April 11: At the Capitol this week

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In the early hours of Friday morning, extreme politicians in the Texas House voted to advance a budget amendment targeting access to care at Planned Parenthood. According to House Republican Caucus Chair Tan Parker this amendment was “traded” for a measure that would have prohibited transgender Texans from using the restrooms of their choice.

“It is shameful that Texas politicians are making backroom deals on which vulnerable population to target,” said Planned Parenthood Texas Votes Executive Director Yvonne Gutierrez. “These politicians are doubling down on failed policies that are bad for Texans and have decimated access to health care.”

Planned Parenthood patients, supporters, staff, and volunteers are people of all gender identities, including transgender and gender nonconforming people. Attacks on access to health care, at Planned Parenthood or elsewhere, are an attack on LGBTQ communities, who often face greater hurdles to getting the care they need. We are all in this together and we will keep fighting for health care access for all Texans — no matter what.

Texas House Votes to “Defund” Planned Parenthood and Fund Anti-Abortion Program

During budget debates, legislators also voted to double funding for the state’s Alternatives to Abortion (A2A) program by taking money from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) air quality assessment and planning program, which monitors air pollution levels. The A2A program largely funds crisis pregnancy centers, which mislead and deceive women with scientifically inaccurate information to persuade them not to have abortions. Crisis pregnancy centers that receive funding under this program are not audited, are not required to meet any metrics, and have little to no oversight or reporting requirements. They offer no medical services, but have received millions of dollars in funding from the state over the years. If the budget is approved as-is in conference committee, the A2A program will receive $38 million in the next two-year cycle.

Next, the budget goes to Conference Committee where members of the House and Senate will work to reconcile their budgets. This week, the Lieutenant Governor will appoint Senate Conferees, and the Speaker will appoint House conferees. Sometime after Easter, the conferees will meet — historically  behind closed doors — to consider the budget. Conference Committee is the last stage before final passage of the budget, so it is our last chance to work with potential allies on the committee to get amendments that prevent Planned Parenthood from participating in any state programs and increase funding for so-called crisis pregnancy centers stripped from the budget.

House State Affairs Committee

This week, House State Affairs will hear two abortion related bills. The first, HB 3771 by Chairman Byron Cook (R-Corsicana) changes the definition of abortion in a specific part of the code to exclude procedures to remove an ectopic pregnancy. The result would be that providers that only perform abortions related to ectopic pregnancies, but do not provide other abortion services, would not be regulated as abortion facilities. Women receiving abortions from these providers would not be subject to Texas’ many Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws — including the mandatory waiting period and forced sonogram. We are neutral on this bill and would support it if it was expanded to include all pregnancy related complications, and applied to all providers performing abortions due to these complications.

Also on Wednesday, House State Affairs will hear HB 2858 by Rep. DeWayne Burns (R-Cleburne), which requires abortion providers to post human trafficking assistance signage, including the phone number for the national human trafficking hotline. The bill also raises the offense for traffickers to a 1st degree felony if the commission of the offense results in an abortion, and creates a 2nd degree felony offense if the trafficker coerces a woman into having an abortion.

The scope of this bill is too limited and, as it stands, is an attack on abortion providers under the pretense of helping human trafficking victims. Identifying victims of human trafficking is a priority for Planned Parenthood, which is why Planned Parenthood health centers have long had policies in place to help staff identify and assist victims of human trafficking and intimate partner violence (IPV). However, victims of human trafficking experience a wide variety of health problems, such as respiratory infections and dental problems. A genuine effort to identify victims should include other health care providers more likely to come into contact with human trafficking victims, such as emergency rooms, dentists, and low-cost clinics. Planned Parenthood opposes targeted, arbitrary regulation of abortion providers, and therefore opposes HB 2858 unless it is expanded to include other relevant providers. In addition, the bill should be amended to increase penalties for traffickers who prohibit a victim from accessing abortion.

Senate Health and Human Services Committee

This Wednesday, Senate Health and Human Services Committee will hear SB 1602 by Sen. Campbell. This bill would require abortion providers to produce extensive detailed reports on abortion complications. Abortion is one of the safest medical procedures in the United States: a patient is more likely to experience complications from a wisdom tooth extraction. E

Ensuring the health and safety of Planned Parenthood patients is central to the mission of its health centers. SB 1602 is another in a long string of attacks on abortion providers and the abortion procedure with the goal of intimidating and shaming women and healthcare providers.

#txlege resistance

Every Monday through Thursday through May 8, you can join a coalition of progressive organizations and drop by the Capitol to register on every bill that is a scheduled for a hearing on that day. In order to help inform positions on bills, numerous community partners are sharing their legislative agendas. Based on that information, daily bill lists of every bill scheduled for hearing will be emailed and available at the Capitol for advocates to reference. Please stop by Rep. Chris Turner’s office in E1.408 for daily packets or receive the packets via email by signing up at http://bit.ly/txlegeresistance.