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.”

2017 Legislative Wrap Up

On Memorial Day, the 85th Legislature adjourned their regular session. While we wait to see if the governor will call them into special session, the immediate threat from the right-wing “Freedumb Caucus” has returned to the gerrymandered districts from whence it came. We know the attacks on reproductive health care and access to abortion in this state will continue, but so will our resistance.

The most obvious result of the regular legislative session is Texas will now have new laws that impact how doctors in Texas can care for their patients and access to abortion at 14 weeks and beyond will be severely restricted, if not totally inaccessible, without a legal challenge. Once again, the legislature has pushed through an unconstitutional, omnibus abortion bill, Senate Bill 8, which was amended on the House floor to contain multiple medically unnecessary regulations on the provision of abortion care. However, most striking was the brazenness in which the anti-abortion zealots discarded any pretense of caring about “women’s health” and the success they had due to fear or lack of courage by the Republican majority in both chambers of the legislature.  

This session, Pandering Dan Patrick not only was intent upon pushing private school vouchers and the highly discriminatory and hateful bathroom bill, but of his 30 legislative priorities, he included three anti-abortion measures. The Texas Senate managed to railroad them all through with little deliberation, but not without a strong fight from pro-choice activists, including shattered glass tables, banner drops and Handmaids infiltrating the gallery.  

What were once thought of as reasonable exceptions to the most stringent anti-abortion laws are now under direct attack. During the debate on SB 8, Rep. Matt Schaefer (R- The Worst Matt) filed an amendment to remove the already very narrow exception for abortion past 20 weeks in the case of fetal anomalies that are not compatible with life. If it had passed, his amendment would have forced a pregnant person to continue a pregnancy until a miscarriage, stillbirth, or life endangerment. The amendment was ultimately defeated, but more than 65 members of the Texas House supported it.  

Finally, the legislature maintained  funding for “Alternatives to Abortion” by allocating $9.15 million per year to this program, with the potential for the agency to increase that amount by another $10 million per year. The “Alternatives to Abortion” budget item funds the Texas Pregnancy Care Network, which is an organization set up to funnel money to crisis pregnancy centers, which are organizations that purport to help pregnant people but in reality use any means they can to deny access to abortion, including lies and scare tactics.

The news was not all bad! There were a few silver linings as good bills passed and we will continue to work with our partners in the Trust. Respect. Access coalition to offer a better vision for reproductive health care policy in Texas.

Good Bills Passed:

SB 1599: Sen. Borris Miles/Rep. Shawn Thierry

This bill creates standards for more transparency around the reporting of information and investigation into maternal mortality cases. NARAL Pro-Choice Texas supports this bill because it raises awareness of the increasing maternal mortality rate. Texas currently has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world.

SB 790: Sen. Borris Miles/Rep. Donna Howard

This bill continues the Women’s Health Advisory Committee, responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Healthy Texas Women program. NARAL Pro-Choice Texas supports this bill because it promotes state health agency accountability and transparency.

HB 2466: Rep. Sarah Davis/Sen. Joan Huffman

This bill ensures that screening for maternal depression is covered under the child health plan, regardless of whether the mother is also an enrollee. NARAL Pro-Choice Texas supports this bill because it gives attention to the mental health of the mother following childbirth and ensures she receives adequate care.

SB 77: Sen. Jane Nelson/Rep. Carol Alvarado

This bill authorizes a court to terminate a person’s parental rights based on a criminal conviction for sexual assault if the termination is in the best interests of the child. NARAL Pro-Choice Texas supports this bill because it establishes rape as grounds to terminate parental rights. Companion: HB 1766, HB 1812

SB 257: Sen. Van Taylor/Rep. Tony Dale

This bill corrects an evidentiary imbalance between the standard for obtaining a civil protective order based on sexual assault, stalking, or human trafficking and the standard for later modifying or terminating the order. NARAL Pro-Choice Texas supports this bill because it eliminates loopholes in protective order proceedings. Companion: HB 472

HB 281: Rep. Donna Howard/Sen. Joan Huffman

This bill establishes a statewide electronic tracking system for sexual assault evidence kits. NARAL Pro-Choice Texas supports this bill because it increases transparency between law enforcement agencies and sexual assault victims.

HB 1729: Rep. Victoria Neave/Sen. Sylvia Garcia

This bill establishes a program to monitor and test evidence for rape kits. NARAL Pro-Choice Texas supports this bill because it provides more transparency to hold the state accountable in prosecuting cases of sexual assault.

Bad Bills Passed:

SB 8: Sen. Charles Schwertner

This bill will drastically affect the provision of abortion after 14 weeks of pregnancy. It targets abortion providers unfairly and is yet another unconstitutional bill restricting abortion access. The bill’s provisions include:

  • Copy of federal ban on intact dilation and extraction procedure
  • Prohibition on donation of embryonic or fetal tissue
  • Requirement that embryonic and fetal tissue be buried
  • Mandatory monthly electronic reporting by the physician
  • Legal definition of “abortion” changed
  • Criminalizes use of surgical instruments in the dilation and extraction procedure, the most common and safe method of pregnancy termination after 14 weeks

SB 4: Sen. Charles Perry

This bill prohibits sanctuary cities in Texas and requires compliance with federal immigration authorities and allows the attorney general to remove an elected official who refuses to comply. It also allows campus, local and state police officers to question a person’s citizenship during the most routine stops, for example a traffic stop, including questioning children. NARAL Pro-Choice Texas opposes this bill because it undermines public safety and forces undocumented Texans, their friends and families further into the shadows. This bill intimidates immigrant Texans from accessing basic services, including reproductive health care, and also undermines community policing by forcing local law enforcement agencies to act as federal immigration officers. We oppose any measure that tears apart families, which is exactly what SB 4 will do.

STATEMENT: Texas Legislature Advances Omnibus Anti-Abortion Bill

Texas Legislature Advances Cruel and Shameful Anti-Abortion Bill That Severely Restricts Access to Health Care

For Release: 5-26-2017

Contact: Sharmeen Aly, [email protected]

AUSTIN, TX — Today, the Texas Senate voted 22 to 9 to accept the House amendments added to Senate Bill 8, an omnibus bill that would require burial or cremation of embryonic and fetal tissue, ban the use of fetal tissue for research and ban an extremely safe and medically approved method of abortion. With today’s vote, the bill is now headed for Governor Greg Abbott’s desk. Heather Busby, executive director at NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, released the following statement upon passage —

“In a complete disregard for previous court rulings, including last year’s Supreme Court decision reaffirming the right to an abortion, the Texas Legislature has passed another dangerous bill that will place an undue burden on people seeking an abortion. Texas taxpayers will now have to pay for expensive litigation because lawmakers insist on passing bills they know are unconstitutional, simply to appease an extremist anti-choice lobby.

SB 8 effectively bans second trimester abortions and will make abortion care immensely harder to access. This bill does nothing to benefit health and safety and is a dangerous intrusion into the doctor-patient relationship. Politics have no place in the exam room.

SB 8 severely restricts access to abortion and shames and stigmatizes people who have abortions. This is another shameful measure by the Texas Legislature.”

STATEMENT: Texas House Passes Cruel and Shameful Anti-Abortion Bill

For Release: 5-20-2017

Contact: Sharmeen Aly, [email protected]

AUSTIN, TX — Today, the Texas House passed on third reading Senate Bill 8, an omnibus bill that would require burial or cremation of embryonic and fetal tissue, ban the use of fetal tissue for research and ban an extremely safe and medically approved method of abortion. The bill also prohibits an already banned abortion procedure that’s no longer used in medical practice. Heather Busby, executive director at NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, released the following statement upon passage —

“During yesterday’s debate and with today’s final passage, we saw just how shameless anti-abortion legislators truly are and how far they’re willing to go to score political points by attacking people’s access to health care. Texas has the highest maternal mortality rate out of any developed country but instead of addressing that, lawmakers are busy wasting time and taxpayer dollars restricting access to abortion and imposing restrictions on health care facilities that have been ruled unconstitutional in federal court.

Banning safe abortion procedures does nothing to benefit public health and only serves as a dangerous intrusion into the doctor-patient relationship. Lawmakers admitted during the SB 8 debate that they haven’t consulted with any medical professionals but still chose to play doctor on the House floor. Politicians are not doctors and they have no place in the exam room.
SB 8 severely restricts access to abortion and shames and stigmatizes Texans who have abortions. This is a shameful measure by the Texas House.”

Demand House Lawmakers STOP Anti-Abortion Senate Bills in Their Tracks

After effectively killing more than 100 House bills—including two that would have addressed Texas’ disturbingly high maternal mortality rate—and passing two anti-abortion bills before last Thursday’s deadline to pass House bills, the Texas House now turns its attention to Senate bills, which it can pass for another week. The House Calendars Committee—which controls which bills are heard on the House floor and when—is considering an extreme and dangerous anti-abortion bill passed by the Senate earlier this session, and may have more on their plate later this week as House committees pass more Senate bills.
PLACED ON THE HOUSE CALENDAR FOR 5-19-2017 — Senate Bill 8 would ban the donation of fetal tissue from abortion clinics for research purposes and contains a copy of an existing federal ban of safe, medically-proven abortion procedure.  It also requires embryonic and fetal tissue to be buried or cremated, rather than handled according to current public health regulations.
Senate Bill 20 bans private health insurance plans from offering coverage for abortion care and forces Texans who experience an unplanned pregnancy or unexpected pregnancy complication to buy additional coverage. This bill will cut off access to affordable abortion care for low-income and rural Texans and people of color.

Senate Bill 25 would protect doctors who lie to pregnant patients, or fail to tell them about diagnoses related to the pregnancy.

Now is the time to CALL the members on the House Calendars Committee and tell them to stop these cruel, medically unnecessary bills from going to the House floor where they will undoubtedly be made worse. Feel free to use the script below:

Hi, my name is ______.
I’m calling to ask Rep. _____, who is a member of the House Calendars Committee, to REJECT sending SB 25 to the full Texas House floor for debate and vote.  The most extreme members of the legislature should not be rewarded or allowed to take credit for these bills moving to the house floor for debate.
 
Texans must be able to make their own medical decisions with the advice of the doctors they trust. Senate Bills 8, 20 and 25 interfere in the doctor-patient relationship, have no public health benefit and will cut off access to affordable health care. If passed, these bills would harm pregnant Texans.
 
[Insert your own story, if you like.]
 
I’m counting on the representative to do the right thing and respect pregnant Texans by STOPPING Senate Bill 25 in its tracks.
 
Thank you for your time.

Texas House Calendars Committee:

  • Chair, Todd Hunter: (512) 463-0672
  • Vice Chair, Donna Howard: (512) 463-0631
  • Roberto Alonzo: (512) 463-0408
  • Trent Ashby: (512) 463-0508
  • Byron Cook: (512) 463-0730
  • Sarah Davis: (512) 463-0389
  • Charlie Geren: (512) 463-0610
  • Helen Giddings: (512) 463-0953
  • Kyle Kacal: (512) 463-0412
  • Ken King: (512) 463-0736
  • Linda Koop: (512) 463-0454
  • Poncho Nevárez: (512) 463-0566
  • Chris Paddie: (512) 463-0556
  • Dade Phelan: (512) 463-0706
  • Toni Rose: (512) 463-0664