Senate votes to ban government contracts with abortion providers
AUSTIN — A proposal to ban any government funding for abortion providers and their affiliates won narrow approval in the Texas Senate on Monday, advancing one of several anti-abortion proposals Republican lawmakers hope to turn into law this year.
The Senate approved the bill 20-11 Monday, prohibiting any state or local governmental entity from doing business — including donations, land sales, leases and other transactions — with an abortion provider or one of its affiliates. The proposal is one of 30 priority bills for Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
“Texans who oppose abortion should not be forced to subsidize the industry with their tax dollars,” said Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, who sponsored the bill.
Proponents argue the measure would cut off the flow of taxpayer money to the abortion industry and promote the pro-life values of a majority of Texans. Women’s health care providers contend the bill is the latest in a string of attempts to limit access to abortion — and that the consequences include less access to women’s health services, including preventative care and STD screenings.
For Subscribers: Senate bill would block state, local funding for abortion providers
Representatives for cities including Houston and San Antonio said they have no direct contracts with Planned Parenthood, a leading abortion and reproductive healthcare provider. However, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast is one of the leading safety net providers in Harris County, according Bill Kelly, the government relations director for the city of Houston.
“If we were to have — which is not out of the realm of possibilities — a Zika outbreak or something that could typically affect women of reproductive age, the prohibition against coordinating with a safety net provider in a public health emergency just seems completely against what people would expect their government to do,” Kelly said.
Abortion providers have long been a target of Texas Republicans. In recent years, the Republican majority in the state Legislature has passed bills requiring abortion providers arrange for the burial or internment of aborted fetal tissue and have banned a common second-trimester abortion procedure — two laws now on hold as they are being challenged in the courts. The Legislature also imposed stringent regulations on abortion clinics in 2013, which were overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in a landmark decision three years later.
Lawmakers are considering dozens of other anti-abortion bills this year, including a proposal to ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected — which occurs as early as six weeks in a pregnancy — and another that opens abortion providers up to civil lawsuits if they fail to care for a baby that survives a botched abortion.
Senate approval of SB22 comes as the state awaits a rehearing by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on whether it can halt Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood. A three-judge panel decided in favor of cutting off funding in January.
The bill next moves to the Republican-led Texas House which last Legislative session amended the budget to ban the the state from directly doing business with abortion providers. That chamber has 83 Republicans and 67 Democrats.