What I have seen with respect to these abortion bills is unprecedented in our Texas Legislature. The measures in the bill we will vote on today were considered during the Regular session. They all failed. They were again brought up in the first special session. They again failed. Through each special session, we have seen high levels of public participation, on both sides. But, overwhelmingly, we have seen opposition.
We have seen opposition in such large numbers that, in the first special session, the House committee vote had to be delayed by a day. We have seen opposition in such large numbers that citizens observing the Senate here in the Capitol delayed the final vote on the bill, ensuring that it did not pass during the first special session.
Despite this vast opposition, today we find ourselves called back to consider these resurrected measures. The Texas Legislature is working hard to pass these measures into law.
Why are we working so hard to pass this legislation? Proponents of the bill talk about protecting the unborn and preventing abortion. If we care about protecting children, there is much we can do to help them, but in my nearly 20 years as a State Representative, I have never seen the Legislature work this hard to act in the interest of born children. In fact, the only time it has addressed public school funding is in reaction to a lawsuit — never proactively to provide children enough funding for their schools.
Nor have we worked hard enough to protect or help children who lack stable homes. As of May 31, 2013, 6,413 children are waiting to be adopted. These children have parents whose parental rights have been terminated. As a child gets older, her chances of getting adopted decrease. Children aged 0-2 years exited care by adoption at a rate of 35 %, while children aged 14 and up exited care by adoption at a rate of 14 %.
These are real problems faced by Texas children that we could address in this legislature.
If we care about preventing abortion, there’s another way to do it without risking women’s health: we can work to prevent unintended pregnancies. When women have access to family planning services, unintended pregnancies are far less likely. By adequately funding women’s healthcare, we can help women get access to those services. Instead, though, this legislature has a history of cutting funding. The deep cuts of the 82nd Legislature forced family planning clinics across the state to shut down, and women to lose access to those services. That same session, Planned Parenthood — which had provided healthcare services to nearly half the women in the Women’s Health Program — was banned from participating in that program. The Women’s Health Program is intended to give women access to health screenings and family planning services. Despite providing these important services, a major provider was banned because of ideology. While I was happy to see that we increased funding for women’s health this session, there is still much we can do to increase access to family planning services and preventative care.
We can also work to prevent unintended pregnancies by better educating our children. Our state has placed heavy emphasis on abstinence-only education. In turn, we have one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the nation. Texas is ranked 47th in the country for teen birth rates according to 2012 data released by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. We should be working to reform that. Requiring that comprehensive sex education be taught in schools would surely help to prevent unintended teen pregnancies.
These are serious problems Texans face. I’d like to see us work as hard as we have during these special sessions to pass measures to solve them. We’ve been focusing our efforts, instead, on bills that do little more than address ideology. Let’s make no mistake today: the bill we are voting on doesn’t solve problems like the ones I’ve been discussing. In fact, the authors have struggled to identify the impetus for the bill. We have not heard of specific problems or complications at current clinics. We have not heard of any specific need for doctors to have admitting privileges. We have not heard specifically how having the procedures performed in ambulatory surgical centers will increase safety. We have not heard why a woman needs to go to an ambulatory surgical center to take a pill. However, we have heard from major medical organizations — the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Texas Medical Association, and Texas Hospital Association — that they oppose to the bill. We have also heard from DSHS that there have only been 5 deaths from abortions since 2000, with the last one occurring in 2008. (This is contrast to the 737 maternal deaths from 2000 to 2010).
This bill does not solve any problems, but it will cause them:
37 of the state’s 42 clinics will be forced to shut their doors. The 5 remaining clinics will be in urban areas. Access to these services will be severely restricted for women in rural areas.
Women will be forced to go to an Ambulatory Surgical Center — one of those 5 remaining clinics — even for a medical abortion; that is, to take a pill.
Doctors will lose discretion in treating individual patients: the bill sets forth medical protocol for doctors administering medical abortions.
The Legislature will intrude on deeply personal decisions intended to be made by a woman in consultation with her doctor.
In short, Texas women will lose important access to these services. Losing access to healthcare makes no one safer.
We have been working hard to pass this bill. We were elected to the Legislature to work hard for Texans. But we should make sure we direct our hard work to best achieve our goals, and to best serve our constituents. By passing this bill, we do neither of these things. Instead we pander to primary Republican voters. Texas children deserve better than that. Texas women deserve better than that.
All Texans deserve better than that.
— Representative Jessica Farrar’s Closing Remarks on House Bill 2 on July 9, 2013