Ellis: Texas women and families deserve better
"Over my strenuous objections, the Texas Senate just passed House Bill 2, an unprecedented, unreasonable, and unconscionable attack on women's health that will eliminate reproductive health care services in all but four of Texas' 254 counties.
"Tonight was an extremely disappointing moment in the struggle for women's rights and the movement to ensure all Texas families have access to affordable and quality health care.
"On the heels of a major assault on our voting rights by a right wing Supreme Court, tonight is another reminder of the need for all of us who truly care about advancing the cause of democracy that the fight continues. We must push forward and stand together to protect the rights of Texas families from attempts to reverse our nation's proud history of evolving towards greater equality and justice for all.
"Instead of talking about how we can improve education, expand access to quality health care, or protect voting rights, the debate again centered on eroding access to care for Texas women. According to recent polling, 80 percent of Texans wanted lawmakers to focus on those issues--like education, jobs, and the economy--in special session, not bring up divisive issues like reproductive rights.
"House Bill 2 is not based on indisputable medical evidence or even best medical practices. Supporters of this legislation claim it will protect women's health, but if this were true then why did the Texas Medical Association, Texas Hospital Association, and Texas Chapter of American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists object to its passage?
"The sad truth is that Texas is failing our mothers, failing our children, and failing to focus on solutions that help all Texans. Texas women and families deserve better.
"After all, there is a health care crisis facing Texas families. Approximately 30 percent of Texas women and 16 percent Texas children lack health insurance. Twenty-five percent of Texas children live in poverty. In Houston, 28 percent of children live in poverty. We know that by improving access to health insurance for these women and children, improving quality prenatal and postnatal medical care, expanding childhood nutrition programs, and providing early childhood education, we can truly improve the health and safety of women and children - both born and unborn.
"If we are sincere about expanding the quality of care for women and children, we should implement policies that truly improve the lives of Texans, and not those that endanger women's health.
"Last week, my Senate Democratic colleagues and I filed an alternative package of bills that would provide better prenatal and early-childhood health care to mothers and babies who need but often can't afford it. The bills would protect women in Texas and ensure that they have access to the health care they need to make the best decisions about their lives and their bodies:
- SB 24 gives teen moms 15 years old or younger the legal ability to consent to receiving contraception. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, Texas leads the nation in repeat teen pregnancies.
- SB 25 requires that sex education programs be based on actual research-based, scientifically-verified evidence.
- SB 26 requires that sex education be both evidence-based and comprehensive so that young adults know all they need to know about preventing pregnancy and avoiding sexually transmitted diseases.
- SB 27 requires that parents be notified of the sex education curriculum that their children are being taught so that parents can be part of the process.
- SB 28 ensures that women can pursue equal pay for equal work under state law. It's identical to the Texas Lilly Ledbetter Act, which was passed by the legislature in the regular session but vetoed by the Governor last month.
- SB 29 ensures more Texas women and families have the health coverage they need by expanding Medicaid as called for under the Affordable Care Act.
- SB 30 extends Children's Health Insurance Program perinatal coverage from 60 days to 6 months after an infant is born.
"Rather than focus on divisive policies like HB 2, the Senate would have been wise to pass common-sense measures like those above, which will actually help women and children across the state. For hours we offered amendments that would actually reduce the need for abortions, provide quality healthcare to more women and children, and give women better opportunities to provide for their families; however each one was shot down and rejected.
"Though we took a step backwards in the Senate today, we will continue to stand up for the rights of Texas women and push forward in the fight to improve access to quality and affordable health care for all Texas families. Thank you for your support and dedication these past few weeks."