Unfortunately, this session will be remembered as the "War on Women" -- when Texas legislators chose to relentlessly attack reproductive rights and access to cost saving family planning services, when Texas women lost access to birth control and breast cancer screenings, when Governor Perry deemed the Mandatory Ultrasound Bill as an "emergency", and when, ultimately, political games trumped common sense and good public health policy.
PASSED: Mandatory Sonogram Law [HB 15, (82-R)]
This intrusive law mandates physicians to perform an ultrasound on every woman seeking an abortion, to display the ultrasound image, to broadcast the heart tone if present, and to describe the dimensions of the embryo or fetus, including the presence of external members and internal organs, with certain exceptions. In most cases this bill is mandating that a woman seeking an abortion be subjected to an internal vaginal probe sonogram even if it is not medically necessary.
While a woman can opt-out of seeing the sonogram image and hearing the heart tone, she cannot opt-out of a medically unnecessary sonogram, nor can she opt-out of the fetal description except within very narrow parameters for situations of rape, incest, judicial bypasses, and fetal anomalies.
PASSED: $73 million Cut to Family Planning Funding [HB 1, (82-R)]
The House and the Senate approved a state budget that cut funding for family planning programs from $111 million to $38 million. According to the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) these actions will result in nearly 300,000 Texas women losing basic, life-saving health care, including screenings for hypertension and diabetes, and screenings for breast and cervical cancer. The analysis also reported that these cuts will result in 20,000 more unplanned births at a total taxpayer cost of $231 million.
The state budget also directs family planning funds to be awarded to providers based on an arbitrary system of prioritization which lists Planned Parenthood as the last provider eligible to receive funds.
PASSED: Medicaid Women’s Health Program [HB 1, (82-R)]
The state approved budget renewed the Medicaid Women's Health Program but the threat remains that a rule created by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) will exclude Planned Parenthood from participating as a provider in the program.
The Medicaid Women’s Health Program provides birth control and cancer screenings to 120,000 low-income women in Texas; Planned Parenthood provides care to more than 40% of those clients. The program saves Texas taxpayers over $40 million each year.
PASSED: “Choose Life” License Plates [SB 257, (82-R)]
The state will now produce “Choose Life” license plates and distribute revenue from the sale of the plates to anti-choice groups such as crisis pregnancy centers (CPC). The “Alternative to Abortion” program currently receives $4 million dollars a year in taxpayer money through the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) that is distributed to CPCs. CPC are unregulated anti-choice organizations that do not provide any medical services and are known to spend nearly half of the tax dollars they receive on advertising and administrative costs, not client services.
PASSED: Medicaid Funding Overhaul [SB 7, (82-1)]
In the First Called Special Session, the legislature passed a piece of legislation which included provisions that eliminate state funding for hospital districts which use tax revenue to provide abortion care, and that direct the state to award family planning funds to providers based on an biased system of prioritization which lists Planned Parenthood as the last provider eligible to receive funds.
June 23rd marked the last day of the 2011 Louisiana Legislative Session and legislators put women's health, fiscal responsibility, and common sense above politics... at least when it came to two of the three bills we opposed this session.
HB 645 by Rep. John LaBruzzo (Metairie - R) had the potential to ban ALL abortions in Louisiana. The unconstitutional bill threatened women's health and the states ability to access 4.5 billion dollars in Medicaid funding. The bill was derailed in the House weeks ago.
House Concurrent Resolution 54, by Rep. Frank Hoffman (West Monroe - R), aimed to encourage Congress to defund Planned Parenthood, but was tied up in Senate Finance at the close of the session.
HB 636, Rep. Hoffman's sign bill will be signed by the Governor in the next few days. HB 636 requires Abortion providers to post coercion prevention/abortion alternative signs and gives DHH the authority to develop a new abortion alternatives website. Visitors to the website will not receive comprehensive information about pregnancy options; agencies that provide comprehensive pregnancy options education or provide abortion care will not be allowed to post information on the site.