81st Texas Legislative Session
The 81st Texas legislative session ended Monday, June 1, 2009. Thanks to everyone who contacted your legislators, participated in Planned Parenthood’s lobby day, and to anyone who stood in support of women's health care and responsible sexual health education. Your actions made a difference!
Below is the wrap up of the legislative session!
The Good News
No anti-choice bills were passed this session!
Mandatory Ultrasounds (HB 36.SB 182) would have required women seeking safe, legal abortion to listen to a verbal description of the ultrasound image and the fetal heartbeat, if present. This bill did not make it to the House floor for a vote.
Mandatory Reporting Bill (HB 3796/SB 2571) would have mandated that physicians who perform abortions submit detailed, private information about each client to the Department of State Health Services. This bill was not voted out of the House Calendars Committee.
Choose Life License Plates (HB 109/SB 1098) would have required the state to produce Choose Life license plates, which would fund “crisis” pregnancy centers (CPCs). While this bill was amended onto the Texas Department of Transportation bill, it was not voted on prior to the deadline.
The Bad News
Education Works! (HB 741/SB 515), an abstinence-plus sexual health education bill received a hearing in the House Public Education Committee, but despite the hard work and best efforts of the bill’s primary author Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio), and joint author, Rep. Mike Villarreal, as well as a long list of co-author’s, and of course, supporters like you, the bill was left pending in committee. On the Senate side, Senate Public Education committee chair Florence Shapiro refused to give SB 515 a hearing!
During the last days of the session, Rep. Castro and Rep. Villarreal tried to attach amendments to an education-related bill (SB 283) that would have required information taught in sexuality courses be medically accurate. Unfortunately, the House bill sponsor Rep. Mark Shelton (R-Fort Worth), who is a pediatrician, refused to accept these amendments and they were defeated. However, Rep. Mark Strama (D-Austin) was able to get Rep. Shelton to accept an amendment that would require school districts to notify parents about the content of the sex education curriculum in their child’s school.
Prevention Works! (HB 1694/SB 1100) by Rep. Strama and Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) would have expanded outreach efforts for the Women's Health Program. Sadly, neither HB 1694 nor SB 1100 received a committee hearing in the Texas House or Senate!
Legislators decided to again include provisions in the state budget that impede women's access to preventive health care.
Rider 56 sets aside $20 million dollars of the family planning budget for Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC’s). Traditional Family Planning providers, such as Planned Parenthood, are not eligible for these funds. While FQHCs provide important services to the community, they don't have the capacity to see large numbers of family planning patients. Since this rider was implemented in 2005, 70,700 fewer family planning patients have been served. We were successful in adding new language that requires any funds not spent by the FQHCs to go back to family planning providers who will use the funds to provide the much needed family planning services.
Legislators also renewed the "Alternatives to Abortion" program and increased its funding from $5 million to $8 million. This program is public funding for CPCs – organizations that provide no medical services and do nothing to help women prevent unintended pregnancies before the pregnancy occurs. CPCs receiving these funds in the past have failed to use them effectively. In 2008, they only served 8,040 patients in the entire State of Texas!
Again, thank you to everyone who stood up for Texas women and their families during the legislative session!