Rep. Ina Minjarez: HB 214 limits economic freedom

In the remarks Rep. Ina Minjarez (D-San Antonio) gave to close the House debate on HB 214, which would ban insurance coverage for safe, legal abortion, she highlighted the connection between access to safe, legal abortion and economic freedom. Read her powerful speech below:  

“I am speaking against this bill because I believe we should fight for the health of our mothers. We need real solutions for better health care, which is not what House Bill 214 is about. Members, we all collectively understood the dire need to address maternal mortality issues in our state. We worked together and passed maternal mortality legislation in the House. This bill takes us backwards.

Access to quality, affordable health care is an essential right for any Texan. How a mom or dad pays for health insurance is one of the most important, and difficult economic and economic security decisions a parent can make. Making insurance more expensive and out of reach for families, which is what this bill does, is going in the wrong direction.

Women face economic hardships that men simply do not have to face, starting with the fact that men are paid more money for the same kind of work. Women are paid 79 cents for every dollar a man makes, 63 cents for black women, and 54 cents for Hispanic women. So from the get-go, women earn less than men. There is also no economic support for having a family, whatever you make in Texas. Texas has not passed family leave laws. We have tax breaks for corporations instead of childcare. 62% of minimum wage workers in TX are women. And of Texas women, 1 in 5 are living in poverty. In Texas, women earn less, are paid unequally and lack childcare or paid family leave laws.

That’s why the economic impact of having a child is the number one factor women consider when making this incredibly difficult and personal decision. 1 in 3 women in America will have an abortion in her lifetime. Forcing separate health insurance is wrong. Women have a right to govern their own bodies. Assessing a fee to exercise that right is an attack on women’s health and women’s autonomy.

Most importantly, it’s a policy that hurts women most in need. Low-income women who already face barriers to accessing abortion would be required to purchase separate insurance equal to a month’s rent or more, if this law is passed. Most women who have abortions are already mothers. House Bill 214 would force these working moms to either pay a separate monthly premium for the insurance required by this bill, or face out of pocket costs that could force them to choose between a private medical decision and keeping the lights on.

To afford an abortion, many low income women without coverage for the procedure delay or forgo paying utility bills or rent, or won’t buy food for themselves or their children. Low income women who couldn’t afford this insurance and can’t afford an abortion, go on to earn less income and are more likely to fall into poverty–problems exacerbated by a lack of family-friendly economic policies that support the women this bill will impact the most.

Research shows that women denied an abortion who go on to have a child, whether it is their first child or another child, struggle more than women who can get an abortion. Within a year of being denied an abortion, women are more likely to be unemployed, receive public assistance and live below the federal poverty line, one year after their clinic visit.

This bill is not about the safety of women or supporting Texas families. This bill is about denying Texas women their right to a safe abortion. As with the countless other abortion restrictions enacted every time this Legislature meets, this bill hurts working women the most, limiting their economic freedom and interfering in their private medical decisions. Members, I respect that we have different opinions on this and I appreciate you allowing me and my colleagues the opportunity to voice ours. I think it is critical that we recognize the economic realities involving abortion, health insurance, and the decision every family faces on whether to have a child and knowing the consequences a law like this will have on the women of Texas.”