texans, people of color and their families, and young people.

SB 20 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?

Having insurance coverage for abortion is important to ensure that every Texan can access the care they need in a timely manner. It is wrong for the government to place restrictions on private health insurance companies looking to offer a full range of reproductive health services, including abortion.”

Dr. Corinne McLeod: Texas Pamphlet Violates Core Ethical Principle of Modern Medicine

This past summer, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) announced that they would be accepting comments from the public on their controversial “Woman’s Right to Know” pamphlet. Texas law mandates that all doctors in the state who perform abortions must give this pamphlet to their patients in conjunction with a mandatory information session before their procedures. Being a doctor who plans on providing abortion care in Texas, I took it upon myself to painstakingly edit this document so I could provide the state with the most accurate medical information possible. After all, surely the goal is to provide people with the essential knowledge they need to make informed decisions about their bodies and about their health.

However, I quickly realized this document is so hopelessly biased as to be functionally useless; my annotations were an exercise in futility. “A Woman’s Right to Know” discusses supposed medical risks from abortion that have been discredited for decades as if there were legitimate scientific debate surrounding them. The fact is that there is no link between abortion and breast cancer or infertility. There is no “post-abortion syndrome,” or any major psychiatric disorder associated with abortion. But by forcing physicians to hand out this pamphlet to patients, it lends credence to these myths. It forces us to discuss these risks as if they are real, therefore making doctors complicit in the scare tactics of the “pro-life” movement. Furthermore, the state drastically downplays the very real risks surrounding pregnancy and childbirth. People are actually 10 to 12 times more likely to die from complications related to childbirth than from an abortion. There is, of course, no mention of this amongst the glossy pictures of delighted-looking pregnant women scattered throughout the pamphlet. In fact, a Rutgers University study found that 30 percent of Texas’ pamphlet is medically inaccurate.

One of the core ethical tenants of modern medicine revolves around informed consent, the concept of giving patients all the information they need to make decisions that are in keeping with the patients’ own personal values. By extension, this includes giving accurate information to the best of the physician’s ability. “A Woman’s Right to Know” forces doctors to violate this principle. Patients expect to be able to trust their doctors to provide them accurate information with regards to their care, which is what forms the basis of the doctor-patient relationship. The state of Texas forces any doctor even discussing abortion to undermine this relationship and violate the ethics of our profession by mandating this pamphlet’s distribution. The political agenda behind “A Woman’s Right to Know” undercuts the foundations of the trusting relationship doctors depend on to provide their patients with the best possible care. Putting aside personal politics, any medical professional should be concerned by the state’s partisan involvement in healthcare. With our fact-resistant political climate, any kind of evidence-based medicine could be up for legislation based on the political leanings of extremist policy makers.

I struggled to edit “A Woman’s Right to Know” for many hours until the entire document was basically a series of red ‘x’ marks and aggravated, high school English teacher-style scrawlings in the margins. And, much like many high school English assignments, there was little worth salvaging. Undeterred, I wrote my own pamphlet, complete with scientific citations and local resources for contraception and child-rearing assistance. The State, in their fervor against abortion, neglected to include these valuable services in the original document. If you’d like to use my version of the pamphlet to provide information to those in need, you can find it here. It is freely available to anyone because I firmly believe that people deserve to have all the facts they need to make decisions for themselves. I became a doctor to help people live their best lives – protecting autonomy is essential to that goal.

Dr. Corinne McLeod is currently a resident physician at Albany Medical Center specializing in OB/GYN. She is originally from Austin and hopes to return to Texas to work in reproductive health.

Statement: Texas Abortion Providers File Lawsuit Against Medically Unnecessary Fetal Tissue Burial Rules

For Release: December 12, 2016

Contact: [email protected]

Texas — On Monday, a coalition of abortion providers, represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights, filed a lawsuit against the state of Texas challenging rules that would require embryonic and fetal tissue to be buried following an abortion. Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, released the following statement —

“NARAL Pro-Choice Texas is proud to support abortion providers in their fight against restrictions that place unnecessary burdens on people seeking abortion. Our anti-choice state lawmakers have shown again and again that they are willing to waste precious taxpayer dollars defending sham regulations and putting political ideology over the safe practice of modern medicine.

There are real problems in Texas affecting children that our lawmakers should be addressing instead of wasting time and taxpayer dollars restricting access to abortion. If the lawmakers in our state truly cared about protecting the dignity of life, they would focus on fixing the broken foster care system and CPS reform.

It’s clear that these embryonic and fetal tissue burial rules only serve to restrict and stigmatize abortion and shame people for their private health care decisions.”

Statement: Anti-Abortion Lawmakers Continue Playing Politics with Texans’ Health Care

Today, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced Senate Bill 20, which would ban insurance coverage for abortion. This legislation follows a string of anti-abortion bills filed last week. Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, released the following statement —

“This session, Texas lawmakers need to fix the litany of areas where they have failed families — from our broken child welfare system to chronic underfunding of public education. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and state lawmakers should prioritize policies that improve the lives of Texans and their families, including expanding access to reproductive health care, not play politics by passing medically unnecessary restrictions that make it even more difficult for Texans to access safe, legal abortion.”
“The ban on fetal tissue research from an elective abortion — filed last week — is a backlash to heavily edited and discredited videos released in 2015 intended to smear Planned Parenthood. As no abortion clinics in Texas currently participate in donating fetal tissue to researchers, Senate Bill 8 accomplishes nothing but further stigmatizing abortion.”