Special Legislative Session Wrap-Up: Doubling Down on Failed Policies

Last night, Texas lawmakers closed out the special legislative session without passing HB 14, the bill that specifically targeted Planned Parenthood patients by banning health centers from partnering with local government entities such as cities and counties. This bill was the most dangerous legislative threat to Planned Parenthood patients during this special session, and because of the continuous efforts of supporters and activists, it was defeated. The bill singling out transgender Texans by dictating where they can use the restroom — a top priority for Gov. Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — also failed.

However, the legislature managed to continue their relentless assault on Texas women by passing three bills that further restrict access to safe, legal abortion.  

  • House Bill 13 by Rep. Giovanni Capriglione (R-Keller) requires duplicative physician and facility reporting of complications that result from abortion, despite the fact that abortion is one of the safest medical procedures in the U.S.
  • House Bill 214 by Rep. John Smithee (R-Amarillo) bans private insurance companies from providing health coverage for abortion unless a woman purchases a supplemental policy on top of her existing health insurance. This bill is extraordinarily cruel and dangerous, with no exceptions for non-viable pregnancies, fetal anomalies, rape, incest and the mental health of the mother.
  • House Bill 215 by Rep. Jim Murphy (R-Houston) opens abortion providers up to harassment by increasing reporting requirements by doctors on minors receiving abortion services, including how the minor obtained authorization to get an abortion. The state is seeking more information on whether the doctor or another advocate connected the minor with information about the judicial bypass process, which could lead to further restrictions in the future.

Of Gov. Abbott’s 20 agenda items for the special session, three were aimed at attacking reproductive health and rights — doubling down on the failed policies that have already decimated access to critical care in Texas. Instead of proposing and advancing policies that  would improve the lives of all Texans, Abbott and Patrick focused on their extreme agenda at the great expense of taxpayers.

Since day one of the special session, Planned Parenthood supporters and activists have showed up and spoken out against harmful legislation. Together with our women’s health champions in the Legislature, you defeated bills that would have tangibly harmed communities. You fought misinformation with truth, and showed extreme politicians that you will hold them accountable at the Capitol and in 2018 at the ballot box.

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.”

Texas Cities Stand With Planned Parenthood

Today, the mayors of the four largest cities in Texas — Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio — released a letter addressed to Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) urging him to stop the proposed legislation that prohibits local governmental entities from partnering with Planned Parenthood. By limiting a local government’s ability to address the unique health care needs of their communities, this bill is an attack on local control.

In the early morning hours on July 26, the Senate approved SB 4 by Sen. Charles Schwertner, which specifically targets Planned Parenthood patients and goes farther than previous “defunding” efforts to extend to the local level what the Texas Legislature has implemented on the state level. If it succeeds, Planned Parenthood would be barred from activities such as participating in city and county health fairs for free HIV and STD testing or partnering to distribute mosquito spray to prevent the spread of Zika. On July 27, the House State Affairs Committee approved the House companion bill HB 14 by Rep. Drew Springer, which will head to the House floor for debate unless Speaker Straus prevents it from moving forward.

Planned Parenthood is one of Texas’ most trusted providers of reproductive health and family planning services, including breast and cervical cancer screenings. When lawmakers politicize reproductive health care, Texans lose access.

July 24: At the Capitol This Week

Last week, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick did everything in his power to fast-track bills attacking access to reproductive health care. Still, activists were there to meet lawmakers every step of the way. Nearly 600 Texans made it to the One Texas Resistance Rally on Tuesday to oppose Gov. Greg Abbott and Patrick’s extreme agenda. On Friday and Saturday, Planned Parenthood advocates testified in committee hearings against dangerous anti-abortion bills. At Planned Parenthood Capitol Takeover Day this Wednesday, we’re going to show lawmakers that we will never back down from the fight! Join us.

Bill Targeting Planned Parenthood Patients Moves to Senate Floor

On Friday, the Senate Health & Human Services (HHS) Committee heard public testimony on SB 4 by Sen. Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown), which would prohibit local government entities from partnering with health care providers that provide abortions or are affiliated with an abortion provider. In committee, Sen. Schwertner admitted that the only provider being targeted by this bill is Planned Parenthood. If it succeeds, Planned Parenthood would be barred from activities such as participating in city and county health fairs for free HIV and STD testing or partnering to distribute mosquito spray to prevent the spread of Zika. SB 4 is nothing more than an attack on access to reproductive health care. Texas communities need more care, not less. Our best chance at defeating this legislation is to make sure the Speaker of the House, Representative Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) knows that Texans oppose more attempts to shut down Planned Parenthood health centers.

Senate Committees Approves 3 Bills Attacking Access to Safe, Legal Abortion

The Senate HHS and Business & Commerce committees advanced three more anti-abortion bills on Friday and SaturdaySB 10 by Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) requires duplicative physician and facility reporting of complications that result from abortion, despite the fact that abortion is one of the safest medical procedures in the U.S. This bill perpetuates the myth that it isn’t. SB 73 by Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Tyler) increases reporting requirements for minors receiving abortion services under the veil of “transparency,” although there is no clear purpose for the state to collect such information. SB 8 by Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-The Woodlands) would prohibit all health insurance plans from offering coverage for abortion and makes it so Texans enrolled in any insurance must purchase supplemental coverage outside of their plan or pay out of pocket. Banning abortion coverage explicitly puts women’s health and wellbeing at risk by not allowing a person to insure themselves for all emergency situations, and by not including an exception for rape or incest. These bills are now headed for debate on the full Senate floor, which may take place as early as today.

#OneTX Resistance 30 Days of Action

A broad coalition of organizations including Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, ACLU of Texas, United We Dream, Indivisible #Txlege, and more are working to organize direct actions every day of the special session. Join the Facebook group to be updated on the daily actions or sign up to receive email alertsRead our open letter denouncing Gov. Abbott’s extreme politics.

July 17: At the Capitol This Week

Tomorrow, Planned Parenthood Texas Votes is partnering with a broad coalition of organizations across movements to kick off 30 days of action that coincide with the 30 days of the special legislative session. Gov. Abbott is forcing the Texas Legislature back to the Capitol to pass even more laws that advance his extreme agenda — including proposals that would further reduce access to reproductive health care at Planned Parenthood, create burdensome requirements for abortion providers, and ban insurance coverage for abortion.

This is not what Texans want. In Austin tomorrow, activists are gathering at the Capitol for a rally at 1pm to send the message to Gov. Abbott that we’re standing together as #OneTX against more dangerous and discriminatory legislation. We’ll be back every day to fight — together. Read below for more details on how to take action in the coming month.

House bill threatens partnerships between local public entities and Planned Parenthood

HB 163 would prohibit local government entities from partnering with health care providers that provide abortions or are affiliated with an abortion provider. Local governments and health officials should have the ability and authority to partner with Planned Parenthood to address the unique needs of their communities. This bill is another in a long line of legislation that will prevent Texans from seeking the health care they need and have a devastating impact on Planned Parenthood patients. Speaker of the House, Representative Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) has the power to stop this legislation from reaching the House floor for a vote. The most important action you can take right now is to contact him.

Senate to debate further restrictions on access to safe, legal abortion

Other anti-abortion bills on Gov. Abbott’s agenda include a measure to prohibit private health insurance plans—including plans available through the Affordable Care Act and group employer health plans—from offering coverage for abortion care, and a requirement that duplicates reporting on abortion complications by physicians and facilities, on top of all that they’re already required to report. Just last month, Gov. Abbott signed a sweeping, multi-part anti-abortion bill into law and unilaterally vetoed a bipartisan bill extending the Women’s Health Advisory Committee, which was tasked with ensuring low-income Texans have access to reproductive health care.

#OneTX Resistance 30 Days of Action

A broad coalition of organizations including Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, the ACLU of Texas, United We Dream, the Texas Civil Rights Project, and more are working to organize direct actions every day of the special session. Join the Facebook group to be updated on the daily actions or sign up to receive email alertsRead our open letter denouncing Gov. Abbott’s extreme politics.

Updated Senate health care bill still “defunds” Planned Parenthood

Last Thursday, the Senate released their updated draft version of the health care repeal bill, including the same provision that would block people with Medicaid from accessing birth control and cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood health centers for one year. It also includes an abortion coverage ban that would end access to insurance that includes abortion. The newest version also includes an amendment from Senator Ted Cruz that would permit insurers to sell plans that charge women co-pays for birth control, immunizations, and cancer screenings. The Cruz provision would effectively create two systems of insurance, one for sick people and one for healthy people — thereby putting coverage out of reach for people with pre-existing conditions. With this latest version of Trumpcare, Americans will pay more and get less, but women will pay the biggest price of all.

After the Congressional Budget Office releases an updated score of the bill early this week, the Senate will move to vote. Your continued pressure on Senators Cruz and John Cornyn is critical over this final period of negotiations.

We wrote to Ted Cruz about health care; his response was not truthful. So we made some notes.

Senator Ted Cruz is one of the 13 male senators who wrote the bill that will decimate health care for women. Not only will the Senate’s bill “defund” Planned Parenthood, it will result in 22 million people losing coverage. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that premiums would be about 20 percent higher in 2018, and 10 percent higher in 2019. The increased costs of care would disproportionately impact women, particularly women of color, given the inequities in earnings for women.

We wrote to Cruz to tell him we won’t stand for these attacks on our health care. His response was less than truthful. So we made some notes.

Meet the men leading the attacks on women’s health in Texas

This legislative session, extreme politicians aggressively attacked reproductive health and rights — led by two men who want to impose their regressive views and judge what’s best for women.

Rep. Matt Rinaldi (R-Farmers Branch) made headlines on Monday when, in response to protesters filling the House gallery in opposition to the racist “show me your papers” bill SB 4, he approached a group of Latino lawmakers to brag that he had called Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on the “illegal immigrants.” Chaos ensued on the House floor, and Rep. Rinaldi went so far as to threaten to “put a bullet” in another lawmaker’s head.

Before that shameful showing, Rep. Rinaldi — who the anti-abortion group Texas Right to Life have called the “pro-life whip” — has made himself known for prioritizing and promoting legislation that hurts women and restricts their access to reproductive and even basic health care. He is behind the far-reaching state budget amendment that bans Planned Parenthood health centers from receiving any state funds whatsoever. During House debate on HB 3771, which was intended to exclude abortion procedures in the case an ectopic pregnancy from the numerous abortion restrictions currently in place, Rep. Rinaldi also amended the bill to include a damaging and medically inaccurate definition of abortion.

Meanwhile, Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler) is personally responsible for three of the 39 anti-abortion bills introduced this session, including one that would have required patients to carry non-viable pregnancies to term. While the House was debating HB 2962 — a bill that would have increased already robust reporting requirements on abortion complications — Rep. Schaefer proposed an alarmingly invasive amendment that would require women who experience an abortion complication to disclose their marital status and last menstrual period to be recorded in a state database, among other personal information. He also joined Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford) in harassing female parliamentarian, Shalla Slutyer, on the House floor last week, pressing her to smile for the male legislators. After feeding Rep. Stickland the suggestion to ask the parliamentarian to “smile for us,” Rep. Schaefer can be seen off to the side cackling at his own repugnant “joke.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s clear that these legislators will stop at nothing to ban safe, legal abortion — no matter the devastating consequences to those they represent. Rep. Schaefer and Rep. Rinaldi are dangerous for Texas women. We need leaders who will defend a woman’s right to make her own medical decisions, and who will protect access to basic  health care.

85th Legislative Session Wrap-up: Texas Fails Women Once Again

Monday was the last day of the 85th Texas Legislative Session and once again extreme legislators demonstrated a total disregard for the health and wellbeing of Texas women. In total, lawmakers filed nearly 40 anti-abortion regulations — several of which passed under the now multi-part Senate Bill (SB) 8. The 2018-2019 budget continues to block patients from accessing care at Planned Parenthood through  state health programs and goes even further to cut Planned Parenthood off from all state funding — period.

While extremists were able to claim several victories off the backs of women who will now face further obstacles to getting reproductive health care, our women’s health champions in the legislature were able to defeat a number of cruel and unnecessary bills.

BILLS PASSED

SB 8 is the most significant and restrictive anti-abortion regulation since 2013, when the Texas Legislature passed HB 2 — the law struck down by the Supreme Court just last summer. The bill, by Sen. Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown), started as a ban on the donation of fetal tissue for medical research and on an abortion method already illegal at the federal level. After six-hours of debate on the House floor during which extreme legislators piled on further restrictions, SB 8 grew into a dangerous and cruel multi-part bill. The bill now also requires fetal tissue from an abortion procedure to be buried or cremated, even if the patient’s health was at risk or she was a victim of rape or incest and bans the safest, most common method for second trimester abortion. While the vast majority of abortion procedures take place in the first trimester, some health risks to pregnant women may not become apparent early in pregnancy and identification of fetal anomalies most often occur during the second trimester. Banning the safest method for these abortions forces doctors to resort to alternatives that may not be what they, based on their professional judgment, think is best for their patient. SB 8 imposes an excessive burden on patients seeking access to safe, legal abortion and similar provisions have already been challenged in court. In anticipation of a ruling against the constitutionality of SB 8, lawmakers included a “severability” clause that will keep the rest of the bill intact if any one piece is struck down by the courts.

HB 2858 by Rep. DeWayne Burns (R-Cleburne), requiring abortion facilities to post human trafficking signage, passed as an amendment to HB 2552. Planned Parenthood supports requiring all health care facilities in Texas to be trained to identify human trafficking and intimate partner violence. However, this amendment singles out abortion providers and further stigmatizes abortion. Human trafficking experts say that victims are likely to be intercepted in emergency rooms, doctors offices, and even dentist offices and a genuine effort to help victims would include a variety of health care providers. Meanwhile, lawmakers opted to cut funding from sex trafficking victims’ services out of the state budget.

SB 1, or the state budget for 2018-2019, continues to block low-income women from accessing care at Planned Parenthood through the Healthy Texas Women and Breast and Cervical Cancer Services programs because some health centers also provide abortion services. Rep. Drew Springer (R-Muenster) and Rep. Matt Rinaldi (R-Irving) went even further by adding  a budget rider that prevents Planned Parenthood from receiving any state funds whatsoever, threatening health centers’ ability to provide critical health care and education to communities in need. At the same time, the budget allocates up to $38,300,000 for the Alternatives to Abortion program, which funnels money to crisis pregnancy centers known to mislead and deceive women in an attempt to coerce women against having an abortion. Crisis pregnancy centers generally provide no health care services at all.

BILLS DEFEATED

SB 20 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) would have banned insurance companies from providing abortion coverage in private health plans and those available through the Affordable Care Act. This bill made no exceptions for rape, incest, or fetal abnormality, and explicitly put women’s health and wellbeing at risk by not allowing a person to insure themselves for all emergency situations.

SB 25 by Sen. Brandon Creighton (R – Conroe) would have allowed doctors to withhold vital information from a patient about her own pregnancy by taking away the patient’s legal recourse. This bill was nothing more than yet another attempt by anti-abortion activists to chip away at the already narrow exception for fetal abnormalities.

HB 2962 by Rep. Giovanni Capriglione (R-Southlake) would have required additional extensive reporting related to abortion complications despite the fact that abortion is one of the safest medical procedures performed in the United States and that Texas already has robust reporting systems in place. An alarmingly invasive amendment proposed to the bill during floor debate would have required women who experience an abortion complication to disclose their marital status, last menstrual period, and other personal information to be recorded in a state database.

A number of proactive women’s health bills also died before the deadline this session. HB 745 by Rep. Jessica Farrar (D-Houston) would have eliminated the mandatory 24-hour waiting period before a patient can have an abortion. HB 1373 by Rep. Sarah Davis (R-Houston) would have allowed minors who are already parents to access birth control without parental consent.

Years of hostile policies have already left tens of thousands of Texas women without access to cancer screenings, birth control, and safe, legal abortion. Together, we keep fighting for a legislature that will work for health care access for all Texans.

Patients and Advocates Close Out 1,000 Mile Planned Parenthood Road Trip to Speak Against Hostile Policies

Austin, TX – Today, Planned Parenthood patients and advocates are closing out a four day, 1,000 mile road trip across the state to bring attention to the devastating, real life impact of the continued attacks on access to reproductive health care and Planned Parenthood. This last stop of the tour is especially relevant. Yesterday, in an unprecedented maneuver, Texas politicians redrafted the approved conference committee report  specifically attacking access to care at Planned Parenthood. Patients and advocates will be at the Capitol in Austin speaking out about these attacks on access to care at Planned Parenthood.

“Texas politicians once again targeted women’s access to health care at Planned Parenthood. Texas has attacked women’s health care every way they can think of and they are not done. Women in Texas are already suffering and dying because of the state’s callous disregard for their health and well-being,” said Yvonne Gutierrez, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Texas Votes. “The people who pay the the price for these backroom deals are young women, women of color, those who live in rural areas, and women with low incomes – who already face barriers to health care. Texas lawmakers should be working to fix the damage they’ve caused and expand women’s access to quality, affordable health care and providers like Planned Parenthood.”

Over the past four days, patients and advocates have traveled to 11 cities — Brownsville, McAllen, San Antonio, Round Rock, Waco, Dallas, Tyler, Lufkin, Houston, Sugar Land and now Austin — to deliver petitions to legislators and visit various Planned Parenthood health centers. They spoke with patients, providers and advocates and via Facebook Live captured and told their firsthand stories about why they stand with Planned Parenthood.

WHAT:
#StandWithPPTX Tour: 1,000 Miles for Women’s Health
Patient story interviews and advocates taking action against hostile health policies

WHEN:
4:30 p.m., Thursday, May 25, 2017

WHERE:
South Gate of the Capitol, 1100 Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78701 (Intersection of 11th St. & Congress Ave.)
WATCH ON FACEBOOK LIVE

Years of hostile policies have already left tens of thousands of Texas women without access to cancer screenings, birth control, HIV tests and other preventive care. After the state cut off access to Planned Parenthood health centers in 2011, the state’s own numbers show that two years later, nearly 30,000 fewer women received birth control, cancer screenings, and other care as a result. And, a recent study found that 35% fewer women obtained the most effective forms of birth control and that there was a 27% increase in births among women who had previously accessed injectible contraception.

The state is currently seeking federal approval and funding for its ill-fated family planning program, Healthy Texas Women. This is a program created specifically to block access to care at Planned Parenthood that, by every measure, has failed to fill the tremendous unmet need for healthcare. On Saturday, a 10-member legislative committee approved a version of the 2018-2019 budget that prevents Planned Parenthood from receiving any federal or state funding from any current or future programs.

Planned Parenthood is one of Texas’ most trusted providers of reproductive health and family planning services, including breast and cervical cancer screenings. Most Planned Parenthood patients are uninsured or underinsured, live paycheck to paycheck, and pay out of pocket for their health care.

Planned Parenthood supporters are sending a message to politicians that it is past time to get serious about helping Texans access quality, affordable health care and allow Planned Parenthood health centers to fully participate in Texas’ health safety net.

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Planned Parenthood Texas Votes (PPTV) is the nonpartisan policy, advocacy and political arm for the Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas.

Hit the road with us for #StandWithPPTX Tour: 1,000 Miles for Women’s Health

Planned Parenthood health centers play a critical role in the lives of more than 100,000  Texans by providing lifesaving cancer screenings, STD testing and treatment, and affordable birth control—services extreme politicians in the Texas Legislature are intent on wiping out.

Watch the powerful film by Joss Whedon that depicts what the world would look like if attempts to shut down Planned Parenthood succeed.

Attacks on reproductive health and rights are dangerous. Yesterday, the Texas House passed the most restrictive anti-abortion bill since HB 2, the law struck down by the Supreme Court just last summer. The state is currently seeking federal approval and funding for its ill-fated family planning program, Healthy Texas Women. This is a program created specifically to block access to care at Planned Parenthood that, by every measure, has failed to fill the tremendous unmet need for healthcare.

While extreme legislators are reckless with our health and safety, it’s Texas women and families that suffer the tangible, devastating consequences. That’s why we are embarking on a 1,000 mile road trip across the state to capture and tell the firsthand stories of Planned Parenthood patients and advocates in Texas.

Join us on Facebook at 9 a.m. on Monday, when we go live from the road. The stakes could not be higher in the fight for reproductive health and rights. We’re fighting for our health, and for our lives.