February 17, 2015 — Texas lawmakers who support abortion rights have introduced four bills as part of a multiyear campaign to improve women's access to reproductive health care in the state, the Houston Chronicle reports (Rosenthal, Houston Chronicle, 2/12).
The initiative, unveiled Thursday, is called "Trust. Respect. Access." Whole Woman's Health spokesperson Fatimah Gifford described it as a "public policy campaign to restore trust in Texans to make their own reproductive health care decisions, respect for health care professionals' judgment [and to] regain access to the full range of reproductive healthcare from sex education to abortion care to birth control."
The campaign also involves the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, the Texas Freedom Network and the Texas Research Institute (Martin, "Trail Blazers Blog," Dallas Morning News, 2/12).
State Reps. Jessica Farrar (D), Mary González (D) and Donna Howard (D) on Thursday discussed four pieces of legislation they have filed as part of the campaign (Houston Chronicle, 2/12).
One bill (HB 78) would allow comprehensive sexuality education to be taught in Texas schools ("Trail Blazers Blog," Dallas Morning News, 2/12). Under the bill, sex education in public schools would have to be "medically accurate" and "age-appropriate" (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/14).
Another measure (HB 468) would allow minors ages 15 and older who have children to access birth control without the requirement of parental consent.
A third bill (HB 1210) would protect health care providers in the state from being required to give women state-mandated information about abortions that is not evidence-based (Houston Chronicle, 2/12). Specifically, the bill would allow for a "professional judgment exception" permitting providers who offer services related to abortion not to comply with legal requirements if those requirements are inconsistent with accepted, evidence-based medical practices and ethical standards.
Another bill (HB 709) would repeal the state's 24-hour mandatory delay under its 2011 ultrasound law (Ura, Texas Tribune, 2/12). A provision of the 2011 law requires women to receive ultrasounds at least 24 hours before an abortion procedure, unless the woman lives at least 100 miles from the nearest provider. In that case, the delay would be two hours (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/11/12). The law also requires health care provides to describe the fetus' development and to make the fetal heartbeat audible. HB 709 would repeal the mandatory delay under the ultrasound law, but it would not end the requirement that women undergo an ultrasound.
Farrar, who chairs the Texas House Women's Health Caucus, said, "This 24-hour waiting period has proven to be ineffective, unnecessary and cruel. It does not change a pregnant Texas woman's decision."
Texas Alliance for Life Executive Director Joe Pojman said his group opposes repealing the mandatory delay provision (Texas Tribune, 2/12).
Meanwhile, Farrar said that while the bills likely would not have enough support to pass in the current legislative session, "that doesn't stop us from continuing to talk about this." She said, "I think history has shown that because people are vocal over time eventually you have success" (Trail Blazers Blog," Dallas Morning News, 2/12).
Dinorah Martinez, a field coordinator for NLIRH, added, "We're not going to stop until we have trust, respect and access for all" (Houston Chronicle, 2/12).