The Texas legislature has recently shown signs of reaching an uneasy compromise on women’s health issues. After Republicans faced harsh criticism for slashing preventative health resources for thousands of low-income women, state lawmakers agreed to work together to restore those family planning cuts. And reproductive rights advocates in the state legislature successfully blocked every single proposed anti-abortion measure from advancing this session, making the case that Texas voters are tired of seeing their elected officials mount constant attacks on women’s health.
But stringently anti-abortion legislators aren’t willing to give up the fight so easily. A group of 62 House Republicans are currently pressuring Gov. Rick Perry (R) to call a special session specifically to push for four different abortion-related bills that failed to advance this year. The GOP lawmakers want to keep trying to criminalize abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, enact stringent restrictions on abortion clinics that will likely force them to close their doors, and prevent women from using their insurance coverage to pay for abortion care.
“In the struggle to defend life, we cannot take a day off — much less a legislative session,” the dozens of lawmakers wrote in identical letters to the governor. “In the increasing likelihood of a special session, we ask that you exercise your constitutional power and add pro-life bills to the call.”
And regardless of whether Perry agrees to use his position to force the legislature to consider additional abortion restrictions, Texas lawmakers may end up compromising women’s health in other areas — particularly if they fall short on their promise to better prioritize family planning resources in the state budget.
Instead of completely restoring the 2011 family planning cuts, the 2013 legislature has agreed to add $100 million in new funding to the state’s primary care program, primarily designated for public hospitals and clinics. That may seem like a good compromise for the anti-choice lawmakers who continue to refuse to be associated with Planned Parenthood. But, as officials from Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas point out, those primary care organizations haven’t typically been the lead providers of family planning services in the state. If the legislature insists on circumventing Planned Parenthood affiliates, and cutting off state funding for the national women’s health organization simply for partisan reasons, thousands of women may continue to go without care.
“Our work is not over,” Ken S. Lambrecht, the President & CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, said in a press release. “Our elected officials have a responsibility to ensure that all Texas women and families have access to quality, affordable health care and a full network of qualified providers who have the capacity to see these women, including Planned Parenthood.”