Study Confirms Harmful Consequences of Anti-Abortion Legislation in Texas

Today the Texas Freedom Network joined with partner organizations in raising the alarm about the harmful effects of anti-abortion legislation passed two years ago in Texas. Here’s the joint press release that just went out:

Independent research confirms that Texas is already seeing the harmful consequences reproductive rights organizations warned would happen following the passage of draconian anti-abortion legislation, leaders of those organizations said today. A new study from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP), released on Monday, reveals that widespread clinic closures are substantially increasing wait times for abortions, pushing women seeking abortion care later into their pregnancies.

Nan Little Kirkpatrick, executive director of the Texas Equal Access Fund, an organization that provides financial assistance for abortion said, “Access to abortion shouldn’t depend on where a person lives or how much money they have, but this is the Texas we live in today. If a person is traveling from Lubbock to Fort Worth and facing waiting periods of 20 days or longer, the level of financial and life stress caused by the combination of finding time off of work, the cost of travel, finding childcare, and the higher cost of a second trimester procedure will put abortion completely out of reach for thousands of Texans.”

Tina Hester, executive director of Jane’s Due Process states, “Such extensive wait times push a minor further into her pregnancy, creating dangerous circumstances in homes where teens are experiencing family violence. Additionally, the cost of the procedure rises significantly when the pregnant teen is forced to wait until the second trimester, placing a tremendous financial burden on a teen who lacks family support.”

Holly Benavides, member of the Board of Directors of the Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity, an abortion fund providing financial assistance to Texas residents in central, south, west and east Texas, stated, “House Bill 2 has had disastrous effects on access to reproductive health care for people in Texas—especially for Lilith Fund clients in South Texas and non-metropolitan areas of our state. An increase in the wait time for an abortion means greater costs, and will effectively put safe and legal abortion care out of reach for some—especially those disproportionately impacted by income disparity, racism, immigration status, geography, and other barriers.

Natalie St. Clair, operations manager of Fund Texas Choice, an organization providing transportation assistance, shared the struggles of one of their clients, “This morning I had a conversation with a woman who wanted to make an appointment at an Austin clinic last week, but all had waiting times of more than two weeks.  This wait would put her past 22 weeks of pregnancy, when no Texas clinic would be able to see her. Instead she is planning a trip to Albuquerque next week.  We’ll have to plan out every detail so she can take off work, find childcare, book a hotel and a plane for what will be a 6-day trip out of state, all to access an abortion she wanted to get last week at a clinic 45 minutes from her home.”

The research from TxPEP reveals the impact House Bill 2, a Texas law that has already forced more than half the state’s abortion clinics to close since it was passed in 2013, has had on wait times for an abortion. TxPEP found that wait times for an abortion went up to 23 days at clinics in Austin and Fort Worth.

Organizations working in the field are already seeing the impact of the clinic closures. These groups include the Texas Equal Access Fund, The Lilith Fund, Whole Woman’s Health, ACLU of Texas, Progress Texas, Texas Freedom Network, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, Jane’s Due Process,Fund Texas Choice, Frontera Fund, West Fund, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas and Shift.

Posted in abortion, Reproductive health, TFNEF | 3 Comments

State Board of Education Embarrasses Texas Again

Some of you might have seen over the weekend a Facebook post — now gone viral — from a Houston mom who was shocked to see the Atlantic slave trade portrayed as a “migration” of “workers” from Africa in a new high school geography textbook. That textbook is one of scores of social studies textbooks adopted by the Texas State Board of Education last fall. The textbooks went into classrooms at the beginning of the current school year.

Over the weekend publisher McGraw-Hill acknowledged that the textbook passage about the African slave trade passage was misleading and said it would immediately move to correct it. Various news outlets have been reporting about this newest controversy involving Texas textbooks — another black eye for Texas.

We just sent out the following press release:

Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller responded today to reports about how a new high school geography textbook mischaracterizes the slave trade as simply a migration of workers in American history:

“First of all, we are encouraged that the publisher is correcting this passage downplaying the history of slavery in the United States. But it’s no accident that this happened in Texas. We have a textbook adoption process that’s so politicized and so flawed that it’s become almost a punch line for comedians. The truth is that too many elected officials who oversee that process are less interested in accurate, fact-based textbooks than they are in promoting their own political views in our kids’ classrooms. So when they review these textbooks, they don’t even recognize distortions that mislead students and that drive scholars nuts.”

Miller’s comments come after publisher McGraw-Hill Education said that it will revise a passage in its new geography textbook that discusses migration in American history. The problematic passage refers to African slaves brought to North America between the 1500s and 1800s simply as “workers.” In fact, they were abducted and brought forcibly to the Americas as slaves.

How We Got Here
The new Texas textbooks are based on very controversial curriculum standards adopted by the State Board of Education in 2010. Even the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute, in a 2011 report, criticized those standards as a “politicized distortion of history.” The report noted that the standards downplay difficult topics like slavery and segregation while dismissing the history of separation of church and state and wildly exaggerating – even inventing – Biblical influences on the American founding.

Publishers submitted their new geography and other social studies textbooks based on those standards in 2014. University scholars the Texas Freedom Network worked with last year found that the history textbooks actually do a much better job handling the issue of slavery than the curriculum standards do. But even discussions of that topic get muddied at times.

Even more problematic, however, are textbook passages that suggest Moses and the Old Testament were major influences in the writing of the U.S. Constitution and on democratic political and legal traditions. Members of the State Board of Education had insisted, over the strenuous objections of constitutional scholars and historians, that such contentions be included in the curriculum standards and, subsequently, the new textbooks.

Those new textbooks went into Texas classrooms this fall. Because of the size of the textbook market here, publishers historically have written their textbooks to conform to the Texas curriculum standards and then sold those textbooks – revised as little as possible – in other states around the country.

Link to Fordham’s 2011 report on the curriculum standards:

The Texas Freedom Network is a nonpartisan, grassroots public education watchdog based in Austin.

Posted in social studies adoption (2014), State Board of Education, TFNEF | 8 Comments

The Week in Quotes (Sept. 27 – Oct. 3)

Here are some of the week’s most notable quotes culled from news reports from across Texas, and beyond.

continue reading »

Posted in The Week in Quotes | 2 Comments

Houston TV Station Cuts Through the anti-HERO Spin

The organized opposition to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance has spent months spreading fear and misinformation. In fact, the Houston Chronicle editorial board, in endorsing a “Yes” vote on the ordinance, recently referred to the group as “mendacious, deceitful and irresponsible in the extreme.” Yikes.

Last night, it was Houston TV station KTRK’s turn to cut through the spin and take an objective look at the ordinance and, in the process, reporter Ted Oberg debunked the absurd claims and scare tactics of HERO opponents.

Watch the full report below. And if you’re a Houstonian, support HERO by voting YES on Proposition 1 on November 3.

Posted in Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, TFN | 1 Comment

Polls: Americans Reject Extremist Demands to ‘Defund’ Planned Parenthood

Texas politicians like U.S. Senator (and Republican presidential candidate) Ted Cruz have been leaders of the effort to — as they call it — “defund” Planned Parenthood because that organization provides abortion care services (although not with federal dollars). In other words, they want to end Medicaid and other government payments for reproductive health care services — like “well-woman” checkups, STD treatments, cancer screenings and birth control — that Planned Parenthood clinics provide to millions of women (and men) across the country.

Sen. Cruz and other religious-righters have even insisted that congressional Republicans should shut down the government rather than allow that health care funding to continue.

But a review of national polling shows they are seriously out of touch with the desires of most Americans on this issue. Most Americans strongly oppose cutting off funding for health care services at Planned Parenthood clinics. An even larger majority opposes shutting down the federal government as a means to that end. Here are some of the poll results:

Suffolk University/USA Today. Sept. 24-28, 2015. N=1,000 likely voters nationwide. Margin of error ± 3.
“Do you think all federal funding for Planned Parenthood should be cut off: yes or no?”
Yes: 29%
No: 65%
Unsure: 6%
Refused to answer: 1%

“Should supporters of de-funding Planned Parenthood be willing to force a government shutdown over the issue, if it comes to that?”
Yes: 19%
No: 73%
Unsure: 8%
Refused to answer: 1%

CBS News/New York Times Poll. Sept. 23-27, 2015. N=1,000 adults nationwide. Margin of error ± 4.
“Currently, the federal government provides some funding to Planned Parenthood. Do you think Planned Parenthood should or should not receive funding from the federal government?”
Should: 55%
Should not: 36%
Unsure/No answer: 9%

NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll conducted by Hart Research Associates (D) and Public Opinion Strategies (R). Sept. 20-24, 2015. N=1,000 adults nationwide. Margin of error ± 3.1.
“Would you favor or oppose totally eliminating federal funding to Planned Parenthood for family planning and preventative health services? … And, would you strongly or somewhat favor/oppose this?”
Strongly favor: 22%
Somewhat favor: 13%
Somewhat oppose: 17%
Strongly oppose: 44%
Unsure: 4%

Despite these numbers, religious-right activists and their political friends like Sen. Cruz are still trying to shut down the government and sabotage the economy in order to strip funding from clinics that millions of women depend on for reproductive health care services. Frankly, that kind of agenda is a perfect example of “extremism.”

Posted in abortion, Ted Cruz, TFNEF | 4 Comments

Texas Group: Religious War Coming to America

Tonight at an event featuring the embattled Texas attorney general, a senior counsel for a prominent religious-right group warned that religious war is coming to America. Here’s a tweet from Houston Chronicle reporter Lauren McGaughy, who is covering the event:

Dys predicting literal war btwn adherents to Judeo-Christian values and their enemies. Tells believers to “religify”

McGaughy is referring to Jeremy Dys, a senior counsel for Liberty Institute, a Plano-based group that claims its mission is “to defend and restore religious liberty across America.” A subsequent tweet from McGaughy quotes Dys as saying that “we have suddenly set up for all of us a clash of worldviews.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is under indictment in Texas for securities fraud, spoke after Dys. The event — “The Texas Response: Pastors, Marriage, & Religious Freedom!” — is sponsored by Texas Values, the Austin-based lobby group spinoff of the Liberty Institute. It’s unclear at this point whether Paxton repudiated the prediction of religious warfare coming to America. But Paxton echoed the paranoia of religious-righters worried that they face increasing persecution. Here are two Paxton quotes reported in other McGaughy tweets:

“We don’t have to passively accept the (slow) marginalization of our faith.”

“We’re seeing far too many examples of tyranny in our country lately.”

Paxton has encouraged official resistance to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in June in favor of the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples. But he has had to back away — in his official actions, at least — in the face of possible contempt charges from a federal judge.

Posted in Ken Paxton, Liberty Institute, Texas Values, TFNEF | 3 Comments

The ‘Right’ to Discriminate Puts Everyone at Risk

Religious-righters opposed to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) have been lying to voters with claims that the nondiscrimination measure will allow sexual predators to attack women and children in public restrooms. The campaign for HERO, Houston Unites, debunks that vicious claim here.

But HERO opponents also say that the ordinance violates their supposed right to discriminate, for religious reasons, against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Let’s put aside, for a moment, the truth that discriminating against people because of who they are and whom they love is simply wrong. Beyond that, the reality is that once you decide legalized discrimination against LGBT people is OK, you are leaving open the door to discrimination against anyone.

In fact, if you let HERO opponents talk long enough, that truth comes tumbling out of their mouths. Here’s Houston pastor Becky Riggle speaking against HERO during a City Council public hearing last year. Councilmember Ellen Cohen did a very good job getting to the truth — that Riggle and other HERO opponents want the right to discriminate against anyone. Here’s part of the exchange between them from the video above:

Councilmember Cohen: “If I’m asking for service, and my faith is something that troubles them, they have a right to refuse me service?

Becky Riggle: “Yes.”

Councilmember Cohen: “So you’re saying, yes, they do have a right to refuse me service as someone of the Jewish faith?”

Becky Riggle: “No, I’m not saying… Yes, I am saying that, but that is not the issue that we’re talking about today.”

That might not be what she wanted to be talking about, but that was the truth.

HERO protects all Houstonians by banning discrimination due to race, disability, gender, religion, military status, sexual orientation, gender identity and more – in employment, housing and restaurants and stores. We support it because we think all people should be treated fairly and equally under the law. All people should have the opportunity to earn a living and provide for themselves and their families without the fear of being legally fired for reasons that have nothing to do with their job performance.

Discrimination is wrong. Period.

Support HERO by voting YES on Proposition 1 on November 3.

Posted in Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, TFN | 1 Comment

Bill Nye: Can We Stop Telling Women What to Do With Their Bodies?

As soon as this week, the U.S. Supreme Court could decide whether it will hear a challenge to Texas’ restrictive anti-abortion law. Also this week, far-right politicians will continue to push the notion that Planned Parenthood should be defunded even if it means shutting down the federal government, a move that retiring Speaker John Boehner has suggested ignores political realities and is deeply unpopular with the American public.

So here, attempting to talk some sense into those same politicians by using facts, is our friend Bill Nye the Science Guy.

Posted in abortion, Bill Nye, Reproductive health, sex education | 5 Comments

The Week in Quotes (Sept. 20 – 26)

Here are some of the week’s most notable quotes culled from news reports from across Texas, and beyond.

continue reading »

Posted in The Week in Quotes | Leave a comment

Rafael Cruz Suggests ‘Wicked’ Voters Elected ‘Homosexual Mayor’ in Houston

Rafael Cruz, the far-right evangelical and father of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, clearly has nothing but contempt for Houston voters and their mayor, Annise Parker. Here is Rafael speaking at an event two weeks ago for the political action committee trying to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO):

“If the righteous are not running for office, if the righteous are not even voting, what is left? The wicked electing the wicked. And we get what we deserve. I’ll tell you what. It is appalling that in a city like Houston, right in the middle of the Bible Belt, we had a homosexual mayor. Why? Because too many people have been sitting in their pews or sitting at home with this business about ‘separation of church and state.’ Did you know separation of church and state is not in the Constitution or in the Declaration [of Independence]? It’s a lie.”

The video is from our friends at Right Wing Watch, which has more information about Cruz speaking at the event here.

Houston voters go to the polls on November 3 to decide whether to repeal HERO. The ordinance ensures that a broad range of hardworking Houstonians – regardless of race, age, gender, pregnancy, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability or military status – has the opportunity to earn a living, take care of their families, have housing, and be served by businesses and government, without fear of discrimination.

Supporters of HERO must vote YES on Proposition 1 on November 3. Show your support for Proposition 1 and the campaign for equality in Houston here.


Posted in Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, Rafael Cruz, TFN | 7 Comments