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.”

Oppose SB 4: Immigrant Justice is Reproductive Justice

This Wednesday the House State Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on SB 4, which would punish local and state government entities, as well as college campuses, that refuse to cooperate with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials or enforce immigration laws.

As we fight for the fundamental right of every person to maintain bodily autonomy, to make their own reproductive health care decisions with access to the full range of options, and to live and raise families in healthy, safe communities, with dignity and justice, this legislation is of the utmost concern.

The health and rights of 1.5 million undocumented immigrants living in Texas are already profoundly compromised by their immigration status. Undocumented immigrants are often forced to work in industries that are undervalued, underpaid, hazardous to their health, lacking in basic worker protections, and offer no benefits. Not surprisingly, a majority of them do not have health care coverage. As a result, undocumented immigrants are less likely to receive adequate reproductive health care.

However, as federal agencies ramp up their use of deportation raids as an immigration enforcement tactic under the Trump administration, the threat of deportation is proving to be as great a barrier to accessing health care as the systemic disenfranchisement undocumented immigrants have faced throughout their experience in the United States.

Undocumented individuals frequently report forgoing or delaying care for fear that they will be reported to immigration officials. Stories like that of a Mexican woman detained in Houston at a gynecologist’s appointment and of a Salvadoran woman with a brain tumor forcefully taken out of the hospital where she was being treated in Burleson, Texas, and back to a detention center add to an atmosphere of panic and deter vulnerable individuals from seeking the care they need.

SB 4 would give local law enforcement agencies in Texas no choice but to facilitate this aggressive wave of deportations, breaking up families and communities and further marginalizing a population that, in fact, is an integral part of our state’s social, cultural and economic fabric. This bill would encourage dangerous profiling practices and tie city and county officials’ hands in determining public safety priorities, as well as discouraging victims and witnesses from reporting crimes. If enacted, SB 4 would make all Texans less safe.

Here’s how you can help stop this dangerous measure:

  1. Call the members of the State Affairs Committee and tell them to oppose SB 4:

– Chair, Byron Cook: 512-463-0730

– Vice Chair, Helen Giddings: 512-463-0953

– Tom Craddick: 512-463-0500

– Charlie Geren: 512-463-0610

– Jessica Farrar: 512-463-0620

– Ryan Guillen: 512-463-0416

– Ken King: 512-463-0736

– John Kuempel: 512-462-0602

– Morgan Meyer: 512-463-0367

– Rene Oliveira: 512-463-0640

– Chris Paddie: 512-463-0674

– Eddie Rodriguez: 512-463-0674

– John T. Smithee: 512-463-0702

2. Call your OWN representative, to let them know that you are against SB 4. Find out who represents you here.

3. Come to the State Affairs Committee Hearing on Wednesday, March 15. It will be at the Capitol in the extension, room E2.036. Notice of the hearing can be found here.

4. Testify at the Hearing. If you are willing to take your advocacy to the next level, consider testifying at the State Affairs Committee Hearing. You will need to deliver a 3-minute testimony stating that you are against SB 4. Here is more information about how to register to testify.

 

Lawmakers dismissed my experience

This is a guest post from Jeni Putalavage-Ross.

Last week, I shared my family’s story at the Capitol before a panel of senators considering a bill that would ban private health insurance plans from covering abortion.

In 2010, I was pregnant with a very wanted child, but at my anatomy scan at 21 weeks, my doctors informed us that the pregnancy was incompatible with life. My husband and I decided that I would have a late-term abortion to save our child from unnecessary pain and to protect my body and mental health. I experienced complications from my termination that resulted in a week-long ICU stay, threatened my life, and resulted in $67,000 in medical bills. Luckily, I had insurance coverage and I only had to pay a small fraction of the total bill. If it were it not for that procedure and the insurance coverage, I would not be here today and I would not have been able to later have my three amazing daughters.

Photo credit: Cathlin McCullough

At the hearing, lawmakers questioned the relevance of my story, disrespecting and dismissing my family’s experience. I felt they were not open to hearing anything that might question their agenda, I don’t think they respect the fact that abortion should be a private medical decision, and I question their belief that they represent all Texans.

These senators did not care about my family’s experience and waved aside all concerns for families that need to make the difficult decision to end a wanted pregnancy. They have no respect for women that might want to end a pregnancy for personal reasons.Their desire to restrict Texans’ preferred type of insurance coverage is purely based on their desire to end all abortions. Unfortunately, it is difficult to reason with unreasonable people, debate with people who use logical fallacies, and it is nearly impossible to prove medical needs to people who don’t believe in science.

If you believe women’s reproductive decisions should not be legislated, please consider donating today to support NARAL Pro-Choice Texas’ mission. I was so relieved when I showed up at the Capitol and saw Alexa, Blake, and Maggie ready to support me before and after my testimony. If you’re like me and you can’t follow every bill and show up to every hearing, donate to this team to help them continue the work they are doing on our behalf. It is really difficult to sit and listen to misinformation and have your personal beliefs questioned and this team does it every day. I am really in awe of the dedication they show and the emotional toll they endure in order to fight for Texans.

Jeni Putalavage-Ross

Hate is not a feminist value.

Recently state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst wrote an op-ed in my hometown paper proclaiming that “women’s rights are human rights.” I immediately bristled at the headline because I would not consider Kolkhorst to be a strong defender of women’s rights and, considering that our right-wing lieutenant governor picked her to champion Texas’ version of the discriminatory “bathroom bill,” my immediate reaction was, “No you don’t, Lois!”

My esteemed colleague Chuck Smith, executive director of Equality Texas, wrote a wonderful takedown of Kolkhorst’s article, and I encourage you to read it. The simple fact is SB 6 is about as ugly as it gets. It attacks the most vulnerable populations this state has: transgender women and transgender children. Case in point: just this last week in neighboring Louisiana, three black transgender women were murdered.

The truth is that this bill, Senate Bill 6, was originally going to be called the “Women’s Privacy Act.” Hilarious, considering that Patrick and Kolkhorst have both introduced, sponsored, and voted for multiple pieces of legislation that have restricted reproductive health care access for women, girls, transmen and gender-nonconforming people.

Conversely, I have not seen them championing legislation that would be #soprolife (if the “pro-life” movement worked at all to pass common sense policies for children once they are born) like pay equity, paid family leave, raising the minimum wage, and increasing protections for breastfeeding parents.

Women do not need Lois Kolkhorst and Dan Patrick to protect them. The justification for SB 6 feeds into outdated and harmful gender norms that paint women as helpless, vulnerable creatures that must be protected from the world. This same paternalistic worldview is behind the anti-abortion, anti-contraception policies these lawmakers promote. They do not trust women to make their own decisions. They think women need to be protected, including from themselves.

But women are strong and independent and we know when someone who is just there to use the bathroom. We are capable of smiling and nodding and going about our business in a polite way instead of shaming and attacking someone because of their gender identity. Transgender people do not present a danger to women and children, but lawmakers like Kolkhorst and Patrick do.

Discrimination is not a feminist value. Hate is not a feminist value. Lois Kolkhorst does not get to invoke women’s rights or a human rights frameworks to justify bigotry and discrimination. She and Lt. Gov. Patrick do not get to use women to advance their hateful agenda.

At NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, we fight for the human rights of all Texans, including transgender and gender-nonconforming Texans. We stand up for all Texans and we oppose SB6.

Join us in opposing SB 6 as it is heard in the Senate State Affairs committee on Tuesday, March 7, starting at 8am in E1.036.

 

Heather Busby
Executive Director