LGBTQ Reproductive Rights

Two Controversial Bills to Watch in Texas’s Special Legislative Session

There is less than nine days left in Texas’s special legislative session and two of the most controversial bills being considered have yet to make it to the Governor’s desk for signature.

The first bill would ban all private health insurance plans and plans sold through the Affordable Care Act marketplace from covering abortion care unless the life of the woman is directly at risk. Instead, women would be required to buy supplemental insurance should they ever think they may need or want an abortion, prompting some Democratic lawmakers to accuse Republicans of forcing women to buy “rape insurance.”

The bill passed the House on Tuesday and now heads to the Senate. Should it pass, Texas would become the eleventh state to ban abortion coverage for plans in the marketplace and the second state to forbid employers from offering abortion coverage in their private plans. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a similar bill in January, but it has yet to be voted on in the U.S. Senate.

Texas has long been considered a hostile state for reproductive rights. Since 2011, the state has refused federal Medicaid family planning funds due to the fact that they would then be required to fund family planning clinics that are affiliated with abortion providers, resulting in a 66 percent cut to their family planning budget. Since then, 82 family planning clinics across Texas have been forced to close and the maternal mortality rate has doubled, with over a quarter of women enrolled in Medicaid now unable to see a covered doctor of any kind.

Another controversial bill being considered in Texas’s special legislative session is a transgender bathroom ban similar to the one that was previously seen in North Carolina. The bill would require people in school and government buildings to use the restroom that corresponds with the gender on their birth certificates, and forbid localities from enforcing anti-discrimination laws that would extend protections to transgender people using the bathroom of their choice.

While a version of the bathroom ban has passed the Texas State Senate, many believe it is unlikely to be put up for a vote in the House, as the speaker, Joe Straus, is considered to be a moderate. Law enforcement, big business interest, religious groups and LGBTQ rights advocates have all actively lobbied against this bill.

Advocates against the Texas bill have pointed to the overwhelmingly negative legal and economic blowback that North Carolina received after passing their discriminatory bathroom bill. The state became embroiled in legal battles with the federal government and human rights organizations, major companies such as PayPal halted expansion efforts in North Carolina, and sport conferences such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) chose to remove the state from consideration as a host for major events. In September, then-Governor Pat McCrory withdrew the state’s lawsuit asking a federal court to uphold the law, citing “substantial costs” of money and time.

Should Texas successfully pass the discriminatory bill, they are likely to receive some support from the Trump administration, which in February rescinded Obama era protections that allowed transgender students access to whichever restroom corresponded with their gender identity as a condition of the education equity guaranteed under Title IX.

Media Resources: Jezebel 8/9/17; New York Times 8/8/17; Feminist Majority Foundation 3/31/17, 2/23/17, 8/3/17.

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