July 9, 2013
Bills would reduce abortions, increase awareness on women’s health
Senate Democrats are joining the statewide Stand with Texas Women tour to connect with Texans who have been shut out of the ongoing women’s health debate in Austin and to outline legislative alternatives that will reduce abortions without endangering women’s health or undermining their rights.
Members of the Senate Democratic Caucus have filed a package of bills that would reduce the number of abortions and unplanned pregnancies in Texas with common-sense strategies that don’t block access to safe and legal abortion procedures. Senate Democrats also have requested hearings on this issue in other Texas communities. So far, however, those in control of the legislature have scheduled no such hearings outside the Capitol.
“It’s well past time that those in control stop, think, and listen to the people of Texas,” said Senator Kirk Watson, the Caucus’ Chair. “We need take this conversation about women’s health and women’s rights outside the legislative bubble in Austin.”
The Caucus’ legislative package includes bills that would prevent unintended pregnancies and provide better prenatal and early-childhood healthcare to mothers and babies who need it but often can’t afford it. It also would protect women in Texas and ensure that they have access to the healthcare they need to make the best decisions about their lives and their bodies.
The bills were filed last week amid a divisive fight over legislation that would severely restrict women’s access to safe, legal and constitutionally protected abortion procedures, potentially endangering their health. Democrats successfully blocked this legislation in the regular legislative session and the first special session, but those in control of the Capitol called a second special session and threw out traditional Senate rules to push the provisions into law.
Thousands of Texans have come to the Capitol to speak on the bills, but far too many have been turned away without being able to testify to legislative committees. Senators hope the Stand with Texas Women tour will allow more Texans to make their voices heard on the issue.
The Caucus’ bills include:
Senator Wendy Davis, of Fort Worth, said this far-reaching agenda demonstrates how much more discussion can and should take place before those in control of state government try to legislate women’s health, bodies and constitutionally protected rights. “Those in control of the Capitol owe it to Texans to seek them out and hear them on this issue,” Senator Davis said. “We badly want to work with all sides to find ways to reduce abortions without harming women and their rights.”
The bills also demonstrate that there’s far more room for compromise and progress than has been evident in the debate over access to safe and legal abortion procedures in Texas, said Senator Royce West, of Dallas. “Rather than allowing lawmakers to practice medicine or take control of the doctor-patient relationship, I stand with Texas women and stand behind initiatives that truly prevent abortions,” he said.
Democratic Caucus members also emphasized that unlike the bill that those in control are currently pushing through the legislature, their agenda would not effectively discriminate against certain Texans by cutting off access to health services in parts of the state.
“I support the Senate Democratic Caucus’ package of bills because they focus on preventing the demand for abortions through increased access to health care and education,” Senator Jose Rodriguez, of El Paso, said. “Unlike other legislation that’s being considered, our bills would not require young women already wrestling with this difficult decision to travel hundreds of miles for medical care they’re constitutionally entitled to receive.”
Senator Rodney Ellis, of Houston, added, “The single best way we can stand with Texas women and children is to expand access to quality, affordable health care. We face the biggest uninsured crisis in the nation, and almost one in three Texas women lack health insurance. If we truly want to reduce abortion in Texas, we need to teach comprehensive medically accurate sex education to prevent unintended pregnancies in the first place.”
“The women of Texas and the world cannot be silenced,” Senator Sylvia Garcia, of Houston, concluded. “Senator Davis and her Democratic colleagues will continue to fight for women’s constitutional rights until the will of the people is heard in the rallies, the hearings, the floor votes and, most important, the ballot box.”
The Texas Senate Democratic Caucus is Sen. John Whitmire of Houston, Sen. Judith Zaffirini of Laredo, Sen. Rodney Ellis of Houston, Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. of Brownsville, Sen. Royce West of Dallas, Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio, Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa of Mission, Sen. Carlos Uresti of San Antonio, Sen. Kirk Watson of Austin, Sen. Wendy Davis of Ft. Worth, Sen. Jose Rodriguez of El Paso, and Sen. Sylvia Garcia of Houston.