Campaign, Legislators Back Bill to Repeal Anti-Abortion Law

"Trust. Respect. Access" campaign hosts lobby day at Capitol

College students from around Texas swarmed the Capitol on Thursday to convince legislators to support, or at least thoughtfully consider, bills that would increase access to women’s health care and promote factually accurate sex education this session.

Reproductive rights activists gather at the Capitol to lobby lawmakers. (Photo by Photo by Mary Tuma)

The lobby day came as part of a coalition of reproductive health and pro-choice organizations’ new multiyear campaign – “Trust. Respect. Access” – an effort to roll back the damage inflicted by draconian anti-choice legislation.

Bearing the brisk winter weather, coalition leaders from the Texas Freedom Network, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, Whole Woman’s Health, and a handful of Democratic lawmakers encouraged the audience to keep up the fight for reproductive justice by talking about abortion with “openness and honesty” in order to “chip away” at the stigma. Amy Hagstrom Miller reminded the audience she and plaintiffs of the suit against anti-abortion law House Bill 2 – currently awaiting a ruling from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals – are determined to continue the battle. “We are prepared to take our case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, if we have to. And we are doing it to secure justice for the people of Texas," said Miller. "We are in it for the long haul."

Instead of playing defense when new anti-choice legislation arises, the campaign seeks to take a “pro-active” approach, unveiling a targeted and strategic legislative agenda. Lawmakers started the push during a Feb. 13 Capitol press event formally announcing the initiative and have kept at it. Campaign supporter Sen. Jose Rodríguez, D-El Paso, introduced legislation this week that would repeal parts of HB 2. His SB 730 would strike the requirement that forces abortion doctors to obtain admitting privileges at a hospital no more than 30 miles away from the clinic and the rule that mandates clinics comply with the same costly building codes as ambulatory surgical centers. Earlier this month, Rodríguez also filed a bill (SB 468) that would grant a teenage mother the ability to consent to medical procedures related to the delivery of her child as well as to contraception access without permission from her parents. “The right to a safe, legal abortion has been constitutionally protected for many, many years. We cannot allow this legislature to place insurmountable barriers to their constitutional rights,” said Rodríguez, charging colleagues with waging a “relentless war on women’s health.”

Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, who helped sponsor Rodríguez’s bill against HB2, similarly filed a bill earlier this week (SB 707) that would expand preventative and contraceptive health care access for teenage mothers. “If you can’t trust Texas women, if you can’t respect Texas women, then what the hell is wrong with Texas?” said Garcia. Additionally, Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, spoke about how his House Bill 1351 would ensure Texas public schools include evidence-based, medically accurate, and age-appropriate information on pregnancy, STD, and HIV prevention. And Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, promoted her doctor-patient protection bill, a measure to prevent physicians from dispensing unethical or medically inaccurate information when providing abortion services.

University of Texas at El Paso student Adriano Perez* drew attention to the impact of reproductive health restrictive policies on transgender and gender-nonconforming Texans and highlighted the importance of evidence-based sexual education. “A 16-year-old woman in El Paso knows what is better for her than a white man in Austin does,” said Perez. The speaker was joined by dozens of fellow students who spent the morning filtering in and out of the offices of both pro-choice and anti-choice lawmakers. With a bill list in hand, Mimosa Thomas and her four fellow co-activists at UT-Pan American made the lengthy drive to Austin from the Rio Grande Valley. "We tried to convey that if you are a pro-life legislator then you would want to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, so you would support something like comprehensive sex ed," Thomas told the Chronicle before the speakers took the stage. However, she said, it was clear some legislative staffers were more receptive than others.

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*Name corrected.

For more, check out our War on Women's Health page.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

84th Legislature, Abortion, Texas Legislature 2015, Reproductive Rights

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