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They tried it in Texas: Abortion bans failed, but there’s more

As it does every two years, the Texas legislative session has come and finally gone. It was as ugly as usual when it comes to Texans’ reproductive rights and freedom. In fact, extreme anti-choice politicians filed more than 30 bills that sought to limit or ban access to safe abortion care.

A crowd with signs in front of the Texas Capitol in Austin. Signs held by two people in the foreground say “A majority of Texans support abortion access”, and “#FightBackTX”. In the background, signs say “Women’s rights are human rights”, “Abortion is Healthcare”, and “You wouldn’t try to regulate my vagina if it fired bullets”.

Stop the bans rally in at the Texas Capitol Austin on May 21, 2019.

While we are relieved to make it out of session without extreme abortion bans like the ones sweeping the southern and mid-western regions of the country, we can’t forget that we had strikingly similar proposals in Texas. In fact, lawmakers proposed one bill that would have banned abortion at 6 weeks, another that would make abortion punishable by the death penalty, and many others came uncomfortably close to passage.  

In the end, only a few bad bills made it to the governor’s desk, but we can never, ever be complacent. We must keep pushing for proactive and comprehensive reproductive healthcare policies that support the wellbeing of all Texans.

The good news:

🎉 SB 15: Attack on paid sick days, “Fair Chance Hiring,” and the other critical worker protections — FAILED

Senate Bill 15 started as an attempt to pre-empt emerging local labor policies, like mandatory paid sick leave, in cities including Austin, San Antonio and Dallas. Economic justice is central to reproductive justice and we know from our hotline callers that missing work for the mandatory two days it takes to get an abortion in Texas is one of the biggest barriers to accessing abortion care. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and other lawmakers made the bill even worse by removing language that explicitly protected local nondiscrimination ordinances (NDOs) for LGBTQIA Texans in several cities.

🎉 HB 25: Allows children to attend Medicaid appointments — PASSED, SENT TO GOVERNOR

This bill, which allows parents to bring their children to their Medicaid appointments under the Medicaid medical transportation program, passed in both the house and the senate, making life a bit smoother for parents on Medicaid.

🎉 HB 253: Addressing postpartum depression — PASSED, SENT TO GOVERNOR

This will create a commission to create a strategic plan to address and treat postpartum depression.

🎉 HB 541: Pumping in public — PASSED, SENT TO GOVERNOR

A bipartisan bill that gives Texans the right to pump breast milk anywhere.

Direct action in the Texas Capitol on April 16, 2019.

🎉 HB 1651: Protocols for incarcerated pregnant people — PASSED, SENT TO GOVERNOR

This bill stipulated that county jails had to provide clear protocols for the treatment of pregnant incarcerated persons that included transparent reporting from each county jail, a health plan for a pregnant person, and banning the shackling of a pregnant inmate in labor.

🎉HB 2169: Jail conditions and menstruation — PASSED, SENT TO GOVERNOR

This bill will improve the conditions for menstruating inmates in county jail and require that county jails supply them with menstrual products.

🎉 HB 650: Training regarding pregnant incarcerated people — SIGNED BY GOVERNOR

This bill will require training for correctional officers on handling pregnant incarcerated people and would also reduce the use of restraints.

🎉 SB 1033/HB 2434: Fetal Anomaly bill — FAILED

This bill would have removed the fetal anomaly exception for the 20 week abortion ban in Texas. Its companion version, HB 2434, was heard in the House State Affairs committee. Lilith Fund was there to testify and the bill was left pending, never to be brought up again. Notably, the house bill’s author, Schaefer, used language in the bill that alleged that HB 2432 would close a “loophole” to end sex and race selective abortions in Texas, insinuating that Texans are purposely waiting until after the 20 week ban to have their procedure. On the contrary, the fetal anomaly exception is a compassionate rule that aids grieving families and SB 1033/HB 2434 is a piece of legislation that has failed before because it was so extreme. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court said that a similar provision of an Indiana law should remain blocked.

🎉 SB 2243: Required counseling for people seeking abortion at CPCs — FAILED

This bill, which made it from the Senate to the House, but then died in committee, would have required people seeking abortion care visit state-funded Crisis Pregnancy Centers. CPCs provide inaccurate and misleading counseling, usually intended to talk people out of getting an abortion. CPCs are known to tell pregnant people that if they choose to abort they’re at higher risk for depression and breast cancer, all of which has been proven to be untrue.

The bad news:

😡 SB 22: Attack on abortion providers — PASSED, SENT TO GOVERNOR

This bill would prohibit government contracts with abortion providers and their affiliates. For example, this would mean that providers couldn’t partner with public libraries or universities, the City of Austin would no longer be allowed to lease a building to Planned Parenthood; and furthermore this bill would restrict Lilith Fund’s and partners’ local policy advocacy efforts—in partnerships with local governments—to make crucial, local improvements to abortion access.

😡 HB 16: “Lies Into Laws” Bill — PASSED, SENT TO GOVERNOR

The bill that supporters called the “Texas Born Alive Bill” tried to make science fiction into law by stating that an abortion provider was mandated to give life-saving treatment to fetuses who are “born alive” after an abortion, even though that has never been reported to happen in the history of medicine.

😡 SB 24/HB 4240: State mandated lies to patients — PASSED, SENT TO GOVERNOR

Expanded the “Woman’s Right To Know” Act by imposing further rules and restrictions on informational materials that must be provided to patients by physicians on the day of their abortions. It mandates that each patient seeking an abortion get a physical copy provided to them by the clinic they’re going to. These informational materials intentionally contain medically inaccurate information designed to scare and shame people seeking abortion care.

😡 SB 1978: Discrimination against LGBT people — PASSED, SENT TO GOVERNOR

This is an anti-LGBTQ bill that opens the door for discrimination by businesses towards employees and communities. Gov. Abbott has publicly expressed his support of the bill.

😡 HB 2271: Funding for anti-choice propaganda — INCREASED

This bill lets the Attorney General’s office to use up to 2 percent of the “Choose Life” license plate fund to advertise, and passed with ease in both chambers.

😡 Funding for the “Texas Alternatives to Abortion” program — INCREASED

A funding increase to this anti-choice program was approved in budgets this year, meaning that more taxpayer money will go directly to state programs that try to limit people’s reproductive options without actually providing contraceptive services.

😡 Texas Medicaid Expansion — FAILED

Texas is one of 14 states that have not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. An estimated 1.1 million low-income Texans would be eligible for coverage under a Medicaid expansion, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The ugly:

💔 HB 896: Death penalty for seeking abortion care — FAILED, BUT SET A NEW LOW

This bill would have charged people who get and provide abortions with capital murder, which in Texas, would be punishable by the death penalty. Known as the Abortion Abolition Act, it was given legitimacy by being granted a hearing in the committee of House Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence. Fortunately, it did not move past this committee, but it did advance the anti-choice extremist agenda and gave it a bigger platform in the Texas Capitol.

In the foreground, a framed photo of Rosie Jimenez, a young Chicana woman, is adorned with paper roses as Erika Galindo, Lilith Fund Organizer, speaks at the podium next to the photo. In the background, five women wearing red stand behind Erika in the press briefing room at the Texas Capitol.
Lilith Fund Organizer, Erika Galindo, speaks at press conference announcing the introduction of Rosie’s Law on February 14, 2019.

💔 HB 895: Medicaid coverage of abortion care AKA “Rosie’s Law” — FAILED, BUT SHOULD HAVE PASSED

Finally, the proposal that was closest to our hearts as abortion funders. This was an historic proposal led by abortion funds in Texas. We were disappointed (but not surprised) it did not make it out of committee in this legislature. If passed, it would have expanded Medicaid to cover abortion care, meaning that people enrolled in the Texas Medicaid program would be able to afford safe abortion care in Texas. Named after Rosie Jimenez, a woman from McAllen, Texas, who was enrolled in Medicaid, and who died after she could not afford a safe and legal abortion. HB 895 was referred to committee but died there without a hearing. We won’t give up on Rosie’s Law, though. Are you with us?  🌹

💔 HB 744: Curbing Maternal Mortality in Texas — FAILED, BUT SHOULD HAVE PASSED

Exposing the culture of hypocrisy and cruelty of Texas’ anti-choice politicians, HB 744 was left to die in committee. If passed, it would have expanded the amount of time that a pregnant person can stay on Medicaid to a year after they’ve given birth. Studies have proven just how dangerous giving birth can be in Texas, particularly for Black parents, and this bill would be imperative in turning around maternal health outcomes. Increasing the time that a person can get to a doctor can be lifesaving.

💔 HB 4301: Reimbursement for pregnancy-related support — FAILED, BUT SHOULD HAVE PASSED

This would have provided medical assistance reimbursement for doula support during pregnancy, labor, birth and the postpartum period to Medicaid recipients, which could have been a way to curb maternal mortality for Black parents in particular.

💔 HB 607: Fighting bias at the doctor’s office — FAILED, BUT SHOULD HAVE PASSED

This would have required coursework and continuing education in cultural competence and implicit bias for physicians. This would have benefited people—often Black women—who face discrimination in the doctor’s office.

💔 HB 652: ICE Out of Domestic Violence Shelters — FAILED, BUT SHOULD HAVE PASSED

Like HB 744 above, the failure of this proposal laid bare how little Texas “pro-life” politicians care about children and families. This bill would have made domestic violence shelters safe for undocumented immigrants and ensure that no one gets deported while they’re trying to remove themselves from a violent situation.

“Rosie’s Law” Would Expand Abortion Care Access for Low-Income Texans

Named for a Rosaura “Rosie” Jimenez, who died seeking an abortion in the Rio Grande Valley due to the Hyde Amendment, the bill (HB 895) would provide abortion coverage for low income Texas families enrolled in Medicaid.

AUSTIN —“Rosie’s Law,” (House Bill 895) authored by Rep. Sheryl Cole, D-Austin, is the first bill of its kind that would expand insurance coverage for abortion for Texans enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program. The bill is part of an historic initiative led by Texas-based abortion funds, who provide financial assistance to thousands of Texans seeking abortion and are committed to removing the barriers low-income Texans face when seeking care.

For more than 40 years, low-income people in Texas and across the country have been denied affordable abortion care due to the Hyde Amendment, a federal policy that prohibits the Medicaid program from covering abortion. Currently, 35 states and the District of Columbia do not cover abortion within their state Medicaid programs, except for limited exceptions. Texas lawmakers banned Medicaid coverage for abortion decades ago, and a ban on private insurance coverage of abortion was passed during the 2017 Texas legislative session. Coverage bans of all kinds force low-income Texans to pay out of pocket for their abortion care and primarily affect low-income communities of color.

For more than 40 years, low-income people in Texas and across the country have been denied affordable abortion care due to the Hyde Amendment, a federal policy that prohibits the Medicaid program from covering abortion. Currently, 34 states and D.C. deny people coverage for abortion just because they are poor. Texas lawmakers banned Medicaid coverage for abortion decades ago, and a ban on private insurance coverage of abortion was passed during the 2017 Texas legislative session. Coverage bans of all kinds force low-income Texans to pay out of pocket for their abortion care and primarily affect low-income communities of color.

“Rosie’s Law” would ensure affordable abortion care for millions of Texans enrolled in Medicaid, and mirrors efforts in states across the country, including Oregon and Pennsylvania, to protect and expand abortion coverage.

Statement from Rep. Sheryl Cole:

“I am proud to file HB 895, known as Rosie’s Law. I will fight for justice, including reproductive justice, and I believe that everyone deserves access to healthcare.”

Statement from Frontera Fund Co Founder & Board Chair Rockie Gonzalez:

“Rosie’s Law honors the life of Rosaura “Rosie” Jimenez of Mcallen, TX. and her children who survive her. Families in the Rio Grande Valley experience unfair barriers to accessing the abortion care they want and need. Our work is based on the moral fiber that tells us wealth should not be a factor in anyone’s ability to make decisions about their bodies, their lives, or their families. Frontera Fund works to offer financial assistance and practical support to our Valley families and so should the state of Texas.”

Statement from Lilith Fund Executive Director Amanda B. Williams:

“We work everyday to remove the unnecessary barriers that prevent people from accessing safe abortion care in Texas communities. Rosie’s Law would remove one of the biggest barriers to abortion care in our state by ensuring that the reproductive rights of low-income Texans are respected—however much money they have.”

Statement from Texas Equal Access Fund Executive Director Kamyon Conner:

“Rosie’s Law would expand coverage of abortion by reducing superfluous restrictions to healthcare for low-income people. Equitable access to health care and abortion is essential regardless of income or race.”

Statement from Destiny Lopez, co-director, All* Above All:

“Rosie’s Law is bold legislation that will leave decisions about whether to end a pregnancy where they belong– with Texans and their families.  As we continue to fight injustice in all its forms, we must ensure that politicians aren’t able to take away someone’s health coverage just because they’re poor.”

Rosie’s Law would have a positive impact on the lives of people seeking abortion care in Texas. More information on Rosie Jimenez and her life is available online.

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Frontera Fund provides practical support and funding for abortion to people seeking abortions in the Rio Grande Valley and to people living in the Rio Grande Valley who have to travel to other clinics in Texas and out of state.

Lilith Fund funds abortion in central and southern regions of Texas and advocates for change through the movement for reproductive justice.

Texas Equal Access Fund provides funding to low-income people in the northern region of Texas who are seeking abortion and cannot afford it, while simultaneously working to end barriers to abortion access through community education and shifting the current culture toward reproductive justice.

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