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“A Crisis Turned Catastrophe In Texas”: Women Have Been Relegated To Second Class Citizenship

Last night, a decision by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals left Texas with no more than eight remaining abortion clinics. You would think by now the willingness of state lawmakers to deliberately create a health crisis among their constituents – and the willingness of the courts to allow it – would be no surprise. But I continue to be shocked.

“All Texas women have been relegated today to a second class of citizens whose constitutional rights are lesser than those in states less hostile to reproductive autonomy, and women facing difficult economic circumstances will be particularly hard hit by this devastating blow,” said the Center for Reproductive Rights’ Nancy Northrup.

House Bill 2 could be the grand finale in Texas’ efforts to completely dismantle its reproductive health infrastructure on which women – particularly poor women, women of color, young women, and immigrant women – have relied for decades. Pretty soon there won’t be any clinics left to close. Just three years ago, conservative lawmakers gutted the state’s family planning program, which closed approximately 80 family planning providers across the state, caused 55 more to reduce hours, and left hundreds of thousands of women without access to reproductive healthcare. Even before those programs were eviscerated, they provided care and services to only 20 percent of women in need.

And as if that wasn’t enough, lawmakers introduced HB2, a bill that imposes onerous restrictions on abortion providers and demands that all clinics meet costly – upwards of $1 million – building requirements to qualify them as ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs). Lawmakers claimed these regulations were critical to protecting the lives and health of Texas women, but that’s simply not the case. Currently more than three-quarters of the state’s ASCs have waivers that allow them to circumvent certain requirements: unsurprisingly, abortion providers are prohibited from obtaining those same waivers. HB2 quickly closed the majority of the state’s 41 clinics that offered abortion services – clinics that also provided birth control, pap smears, breast exams, pregnancy tests, and a host of other services. There are few, if any, providers to take their place.

These new restrictions add an unbearable weight to the burdens that too many of Texas’ women already shoulder. Texas has one of the nation’s highest unintended and teen birth rates. The nation’s lowest percentage of pregnant women receiving prenatal care in their first trimester. The highest percentage of uninsured children in the nation. High rates of poverty and unemployment and a woefully inadequate social safety net. And lawmakers who refuse to expand Medicaid, leaving nearly 700,000 women who would qualify for coverage without it.

Just a few weeks ago, Judge Lee Yeakel of the United States District Court in Austin gave health advocates an iota of hope when he ruled HB2 to be an undue burden on women’s constitutionally guaranteed right to an abortion. Yeakel’s decision wasn’t just significant because it delivered a win for humanity in Texas after countless losses, or because the concept of an undue burden was finally being used to protect – not erode – women’s right to chose, but because it was based on facts. Facts! Judge Yeakel relied on incontrovertible data to call BS on a law that purports to protect women, but has only ever been about abolishing abortion access.

He argued that for many women, HB2 might as well be an outright ban on abortion. He asked how the eight (at most) providers left could ever each serve between 7,500 and 10,000 patients. How would they cope with the more than 1,200 women per month who would be vying for limited appointments? “That the State suggests that these seven or eight providers could meet the demand of the entire state stretches credulity,” he said.

Yeakel acknowledged the complex intersections of women’s health and economic (in)security:

The record conclusively establishes that increased travel distances combine with practical concerns unique to every woman. These practical concerns include lack of availability of child care, unavailability of appointments at abortion facilities, unavailability of time off from work, immigration status and inability to pass border checkpoints, poverty level, the time and expense involved in traveling long distances, and other inarticulable psychological obstacles. These factors combine with increased travel distances to establish a de facto barrier to obtaining an abortion for a large number of Texas women of reproductive age who might choose seek a legal abortion.

Yeakel warned that the stated goal of improving women’s health would not come to pass. And it won’t. The increased delays in seeking early abortion care, risks associated with longer travel, the potential increases in self-induced abortions “almost certainly cancel out any potential health benefit associated with the requirement,” he said.

But Yeakel’s arguments were not compelling enough for the 5th Circuit, which finds it perfectly acceptable that more than one million women now need to travel more than 300 miles (and many women even further) to access health care that is constitutionally guaranteed to them.

This decision will have a ripple effect. Other anti-choice lawmakers across the country are following Texas’ lead, imposing similar restrictions on clinics and physicians who provide abortions. The vindication of Texas lawmakers who have used their legislative power to wreak havoc on the lives of women and families will only continue to embolden other states seeking the same goals.

Conservatives like to argue that they are not waging a war on women. Today there are a whole lot of us who find it impossible to argue otherwise.

 

By: Andrea Flynn, Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, The National Memo, October 3, 2014

 

 

October 6, 2014 Posted by | Reproductive Choice, Texas, War On Women | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Having Trouble Hearing Women’s Voices”: Texas GOP Unleashes Political Quackery On Women’s Reproductive Rights

A few years ago, during consideration of a bill being pushed by a Republican elder in the Texas Senate, first-term Sen. Wendy Davis asked him a question about it. Rather than respond to this Democrat, this woman, the old bull replied dismissively, “I have trouble hearing women’s voices.”

No more. Even a stone-deaf old bull would’ve been jerked to attention by the clarity of Davis’ voice on June 25. Starting at 11:18 a.m., she literally stood tall for more than 11 grueling hours, filibustering a mean and demeaning attempt by extremist Republican leaders to put the state government in charge of the most personal right women have: controlling decisions about their own bodies.

Davis’ principled stand — in Texas, no less — rallied over 2,000 mothers, grandmothers, girls and others to come to the capitol from all over the state, packing the gallery in quiet witness. Quiet until 10:04 p.m., that is, when GOP leaders tried to silence her by unilaterally ruling her filibuster over.

Suddenly, the ruling Solons were startled by a high-decibel reprimand from their subjects — the gallery erupted in citizen outrage, causing chaos on the floor. Then, when the “leaders” tried to force a vote, the “followers” took charge, with jeers so loud that senators couldn’t hear themselves. With the session set to expire at midnight, panicky leaders tried to push the clock back, which led to deafening chants of “shame, shame, shame,” ultimately blocking the GOP’s brutish ploy.

Texas Republicans have already re-rigged the rules so they can get their way on another day, but they can’t escape the huge significance of this defeat. As Davis rightfully noted, while she was the one standing on the floor, “it was the ‘people’s filibuster’ that stopped (the bill)” and awakened a new movement in Texas that won’t be stopped.

Texas has long experience with animalistic approach to public policy. In 2007, a local school superintendent rejected any need for sex education classes in his district. Noting that many students there live on farms, he said, “They get a pretty good sex education from their animals.”

Guess which state is No. 1 in teen pregnancies? Yes, Texas.

And who should be the ones to make medical decisions about pregnancies? Not women and their doctors. They might choose “wrong” over the doctrine of certain religious groups. Rather, the macho Republican autocrats and theocrats who now reign over state government say they are the ones to decide such deeply personal matters. How embarrassing for these political bullies, then, to have had their repressive, extremist and dangerous anti-choice legislation derailed by … well, by women.

“An unruly mob,” cried the lieutenant governor as he fled the capitol. One GOP lawmaker tremulously tweeted that Davis, the opposition leader, was a “terrorist.” And Gov. Rick “Oops” Perry ran away to Dallas, where he whimpered that the people’s assertion of citizens’ authority was a “hijacking of the democratic process.” Odd concept: The people “hijacking” democracy.

All this from “leaders” who blatantly hijacked the rules to shut down Davis’ gutsy filibuster. In 2011, these same wimps even tried to hijack Davis’ Senate district by illegally shoving more than half of her minority precincts into neighboring districts — a racist ploy that federal judges overturned. And now Perry is trying to hijack reality, huffing and puffing that he’ll slap down the women’s opposition to his assault on their rights, because that’s “what the people of this state hired us to do.”

Get a grip, Rick. In a June poll, 63 percent of registered Texas voters said we already have plenty of anti-abortion laws on the books, and nearly three-fourths of the people (including 6 out of 10 Republicans) say such personal medical decisions should be made by women and their doctors, not by political quacks masquerading as Talibanic moral arbitrators. And 81 percent say the legislature should focus on basic economic issues wracking the majority of Texans.

Davis pointed out that far from helping the economic plight of women in the Lone Star State, he vetoed the equal-pay-for-equal-work bill recently passed by the legislature. How rude of her!

 

By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, July 3, 2013

July 5, 2013 Posted by | Reproductive Rights, War On Women | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hostility To Reason And Fact: At The Intersection Of Science And Politics

I’m one of many observers who’s made a fuss about Rick Perry’s hostility towards science, so let’s take a moment to consider Kevin Williamson’s argument that the issue is largely irrelevant. The National Review piece touches on a variety of points, but here’s the crux of the position:

Why would anybody ask a politician about his views on a scientific question? Nobody ever asks what Sarah Palin thinks about dark matter, or what John Boehner thinks about quantum entanglement. (For that matter, I’ve never heard Keith Ellison pressed for his views on evolution.)

There are lots of good reasons not to wonder what Rick Perry thinks about scientific questions, foremost amongst them that there are probably fewer than 10,000 people in the United States whose views on disputed questions regarding evolution are worth consulting, and they are not politicians; they are scientists. In reality, of course, the progressive types who want to know politicians’ views on evolution are not asking a scientific question; they are asking a religious and political question, demanding a profession of faith in a particular materialist-secularist worldview.

At a certain level, I can appreciate why this may seem compelling. The president, no matter who he or she is, has an enormous amount of responsibilities, but writing public school science curricula isn’t on the list.

But I think this misses the point. Put it this way: what are a president’s principal tasks in office? Aside from setting agendas, giving speeches, attending countless meetings, ceremonial responsibilities, fundraising, etc., a president is tasked with making a lot of decisions. Invariably, they’re tough calls — they have to be, since easier decisions are made elsewhere in the executive branch bureaucracy.

In order to make these tough calls, a president will be presented with a fair amount of information. If we’ve elected a capable person, he or she will evaluate that information well, exercise good judgment, and make a wise choice.

What does this have to do with science? Everything. Rick Perry is aware of the scientific consensus on modern biology, but he rejects it. He realizes what climate scientists have concluded about global warming, but he rejects them, too. What this tell us is that Perry, whatever his strengths may be, isn’t especially good at evaluating evidence. On the contrary, by choosing to believe nonsense after being confronted with reality, he’s apparently lousy at it.

And since most of what a president does all day is evaluate evidence and (hopefully) reach sensible conclusions, Perry’s hostility towards reason and facts offers a hint about what kind of leader he’d be if elected.

Consider another example. Perry was fielding questions from a Texas journalist who asked why Texas has abstinence-only education, despite the fact that the state has the third-highest teen-pregnancy rate in the country. Perry replied, “Abstinence works.” The journalist, perhaps wondering if Perry misunderstood the question, tried again, saying abstinence-only “doesn’t seem to be working.” The governor replied, “It — it works.”

This isn’t akin to flubbing a pop quiz on the basics of modern science. I don’t much care if a political figure has never seen a periodic table or struggles to understand how tides work. The point here is that Rick Perry seems unable to think empirically and weigh the value of evidence before reaching a conclusion.

Are these qualities relevant to a presidential candidate? I believe they are.

By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly, Political Animal, August 23, 2011

August 24, 2011 Posted by | Climate Change, Conservatives, Democracy, Education, Elections, Environment, Global Warming, GOP, Government, Governors, Ideologues, Ideology, Journalists, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, States, Teaparty, Voters | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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