A month earlier than the 87th Texas Legislature gaveled in, Republican lawmakers have been already engaged on tips on how to additional limit abortion entry. The Senate Committee on State Affairs convened Dec. eight to debate “methods Texas can additional shield the lives of the unborn, together with fetal heartbeat laws” – an abortion ban at six weeks, which someway tops the agenda throughout an unprecedented public well being disaster. “We hope to move a complete lot of pro-life laws this session,” stated committee chairman state Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, on the listening to, which featured invited testimony from like-minded allies and none from the general public. “Ten states have already handed heartbeat laws. We have now to admit, Texas shouldn’t have waited this lengthy.”
After sizable victories in session after session, anti-choice forces count on even better features in 2021. A 6-Three conservative majority within the U.S. Supreme Court docket, the failure of Democrats to flip the Texas Home, and the defeat of the Legislature’s one remaining pro-choice Republican (Houston’s Sarah Davis) has galvanized activists like by no means earlier than. “It is the proper storm,” says state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, who chairs the (now bolstered and expanded) Texas Home Girls’s Well being Caucus. “There’s going to be extra of a combat this session over reproductive rights than we ever anticipated, and we’re very involved about how issues are going to go, particularly because the pandemic makes it harder for public enter – and public outrage.” On Nov. 9 – the primary day of invoice prefiling for the 87th Lege – Republicans have been prepared with measures to ban abortion at 12 weeks (it is at present 20) and to outlaw abortion fully if SCOTUS overturns Roe v. Wade.
The months forward will see much more draconian payments, priorities of what anti-choice foyer group Texas Proper to Life calls the “Abolition Technique.” Along with a “heartbeat” invoice, these embody eliminating the humane exception to the present 20-week ban within the occasion of fetal illness or incapacity that will seemingly lead to demise quickly after start. Since final session, “the political and judicial dynamics have altered” and “2021 could possibly be prime for Professional-Life legislative and authorized victories,” in response to an emboldened TRL’s press assertion. Texas shouldn’t “sit on the sidelines and easily anticipate Roe v. Wade to be overturned,” the group wrote. “As an alternative, Texas is strategically positioned to boost focused authorized inquiries to push the Supreme Court docket to overturn.”
State officers used COVID-19 as an excuse to ban abortion final March, which resulted in a 38% lower in abortions on the time however a 61% improve in riskier, second-trimester procedures as soon as the emergency order expired. In the meantime, the Texas Well being and Human Providers Fee is slated to preserve profitable state funding to the Alternate options to Abortion program, which helps nonmedical “disaster being pregnant facilities,” whereas making household planning cuts. Just lately, the fifth U.S. Circuit Court docket of Appeals sided with state officers in barring Deliberate Parenthood from treating Medicaid sufferers after a five-year authorized battle.
Alternatively, Howard stays comparatively hopeful of bipartisan assist for much-needed reforms like reestablishing the Girls’s Well being Advisory Committee discontinued by Gov. Greg Abbott in 2017, eliminating inequitable gross sales taxes on female hygiene merchandise, and including contraception protection to CHIP, the state well being program for low-income teenagers and youngsters. Most pressing are measures to deal with the state’s dire maternal mortality disaster, together with increasing Medicaid well being protection for moms to a full 12 months after start, which has handed the Home however not the extra conservative Senate in previous classes. “We have now the best maternal mortality charge within the nation. It is mind-boggling to me that this main downside isn’t rising to the highest of the precedence record,” Howard insists. “Our focus this session ought to actually be: How can we save Texas mothers?”
A model of this text appeared in print on January 15, 2021 with the headline: Is This the Final Likelihood for Alternative?