Access to safe and legal abortion is an incontrovertible constitutional right, though extremists in the Texas Capitol are doing their level best to change that. Emboldened by its past, dubious success with the now-infamous HB 2, this week the legislature is poised to pass two measures—HB 3994 and SB 575—that continue to whittle away at women’s access to health care, and in a worst-case scenario, would risk their very lives.
Representative Geanie Morrison’s (R-Victoria) HB 3994 follows a trend set by a number of measures introduced this session that create big problems by feigning to address issues that happen not to exist in the first place. Currently, minors seeking an abortion in Texas must first have parental consent, but in those rare instances where those minors either cannot or will not get that consent, they may seek to override the requirement by going before a judge in a process called “judicial bypass.” Through its onerous and ill-defined ID requirement, its needless deadline extensions, and its flagrant disdain for confidentiality, HB 3994 serves to make each and every step of the bypass process more difficult and, in many cases, impossible.
Given that only about one half of one percent of all abortions performed in Texas involve minors seeking judicial bypass, the bill’s scope is limited. However, the women who do seek judicial bypass are usually doing so for a very good reason: oftentimes these young women are victims of abuse, neglect, or sex trafficking, and their lives are about to be made considerably harder simply to satisfy the social agenda of a few Texas extremists. This bill is designed to hurt vulnerable children. That is precisely what it will do, and that is all that it will do.
For its part, SB 575 is an insidious and frankly baffling piece of legislation diametrically opposed to the conservative philosophy that holds that the state should leave businesses alone. Ostensibly tailored to prevent federal funding of abortions through the ACA exchange, in practice SB 575 makes it illegal for private health insurers to cover abortions for their clients, leaving them with nowhere to turn.
Additionally, while SB 575 does contain an exception for life endangerment, it provides no such protections in the case of rape, incest, or severe fetal abnormality. Indeed, the authors of the bill don’t even seem to grasp what a “severe fetal abnormality” actually is. While SB 575’s supporters would argue that pro-choice advocates are seeking abortions in order to avoid having children with Down’s Syndrome or a cleft palate, it’s unlikely they’ve ever had to face broken-hearted families who had to terminate pregnancies due to Anencephaly, Alobar Holophrosencephaly, Patau’s Syndrome, Thanatophoric Dysplasia, or any other of the devastating genetic dispositions that are, according to the medical terminology, “incompatible with life.”
With these two iniquitous bills, extremist elements in the Texas legislature demonstrate how far they’re willing to go to prop up their crumbling anti-choice agenda. These measures are likely to pass, tragically, and so once again we’ll have to look to the courts to ensure that reasonable reproductive policy prevails. In the meantime, however, the women of Texas will continue to suffer at the indifferent and insensitive hands of Texas legislators.
There’s still a chance to convince our leaders to do the right thing: sign the petition today and tell your representatives that they have no right to come between a woman and her doctor.