Reproductive Health and Family Planning

Reproductive Health and Family Planning
Illustration By Doug Potter

Abortion Rights: It appears that Pampa Republican Rep. Warren Chisum's bid to ban abortion outright (that is, in the event the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade), HB 175, is dead. This is not because an angry bipartisan contingent of lawmakers stood up to kill it but because a staffer for Rep. David Swinford, chair of the House State Affairs Committee, miscalculated the number of supporters of the measure present at a late April committee meeting, leaving it one vote shy of passage. Supporters still hope to attach the proposal to another bill – and if not, you can bet it will be back for consideration in 2009. And there remain plenty of restrictive proposals alive and kicking under the dome: SB 785 (Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano) would require abortion doctors to collect a litany of information about their clients and would require the Texas Supreme Court to collect data on judicial bypass – through which adolescent girls can obtain the right to have an abortion without parental consent (awaiting House vote); SB 920 (Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston), which the Senate approved last week, would require women to view an ultrasound image of their fetus before having an abortion or a doctor to "review" it with her (awaiting House vote).

Medical Care? Unsurprisingly, lawmakers are decidedly less enthralled with expanding access to preventative reproductive health care, but there is one bright spot: Austin Rep. Mark Strama received encouraging bipartisan support for HB 1842, which directs the Health and Human Services Commission to undertake a five-year outreach and education campaign providing comprehensive reproductive and family-planning health care for poor women. (Kirk Watson's Senate companion, SB 837, is pending in committee.)

Crisis Pregnancy Crisis: Lawmakers have all but signed off (again) on a $5 million appropriation to fund the Alternatives to Abortion program for two more years. Created by a 2005 budget rider by Sen. Tommy Williams, R-the Woodlands, the program diverts money from the family-planning health-care budget to fund a network of "crisis pregnancy centers," which provide no health care but "promote" childbirth over abortion. On the House floor, Rep. Jim Jackson, R-Carrollton, discounted the need for professional care, saying "these girls" facing unintended pregnancies don't need a "professional counselor with a stern face" as much as "a momma to give them some love." Motherly love notwithstanding, bills seeking some form of regulatory oversight of CPCs – including one that would require the centers to meet minimal health and safety standards (SB 1174, by Rodney Ellis, D-Houston) and one that would require that CPCs at least provide their clients "medically accurate" information (HB 2223, by Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio) – died in committee, without a hearing.

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