Last month, when news spread that Virginia legislators were considering a forced trans-vaginal ultrasound bill, the uproar was loud, clear and immediate: women would never stand for this invasive and unnecessary law. Politicos and pop-culture icons alike spoke out against the Republican-led legislation. What kind of world are we living in, reasonable people wondered, when "informed consent" is tantamount to state-sanctioned rape?
Here's what kind of world: the kind wherein a mandatory ultrasound law scads worse than the proposed Virginia bill has already been in place for five months. In Texas.
"Texas has the most extreme law that's being enforced right now," says the Center For Reproductive Rights' Julie Rikelman, the lead attorney on the CRR's lawsuit filed against the Texas legislation. Despite the sympathetic leanings of a federal district judge who initially ruled on the case, the suit has more or less been stalled by a vehemently anti-choice Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which denied the CRR's requested injunction against enforcement last month. Now, that means that all aspects of the law--mandated ultrasounds, 24-hour waiting periods, and forced speech--are now in full force in Texas.
Intially the CRR was able to gain an injunction against enforcing the parts of the law they argued in court violated doctors' First Amendment rights. But twenty-five days ago, they lost that injunction and doctors began being legally required to verbally describe the sonogram image, make heartbeat audio available if possible, and offer women the opportunity to view the image.
And while the mandatory trans-vaginal ultrasound requirement has garnered a great deal of interest and outrage, Texas providers tell RHRealityCheck that the "most onerous" part of the law, for both providers and abortion-seeking women, has been the mandatory 24-hour wait period between the required ultrasound and the abortion itself.
"The 24-hour waiting period with two face-to-face visits required, that was just incredible," says Amy Hagstrom Miller, the founder of Whole Women's Health, a Texas-based health care center with five locations providing abortion care, STI treatment and basic women's health exams. Now, women must take two days off of work and invest three to four hours each day to get the safe, legal procedure they're entitled to by law.
"Women have just been absolutely furious about having to come twice," says Hagstrom Miller, who adds that 65 percent of abortion-seeking clients at Whole Women's Health are already mothers. It's not just two days off work that creates an unnecessary hassle for most of these women--it's also finding two days of child care.
"Because they're already moms, there's nothing in the ultrasound that is surprising to them," says Hagstrom Miller. "It's not like they say, 'Oh, I didn't know i was pregnant.'"
Despite passionate claims otherwise from anti-choice individuals, transvaginal ultrasounds and 24-hour wait periods do not, in fact, appear to induce women to opt out of abortion.
No women have changed their minds, says Hagstrom Miller, out of the hundreds who've come to Whole Women's Health since the mandatory ultrasound law went into action. Two or three times, she says, women have elected to hear a heartbeat.
"I know of no patients, and I'm talking hundreds, who've changed their minds because they saw the ultrasound," says Hagstrom Miller.
Because her clinics have always provided ultrasounds to women to look at and even take home, "It's not some mystery." Indeed, it's standard practice.
The Texas law stipulates that providers--and the ultrasound must be conducted by the abortion provider her- or himself, not a technician--must use the technology that provides the best image of the embryo or fetus, which means trans-vaginal ultrasounds for women seeking abortions before about seven weeks into their pregnancy, regardless of whether they're opting for a medical abortion (i.e., the abortion pill) or a surgical abortion.
Ultrasounds themselves are not the problem--again, says Hagstrom Miller, they're part of standard medical practice and most providers have used them when they and their patients feel it's appropriate to confirm and date pregnancy.
"Ultrasound is a simple way to do that, but it's not the only way to do it," explains Hagstrom Miller. The mandatory ultrasound "sidesteps the medical profession" and takes the decision out of the hands of medical professionals and puts it into the hands of the government.
And according to the CRR's Julie Rikelman, the State of Texas is also putting words in the mouths of doctors.
"There are serious constitutional issues here," she says, adding that she believes the Fifth Circuit Court's denial of the injunction--intended to be in place while the lawsuit winds its way through the justice system--was "absolutely legally the wrong decision."
Because the Fifth Circuit--"a very conservative court of appeals," according to Rikelman--has, unusually, reserved the right to rule on all further appeals in the case, there is little cause to be optimistic about the CRR's case falling on anything but deaf, anti-choice ears. To that end, says Rikelman, they're reevaluating their strategy in Texas and looking at challenges to the laws in other states.
"Since we do have challenges going in other courts and other jurisdictions, we do have to think about how can we make the best case for doctors and women around the country."
But just because the CRR has run up against a judicial roadblock in Texas doesn't mean that Texans are giving up. Especially online, the fight continues with activists taking to social media, wherein the popular and cheeky Keep Your Boehner Out Of My Uterus Tumblr has been posting an ongoing day-by-day reminder that Texas' ultrasound law isn't going away, and the #TXreprohealth hashtag continues to gain in popularity.
And while the Texas legislature doesn't meet this year, Texas voters can look forward to elections in November, when they'll have a chance to replace anti-choice representatives who have already moved on from the ultrasound issue and are now openly attacking women's access to basic reproductive health care and contraception in Texas.
Late last month, conservative lawmakers officially signed a rule turning down federal funding for the Medicaid's Women's Health Program. Rather than allow Planned Parenthood to receive WHP funds, Texas legislators want to deny 130,000 low-income and uninsured women access to contraceptives, cancer screenings and basic reproductive health care at clinics that do not provide abortions.
Whether that will happen for a certainty remains to be seen--the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have the ultimate say, and the Obama administration has said that excluding Planned Parenthood is a violation of the Social Security Act (which guarantees patients can get care from the qualified agency of their choosing) and thereby illegal.
If the WHP falters in Texas, as it may do as soon as March 14, that will leave the aforementioned 130,000 women without access to care on top of the 180,000 women per year who lost access to care last fall when Texas slashed its family planning budget. That brings the total to 310,000 women in Texas stranded with no reproductive health care in sight.
As Amy Hagstrom Miller points out, that's a less than effective way to prevent the number one cause of abortion: unwanted pregnancy.
"I think it's a tragedy that the very people that say they are interested in preventing abortion are cutting out the best way we've found in Texas to do so."
Link to original article from RH Reality Check
Far-right Texas Republicans prospered in the first US primary of the year as it was confirmed that Wendy Davis and Greg Abbott will square off in the battle to be the state’s next governor. Davis parlayed the national celebrity garnered from her epic filibuster last June into a high-profile bid to become Texas’s first Democratic governor in two decades.
On Tuesday night the state senator from Fort Worth comfortably secured her party’s nomination. Texas attorney general Abbott easily won the Republican contest to replace Rick Perry, who is stepping down as...
Tom Dart | The Guardian 05 Mar 2014 Hits:224 Texas
Ted Nugent, the old rocker from the Seventies, is now just plain old… and off his rocker.
A political novelty act for the far right and a front man for the National Rifle Association, Nugent regularly spews venomous, vulgar, race-laced, abusive hate speech about liberals, Democrats, gun laws, and creeping communism. In January, for example, he tongue-lashed President Obama, calling him a "communist-raised, communist-educated, communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel."
So, naturally, this scurrilous lout was promptly invited to come to Texas by the leading Republican candidate for governor. It seems that Greg Abbott, currently...
Jim Hightower | Jim Hightower.com 05 Mar 2014 Hits:87 Texas
A Texas judge has struck down that state's ban on gay marriage.
U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia did not say gay marriages could be performed immediately. Instead, he stayed the decision, citing a likely appeal.
"Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our United States Constitution," Garcia wrote in his decision. "These Texas laws deny Plaintiffs access to the institution of marriage and its numerous rights, privileges, and responsibilities for the sole reason that Plaintiffs wish to be married to a person of the same sex."
The state's gay marriage ban was challenged by two gay couples -- one seeking to marry in Texas and one seeking to have their marriage, which...
Aaron Blake | The Washington Post 26 Feb 2014 Hits:159 Texas
The Nov. 5 constitutional amendment election is the first statewide election which requires Texans to present a photo ID when they vote in person. Early voting started Oct. 21 and ended Nov. 1. So far, the election has gone smoothly, but there is some bad information brewing about what you may or may not need at the polls, specifically that the name on your approved ID and the name on your voter registration must match exactly. As one county election official put it, that’s just an urban legend.When it comes...
John Steen | Wilson County News 03 Nov 2013 Hits:367 Texas
State Sen. Wendy Davis of Texas will run for governor next year, two Democratic sources familiar with the planning confirmed to CNN.
The Democrat, who gained national fame after her 13-hour filibuster over a controversial abortion bill, was already scheduled to make an announcement about her political future on October 3. But until Thursday it wasn't certain whether she would be running for governor or run for re-election to her state Senate seat. Politico first reported Davis would run for governor.
Wendy Davis: From teen mom to Harvard Law to famous...
Peter Hamby and Ashley Killough | CNN 03 Oct 2013 Hits:464 Texas
The Texas billionaire's foundation has come through with a major gift to the beleaguered women's health provider
Thousands of women have lost access to vital healthcare since Texas dismantled its Medicaid-funded Women’s Health Program in 2011 because Planned Parenthood acted as a service provider under the program. As a result of these cuts, and the persistent targeting of reproductive health clinics by anti-choice lawmakers, many clinics have been forced to close in recent years, leaving Texas women without low- and no-cost options for reproductive healthcare.
Enter: Ross Perot.
The Perot Foundation of Dallas, which was founded...
Katie McDonough | Salon 31 Aug 2013 Hits:987 Texas
The U.S. Justice Department announced Thursday that it will challenge Texas’s Voter ID law, saying it violates the Voting Rights Act, as well as the Constitution’s 14th and 15th Amendments.
In a separate case, the Justice Department will also join in a challenge to the state’s GOP-drawn redistricting plans.
The decisions come just weeks after the Supreme Court struck down part of the act that determines which jurisdictions require the Justice Department to approve any electoral changes before they become law. Texas had previously been subject to the so-called “preclearance.”
Justice Department officials...
Aaron Blake | The Washington Post 24 Aug 2013 Hits:486 Texas
In the wake of yesterday's epic fail on transportation funding it looks like state legislators are headed back to Austin for a third month-long special session, and it won't be cheap. As the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports this morning, each extra month the legislature's in session costs $800,000, bringing the likely toll on taxpayers to $2.4 million.
Much of this could have been avoided, of course. Lawmakers could have done what they're elected to do and finished their business in the spring. Failing that, they could have set aside inflammatory topics...
Eric Nicholson | The Dallas Observer 30 Jul 2013 Hits:629 Texas
The Texas anti-abortion bill, which threatened to close nearly all of the abortion clinics in the state and prompted an 11-hour filibuster by state Sen. Wendy Davis (D), is dead, The Austin American-Statesman reported.
Lawmakers had to vote on Senate Bill 5 before the special session's end at 12 a.m. local time. However, protesters halted the proceedings 15 to 20 minutes before the roll call could be completed.
The crowd of demonstrators in the capitol cried "Shame! Shame!" when Davis' filibuster was halted by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who ruled that her...
Huffington Post 26 Jun 2013 Hits:672 Texas
On Saturday, as Texas hosted the National Rifle Association’s annual convention, the Texas House passed 12 gun bills to make it even easier to obtain and possess firearms in the state. The onslaught of legislation contains provisions to allow college students to carry handguns in class and to block any theoretical federal bans on assault weapons or high-capacity ammunition. The 12 bills, a veritable goody bag for gun rights advocates, passed easily in the Republican-dominated House.
Texas lawmakers introduced about twice as many gun bills this session as last year, generally...
Aviva Shen | ThinkProgress 06 May 2013 Hits:791 Texas
Texas teachers were up early on the first day of spring break working on their lesson plan. But it wasn't for their students.
The educators need to convince budget-conscious lawmakers that last session's cuts in school funding need to be restored. They hope to put a human face on the problem of overworked classroom teachers and how it's affecting our children.
Montserrat Garibay with the teachers’ group Education Austin says, "Unfortunately many of these legislators have never been in a classroom so educating them is very important to us...
Fred Cantu | KEYE-TV 13 Mar 2013 Hits:1019 Texas
Texas lawmakers are stepping into a debate about whether Austin should require companies to pay a “living wage” to construction workers to qualify for economic development deals.
State Rep. Kenneth Sheets, R-Dallas, said a group of minority contractors told him they would have difficulty paying the $11-an-hour living wage to the laborers they hire, making those contractors less likely to get a piece of the publicly subsidized projects. Sheets filed legislation last month that would bar cities from mandating any wage requirements as part of economic incentive packages, such as the ones...
Tony Plohetski and Marty Toohey | The Statesman 05 Mar 2013 Hits:922 Texas
Adamantly opposed to expanding Medicaid coverage under President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst had seemingly squelched efforts this legislative session to insure an additional 1.1 million low-income Texans under the Affordable Care Act.
But a determined campaign, targeting legislators with public pressure and private persuasion, has kept the issue alive by framing Medicaid expansion as an economic bonanza and tax-relief opportunity that would bring $79 billion in much-needed federal money over 10 years.
The arguments, pitched to Republican ears, have carved out a...
Chuck Lindell | American-Statesman 18 Feb 2013 Hits:922 Texas
The party is launching a full-scale offensive in the Lone Star with the aim of slowly turning the GOP stronghold into a battleground state
Democrats, bolstered by President Obama’s victory last fall, have now set their sights on a prize even more valuable than the White House: the state of Texas.
The party is launching a full-scale offensive in the Lone Star with the aim of slowly turning the GOP stronghold into a battleground state. According to Politico, a coalition of groups is creating a grassroots...
Laura Gottesdiener | AlterNet 01 Feb 2013 Hits:1048 Texas
This is the kind of story that people look back on after a tragedy and say: Well, that was a bad idea.
The Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates oil and gas development, is considering arming its employees. From NPR:
In announcing his initiative, [Commission Chair Barry] Smitherman cited “recent shooting tragedies around the country”. In response to questions from StateImpact, he elaborated in an email: “At the Railroad Commission, many of our employees -- such as our field inspectors -- often work alone in remote, desolate areas of...
Philip Bump | Grist.org 30 Jan 2013 Hits:543 Texas
A bill recently introduced in the Texas state house aims to reward employers who violate Obamacare, offering subsidies to any company that uses religious objection as an excuse for denying…
Registered Nurses, members of the National Nurses Organizing Committee-Texas/National Nurses United (NNU) -- the largest union and professional association of registered nurses in the country, with 185,000…
More than 1,500 Texas nurses won new contracts through their first ever collective bargaining agreement yesterday. They joined National Nurses United, which is the argest union of registered…
A federal court on Tuesday agreed with the Department of Justice that redistricted voter maps in Texas did not comply with the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and that…
A federal appeals court ruled late Tuesday that Texas can cut off funding for Planned Parenthood clinics that provide health services to low-income women before a trial over…
Last week, more than 3,200 janitors in Houston called an end to their five-week strike.
The cleaning contractors initially offered a total wage increase of $.50 an hour phased in over…
Score another victory for the Tea Party.
One-time long-shot candidate Ted Cruz completed his once nearly unthinkable upset Tuesday, winning the runoff for the Republican Senate nomination in Texas over David…
Are you willing to pay more taxes and higher health insurance premiums so Gov. Rick Perry and other Republicans can try to score points against President Obama? Never mind.…
Early this month, Texas Republican delegates met in Fort Worth to approve their 2012 platform, notable parts of which take aim at the state's education system.
In the section titled "Educating…
Join Jim Hightower, Tom Hayden, Ben Day, Mimi Kennedy, Thom Hartmann, Cole Stangler, Medea Benjamin, Andrea MillerRep. Jim McGovern, Tim Carpenter, Mark Dudzic and John Nichols
PDA is organized around several core issues. These issues include:
Each team hosts a monthly conference call. Calls feature legislators, staffers and other policy experts. On these calls we determine PDA legislation to support as well as actions and future events.
For support in organizing within your state, contact:
State LeadershipRobbie Byrd
Email us at: email@example.com
Planned ChaptersAustinBrownsvilleDallasHoustonSan Antonio
Want to bring progressive change to Texas? Start a PDA chapter; send us an email and we'll get you started.
Legislators Who Have Cut Ties With ALEC