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Texas Legislature Could Set National Agenda for Killing Taxpayer Abortion Funding

(Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

The Texas Legislature enters a special session Tuesday to tackle legislation that would keep transgendered people from using the public restroom of their choice and a proposal to block taxpayer money from Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.

Not enough tension for you?

The AP reported there could always be a repeat of racial tensions that led to a Republican accusing a Democrat of assault and threatening to pack a gun the next time for self-defense.

Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has jammed 20 of his legislative priorities onto the special session’s agenda.

But possible legislative gunfire aside, the debate with the most national significance will be over his idea to stop state and federal funds from being used to pay, directly or indirectly, for abortions.

Adding to the tension: a new study that says making it tougher to get an abortion in the Lone Star State is just what Texas’ teenagers don’t need.

The Abbott administration has already asked the White House for permission to stop $35 million a year in Medicaid money from going to abortion providers like Planned Parenthood.

Jennifer Popik, federal legislative director for National Right to Life, told The Hill the request, if granted, could have national implications.

“For an administration with a pro-life focus, this is something they could do to divert funding from Planned Parenthood,” Popik said.

John Seago, the legislative director for Texas Right to Life, told the Washington Times he agreed.

“For the majority of states that want to provide family planning services without sending taxpayer dollars to the abortion industry, that’s a win-win solution,” Seago said. “Republicans do want a strong network for women’s health services, and the prospect that you can do that while protecting life is something that I think a lot of states would jump on board with.”

While that blockbuster request is pending with the Trump administration, Gov. Abbott wants the Legislature to approve a new plan to stop all taxpayer dollars during the special session.

Abbott’s proposal would block local governments from contracting with abortion providers and their affiliates.

NARAL Pro-Choice Texas said the Abbott initiative not only threatens abortion funding, but it also would put Austin in control of local municipalities.

Of course, the Hyde amendment has been in place for decades. Since 1976 it has stopped federal money from funding abortions.

But Texas Alliance for Life executive director Joe Pojman told KUT-FM that is not enough.

“It is possible under current law for certain cities or counties to make contracts with abortion providers – even for abortions themselves – and for affiliates of abortion providers,” Pojman added. “And we think that’s essentially funding the abortion industry.”

He pointed to Austin, which he said has local contracts with Planned Parenthood.

“That means the taxpayers of Austin or anyone who comes to Austin and purchases any kind of item and pays sales tax is essentially funding Planned Parenthood, which is the largest provider of abortions in Texas,” he said.

But Amanda Williams, executive director of the Lilith Fund, said the Austin contract covers Planned Parenthood services like sex education. It has nothing to do with abortion.

Abbott also wants the Legislature to approve SB 20, a proposal that would force a woman to pay a separate premium if they want an insurance plan to cover abortions. Another piece of legislation on Abbott’s special session wish list would increase the state requirements for what abortion providers have to report when a woman suffers a complication from an abortion.

“We must use this opportunity,” Abbott said when he called for the special session, “to do more to protect our unborn children.”

However, the resurrection of the Texas Legislature’s abortion debate will begin a week after the release of a new study that showed Texas teenagers had more abortions after the Texas Legislature enacted stricter abortion laws.

The Texas Legislature has been closing down abortion clinics and Planned Parenthood offices since 2011 when Rick Perry was governor. But a study from former Texas A&M economics professor Annalisa Packham, now at Miami University, showed that while the clinics were closing the number of teen abortions increased.

Packham’s study, published in the Journal of Health Economics, also showed Texas’ teen birth rate also increased.

The Texas increases in abortions and birth rates came at a time when the nation was seeing fewer teenagers having babies and/or abortions.

That led Dr. Diane Horvath-Casper to tell the Huffington Post that it proved making it tougher to get an abortion was not the way for Texas to have fewer abortions.

“For Texans to see an increase in adolescent abortions is really telling,” Horvath-Casper said.