Texas One Step Closer to Eliminating Taxpayer-Funded Abortions

The Texas Capitol Building in Austin, Texas
The Texas Capitol Building in Austin, Texas /Getty Images

A Texas Senate-approved bill that would end taxpayer funding of abortion providers is on its way to the Republican-controlled House, where it is expected to pass and be signed by Gov. Greg Abbott.

The measure is one of three abortion-related bills Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has said are "priorities."

Republican state Sen. Donna Campbell sponsored the Senate Bill 22, saying, taxpayer dollars "should not be used for abortion facilities or their affiliates."

The legislation would ban "… a sale, purchase, lease, donation of money, goods, services, or real property, or any other transaction between a governmental entity and a private entity that provides to the private entity something of value derived directly or indirectly from state or local tax revenue, regardless of whether the governmental entity receives something of value in return."

Campbell said the measure would hopefully end "sweetheart rent deals" that some communities have with abortion providers. In Austin, for example, Planned Parenthood has a rental agreement with the city for $1 per year.

"Now I don’t know anyone who can get that kind of a real estate in Austin," Campbell said.

Nicole Hudgens, senior policy analyst at the public policy organization Texas Values, says the $1 rental leases with Planned Parenthood are unfair to other residents in the Austin area who are subjected to skyrocketing rental prices.

Abortion advocates oppose Campbell’s bill, arguing less government funding will impact the ability of providers offering other health services. Yvonne Gutierrez, executive director for Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, said the bill would "tie the hands of cities and counties."

Patrick’s other priority legislation includes companion bills in the House and Senate designed to protect babies born after a failed abortion. The Senate version would impose a fine of $100,000 on abortion clinics that fail to provide appropriate medical treatment, and carries a third-degree felony charge.

The Alternatives to Abortion Information Act, proposed by Democrat Sen. Eddie Lucio, clarifies an existing statute that requires abortion clinics to provide information to patients, including a list of agencies that offer alternatives to abortion.

All three bills passed their respective committees.

Texas has been at the center of abortion litigation since a Texas woman’s case was ruled upon by the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade in 1973.

In 2011, the Legislature cut the state’s family planning budget by two-thirds, attempting to limit funding to abortion providers. In 2016, Texas halted $3.1 million in Medicaid funding to abortion providers. The state was sued, but the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the state’s decision.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the decision to remove Planned Parenthood from Texas’ Medicaid program resulted from viewing "the video footage of actions that ‘violate generally accepted medical standards,’ and for making false statements to law enforcement." The video footage was recorded by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), an organization vindicated by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The court ruled that CMP’s undercover videos were not "deceptively edited" and were forensically verified.

Ohio recently won a similar legal battle after a ruling by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The court upheld Ohio’s 2016 state law halting taxpayer money from being directed to fund abortion providers.

"Private organizations do not have a constitutional right to obtain governmental funding to support their activities," Sixth Circuit Judge Jeffrey Sutton said.

Ohio was the tenth state to pass a law eliminating taxpayer funding of abortions. Shortly after Ohio, Wisconsin also enacted two measures to halt state funds from being used for abortions.

In 2017, President Donald Trump signed a bill allowing states to defund abortion providers. His administration also recently implemented a rule change to Title X, which prevents federal taxpayer money from being used for abortion. The rule requires that any health provider applying for Title X funding must evidence a "clear financial and physical separation between Title X funded projects and programs or facilities where abortion is a method of family planning."