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Help us fight Texas’s omnibus anti-abortion bill

This afternoon, the Texas Senate will hold a hearing on a single omnibus bill that regulates abortion procedures and facilities to the point that only five clinics will exist in our state. We urge our followers and supporters to come out to the hearing at 3:45 in the Senate Chamber (floor 2 of the Texas Capitol, east wing). The hearing will likely last late into the evening, so although earlier is better, you can stop by at any time.

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Lilith Fund’s statement on the Texas omnibus anti-abortion bill

The provisions of this bill are extreme. A majority of Texans will not agree with this bill and will not support its passage. Only 15 percent of Texans are completely against abortion. In comparison, 81% of Texans, as recently as February 2013, said abortion should be legal in some or all cases. Even Texans who would never choose an abortion for themselves or their family understand that access to abortion is important – and would characterize this bill as extreme and hurtful.

Women who have an abortion do not do so lightly. No woman gets pregnant so she can have an abortion. Sometimes families end up needing to terminate a pregnancy when they never thought they would.

Abortion doesn’t just happen. When abortion occurs, it is part of a woman’s health history across her entire lifespan. During her lifetime, she may go through parenthood, abortion, adoption, miscarriage, stillbirth or any other experience on the spectrum of reproduction. In fact, 61% of women who obtain abortions in the United States are already mothers, so when we talk about abortion we have to talk about families’ values and their plans and goals for themselves.

Most American families want two children. To achieve this, the average woman spends about five years of her life trying to get pregnant, actually pregnant, or immediately postpartum. But on average an American woman spends three quarters of the time she’s fertile and able to reproduce – about thirty years – trying to avoid unintended pregnancy.

Despite families’ best efforts, half of all pregnancies in the United States each year are unintended. This means – if unintended pregnancy keeps happening at current rates, more than half of American women will have an unintended pregnancy by age 45.

In Texas, 53% of all pregnancies were unintended in 2006. That was 309,000 pregnancies. Of all births in Texas in 2006, 45% – nearly half – resulted from unintended pregnancies. Unintended pregnancy has devastating economic consequences for our state. In 2006, the state government spent $507 million paying for births that resulted from unintended pregnancy.

And in 2008, family planning centers helped prevent 98,700 unintended pregnancies – saving the federal and state government $348.2 million in Medicaid costs for pregnancy care and newborn care. The state’s economic burden continues long after birth – unintended pregnancy costs the state, from increased crime and welfare participation to reduced high-school completion and labor force participation.

This omnibus abortion bill is also likely to be challenged in the courts, causing an enormous waste of valuable tax dollars and state resources. We have seen this in other states. North Dakota has already set aside $400,000 in taxpayer funds to defend legal challenges to the state’s unconstitutional abortion ban. It should be noted that North Dakota courts have already temporarily blocked the anti-abortion legislation. And this spring Kansas enacted legislation that effectively banned abortion in the state. The Kansas Attorney General’s Office spent over $1 million over the past two years to defend senseless, wasteful, and shameful anti-abortion legislation. Are Texas legislators and taxpayers prepared to spend the hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions of dollars, required to defend this legislation?

It is not just unintended pregnancies that end in abortion. Because of unforeseen circumstances, women also choose to terminate planned and very much wanted pregnancies. Regardless of her circumstances, when a woman is pregnant, she needs to have abortion as an option. Being denied abortion causes negative health and well-being outcomes for women, children and families.

Women who want an abortion but are ultimately unable to access it suffer negative consequences. Women denied abortion are three times as likely to end up below the federal poverty line two years later. Babies born out of unintended pregnancies are less likely to have good prenatal care and less likely to be breastfed – both of which lead to less successful outcomes throughout the child’s life. Marriages and cohabitation relationships are more likely to dissolve after an unintended first birth than after an intended first birth.

No matter what a woman’s circumstances are, politicians should not interfere with a her ability to make her own healthcare decisions. The decision to terminate a pregnancy is private and the state does not need to be involved in it.

This omnibus bill has extreme consequences. Because of its extremism, a majority of Texans will not support it. The bill will close all but 5 clinics in Texas. These clinics are located in Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio. There will be no abortion providers west of I-35 in Texas.

Under this bill, the abortion pill, which is safe and rarely results in complications, will require a before and an after appointment with a doctor. Remember, there are only four cities where clinics will stay open, so women will be taking two long round trips. For example, a woman from the Rio Grande Valley will travel 1,000 miles – it’s 250 miles from Harlingen to San Antonio.

Moreover, since the pills used in a medication abortion can be purchased without prescription in Mexican pharmacies, Texas women will likely cross the border to buy the abortion pill and then self-induce an abortion at home. This will be much more affordable for them, even if it is less safe.

Under the omnibus anti-abortion bill, a doctor will be required to administer abortion medication. It is sufficient for a nurse practitioner to do this – and it can even be done via telemedicine; physician administration is unnecessary.

Additionally, for both surgical abortions and the abortion pill, doctors will face extreme regulation designed to put them out of business.

Lastly, under this bill, abortion after 20 weeks will be illegal. The bill states that women have adequate time to decide whether to have an abortion in the first 20 weeks – but that’s simply not true in every case.

The bottom line is this: this bill will make abortion harder to obtain and more expensive. As a result, we will see an increase in back-alley abortions, self-abortions, deaths among women seeking abortion, and unintended pregnancy carried to term – all of which directly create negative public health outcomes and a huge financial drain on the state of Texas. This is not what any of us want for our state, and for our women, children and families.