Honoring Dr. Bhavik Kumar’s work in this movement.

Dr. Kumar speaks at a rally on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court in March 2016. Photo Credit: Whole Woman’s Health

 

Abortion providers face immense obstacles when providing care for their patients. They put their lives at risk every single day to selflessly provide comprehensive and dignified health care for the people who come to their clinics. Dr. Bhavik Kumar’s strong advocacy in the face of continued attacks on abortion access by the Texas Legislature is invaluable for the people affected most by the state’s abortion restrictions. That’s why we’re so honored to present Dr. Kumar with Whole Woman’s Health the Fighting Spirit Award at this year’s Fall Celebration.

Dr. Kumar’s advocacy extends beyond the clinic. As legislatures across the country increasingly rely on medically inaccurate terms and scare tactics to push increased abortion restrictions, Dr. Kumar sought out opportunities to educate legislators and advocates on the realities of abortion care. This was especially useful during the last legislative session, when the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 8. The bill essentially bans second trimester abortions and makes it much harder for doctors to practice their best medical judgment when treating patients. From speaking at a rally on the steps of the Supreme Court prior to the HB 2 decision to working with reporters to demystify common abortion procedures, Dr. Kumar’s commitment to reducing stigma and spreading medically-accurate information is invaluable to our movement.   

At a time when anti-abortion activists are targeting abortion providers, Dr. Kumar’s intentional decision to speak publicly as an abortion provider is even further proof of his commitment to fighting for his patients’ rights to access compassionate abortion care in their communities. We at NARAL Pro-Choice Texas are so thankful to have the opportunity to honor the brave work Dr. Kumar does. Purchase your tickets now and join us on Oct. 19 at the Fall Celebration as we celebrate Dr. Kumar’s fighting spirit.

STATEMENT: Federal Court Blocks Dangerous Provision of SB 8 From Going Into Effect

Federal Court Blocks Dangerous Provision of SB 8 From Going Into Effect

For Release: 8-31-2017

Contact: Sharmeen Aly, [email protected]

Austin, TX — Today, a federal court ruled to temporarily block the enactment of a provision of Senate Bill 8 that bans the safest and most common method of abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. A coalition of abortion providers represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood Federation of America brought suit against SB 8 in July. Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, released the following statement —

“NARAL Pro-Choice Texas is proud to stand with our partners in their fight against attacks on abortion access. SB 8 is part of a coordinated national strategy designed to shame people who get abortions, tie the hands of doctors and ban abortion method by method. This bill criminalizes physicians for exercising their best medical judgment and is a dangerous intrusion into the doctor-patient relationship.

Today’s ruling comes after a hateful special legislative session in which anti-choice lawmakers passed a bill that bans private insurance coverage for abortion. The courts, as well as Texans around the state, see through the Legislature’s thinly-veiled attacks that aim to make abortion inaccessible in Texas.

It is shameful that anti-choice lawmakers have no regard for established law or for people’s rights and insist on wasting precious taxpayer dollars defending laws they know to be unconstitutional. It is long past time for lawmakers to stop playing politics with our health care and stop passing measures that risk patients’ health and safety.”

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STATEMENT: Texas Will Revoke Family Planning Money Given to Anti-Abortion Organization

Texas Will Revoke Family Planning Money Given to Anti-Abortion Organization  

For Release: 8-22-2017

Contact: Sharmeen Aly, [email protected]

Austin, TX — Yesterday, it was revealed that Texas will reallocate more than $4 million of the state’s family planning budget from a grant awarded to The Heidi Group, an anti-abortion organization that provides no health care. NARAL Pro-Choice Texas has repeatedly criticized the state’s decision to award The Heidi Group this funding. Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, released the following statement —

“The Heidi Group’s contract with HHSC demonstrates just how far Texas will go in putting politics over people, especially when it comes to reproductive health. There was nothing in The Heidi Group’s operations or history to indicate that this non-medical organization was even remotely qualified to provide reproductive health care.

Carol Everett has made several statements that demonstrate her lack of understanding of basic public health concepts, such as testifying before the state health agency that HIV and STIs can be transmitted and contracted through our water supply. Yet, the state went to extremes to withhold funds from qualified providers in order to award undeserved millions of taxpayer dollars to an ideological, anti-choice organization with ties to fake providers like crisis pregnancy centers. Tens of thousands of Texans in need of vital health care will pay the price for our state leadership’s unhealthy relationship with anti-abortion zealots like Everett.

Family planning dollars should be going directly to medical providers who have experience providing family planning and preventive care services, not anti-abortion organizations that aim to coerce and manipulate.

There must be an investigation into how and why the health department awarded The Heidi Group such a large contract that they were not qualified to fulfill.”

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NARAL Pro-Choice Texas Responds to Troubling HHSC Testimony

During a House Public Health Committee hearing last week, HHSC associate commissioners Lesley French delivered sworn testimony to legislators, asserting that pregnant Texans can easily access free pregnancy tests at crisis pregnancy centers. She went on to laud the failing Healthy Texas Women program, which has been dramatically underperforming since losing Planned Parenthood as a health care provider. See below for our response to French’s testimony:

 

August 1, 2017

Lesley French

Associate Commissioner for Women’s Health Services Division

Texas Health and Human Services Commission

 

Dear Ms. French,

My name is Emily Martin, and I am the program director at NARAL Pro-Choice Texas. Our organization’s mission is to use education, training, organizing and public policy to support and protect all Texans’ freedom to make personal reproductive health decisions and to guarantee access to the full range of healthcare options, including timely and affordable access to abortion. As a public health professional and advocate for true reproductive justice, I would be remiss if I did not point out some glaring concerns with your sworn testimony on several maternal mortality bills at last week’s House Public Health Committee hearing.

You and others asserted at the hearing that our health care system requires pregnant Texans  wanting to access Medicaid to get a pregnancy test certified by a provider. However, this information is, in fact, incorrect. Federal regulation states that Texas may take a woman’s statement as verification of her pregnancy and that confirmation from a physician is unnecessary. Not only did you not know the requirements of the program, you utilized this misinformation to suggest that pregnant Texans “visit one of the 115 crisis pregnancy centers across the state” for pregnancy testing, which is wildly misleading and dishonest. If you knew anything about these centers, then you would know the services offered at them might be free but come with another price tag—inaccurate and outright fake medicine. We at NARAL Pro-Choice Texas have spent many years investigating these state-funded crisis pregnancy centers and I am personally appalled at their manipulative tactics. They often do not have regular medical staff but rely on volunteers who administer pregnancy tests and sonograms. Crisis pregnancy centers are so focused on keeping Texans from accessing abortion that they employ lies and delay tactics and often keep those wanting to continue their pregnancy from accessing prenatal care, which is crucial throughout pregnancy. For example, one center we visited advised a young woman that if she did not see a doctor before she was 12 weeks pregnant, she could continue to get free services at the CPC. Comments like yours legitimize these fake medical clinics and mislead Texans who are seeking actual health care services. Texans deserve the truth, especially from state health agency officials like yourself.

You then went on to advertise that the Healthy Texas Women program has a plethora of providers around the state that could offer certified pregnancy tests, including walk-in appointments. We made calls to providers listed on your website in fall 2016 and found that 58 out of the 220 called were not actually participating in Healthy Texas Women and 32 out of those 220 were not OB/GYNs or family planning specialists, but were instead radiologists, dental care specialists or anesthesia consultants. Even more egregious, another 16 of those were disconnected numbers, personal numbers or not health care providers at all, including one number that led to a feed store. Further, Healthy Texas Women is still dramatically underperforming since losing Planned Parenthood as a participating provider.

If you and your agency were truly invested in reducing Texas’ alarming maternal mortality rate, you would work with lawmakers to expand Medicaid and ensure that all Texans, no matter their zip code, had access to the full range of reproductive care, including family planning, abortion, prenatal and postpartum care. At the very least, you should be pushing the Legislature to expand pregnancy Medicaid to at least a year postpartum. You would insist that every qualified medical provider, including Planned Parenthood, participate in our state’s health care programs and that our tax dollars are funding real medicine, not unlicensed, religious-based crisis pregnancy centers.

 

Sincerely,

Emily Martin, M.P.H.

Program Director, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas

 

Cc: House Public Health Committee

Chair Four Price

Vice Chair J.D. Sheffield

Rep. Diana Arévalo

Rep. Cindy Burkett

Rep. Garnet Coleman

Rep. Nicole Collier

Rep. Philip Cortez

Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra

Rep. Stephanie Klick

Rep. Tom Oliverson

Rep. Bill Zedler

STATEMENT: Gov. Abbott Announces More Devastating Attacks on Abortion Access for Special Session

For Release: 6-6-2017

Contact: Sharmeen Aly, [email protected]

Austin, TX — Today, Gov. Greg Abbott announced a special session to begin July 18 and laid out several pieces of anti-abortion legislation as his priorities, including a ban on private insurance coverage for abortion, burdensome reporting requirements for abortion providers and further regulations on how governments can contract with organizations like Planned Parenthood.

Gov. Abbott also signed into law SB 8, a cruel and shameful anti-abortion bill that severely restricts access to health care and effectively bans second trimester abortions.

Heather Busby, executive director at NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, released the following statement upon the announcement —

“It is disgusting and shameful that Gov. Abbott is wasting taxpayer dollars to force through even more regulations on our reproductive freedoms, especially after signing such a harmful bill in SB 8. And it is even more despicable that he is using the special session to systematically deny our human rights and civil liberties, wrenching away local control, attacking transgender people, forcing through school vouchers, and taking away our ability to unionize.

Restricting access to vital health care and targeting medical providers is cruel, hateful and dangerous. Gov. Abbott’s priorities for the special session jeopardize Texans’ health and safety and disproportionately impact low-income Texans, people of color and their families, and young people.

There is nothing ‘pro-life’ about denying health care to those who need it. Our reproductive rights are not political bargaining chips to be traded away.”