Anti-Choice Lawmakers Divert Millions From TCEQ To Crisis Pregnancy Centers

House swaps $20M from TCEQ to anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers

Local crisis pregnancy center, Austin Life Care. (Photo by John Anderson)

Conservative lawmakers succeeded in funneling millions of dollars from the state’s environmental agency into the anti-choice Alternatives to Abortion program (A2A), which oversees taxpayer-funded, anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), during a marathon House budget debate.

CPCs are typically Christian-based centers that offer no medical services and task their employees with deterring pregnant women from choosing abortion. They’ve received millions in Texas taxpayer dollars over the years, and this session lawmakers are trying to flush the anti-choice fund with unprecedented cash. Rep. Mike Schofield, R-Katy, with the aid of Rep. Matt Krause, R-Ft. Worth, moved some $20 million over two years from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to the A2A program on a 93-52 vote, despite concern from Democratic lawmakers.

Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, pointed out that the measure would be contrary to “pro-life” values as the swapped out TCEQ funds would have gone toward improving air quality and would be a “grave error” that ends up harming people. “This would adversely impact the life of children,” said Anchia. Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, noted the dedicated TCEQ funds come from taxpayer charges, so rerouting the money would violate taxpayer trust. Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-Brownsville, said he had a difficult time believing TCEQ didn’t mind having sizable funds stripped from their coffers. “I am not convinced TCEQ has more money than they know what to do with,” said Lucio.

On the other end, Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, suggested moving $8 million over two years from the A2A program to support family planning services, pointing out those programs have prevented 247 cases of cervical cancer and thousands of unplanned pregnancies. That amendment was tabled.

Instead of infusing women’s health programs with real services like contraception, Rep. Matt Shaheen, R-Plano, and Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Allen, shifted funds from the state’s film and music program to the Healthy Texas Women Program for marketing (that’s right, billboards). Before the vote, Howard questioned whether the amendment was an attempt to pit some lawmakers against deciding whether to support women’s health or the film industry. The HTW program is the vestige of a Medicaid program that once served far more patients before Texas officials booted out Planned Parenthood, the dominant provider, for political reasons. Leach attempted to mimic the same maneuver with $10 million in Texas Lottery Commission funds, but seeing he couldn’t generate enough support, eventually pulled the amendment.

Of course, this isn’t the end of the line. Both chambers’ 2018-19 budgets require approval and sorting out by the conference committee, made up of House and Senate members, to become a unified plan. But considering the Lege’s support for anti-choice policies over funding women’s health services, don’t count on an outcome that helps women more than it hurts.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

abortion rights, reproductive rights, Rep. Matt Krause, Rep. Jeff Leach, Rep. Chris Turner

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