Featured Article

Texas SB 22: Progress from Poverty

Jonathan M. Saenz, Esq.

President, Texas Values

Bioethics in Law & Culture

Summer  2019   vol. 2  issue  3

As Saint Mother Teresa said, “It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." Sadly, not only are children being barbarically killed inside abortion facilities, but some of these entities have also covered up sex abuse and the sale of baby body parts across the nation. What could be worse? The fact that taxpayers are funding these facilities, and pro-abortion governmental officials are helping keep these pro-abortion entities in business. How? These entities are often able to continue operating because local governments are entering into contractual arrangements at an enormous discount while taxpayers foot the bill. But this trend can change with a new law in Texas that ensures government support and taxpayer funding are not linked to these unscrupulous entities.

Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, is well-known for supporting laws at the state and federal level that provide the entity with an enormous amount of taxpayer dollars. Planned Parenthood is also well known for aggressively opposing and lobbying against pro-life polices and other laws that deny the use of taxpayer dollars for abortion entities and their affiliates. Planned Parenthood often claims that their business will be in danger of shutting down if they do not receive a high level of taxpayer dollars, year after year.

But Planned Parenthood is not lacking resources. Planned Parenthood’s Annual Report for 2017-2018 shows the organization’s revenue is over $1.6 billion.[i] What is worse? Planned Parenthood has received an astronomical amount of taxpayer revenue. Between the years of 2013-2015, Planned Parenthood received over $1.5 billion in taxpayer dollars. [ii] Thankfully, action is being taken at the federal level. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a rule that no longer allows Title X grant funding to “programs where abortion is a method of family planning” and recipients of Title X grants are prohibited from referring clients for abortions.[iii] Currently, due to Planned Parenthood’s outrage, that rule is being litigated. What is important for Americans to understand is that there are often other revenue streams being uncovered that help Planned Parenthood find ways to fill their accounts. These streams come through connections to not only the federal government, but the state and local governments as well.

For years, Texas has kept a long-standing policy prohibiting tax dollars to fund abortion providers and their affiliates. In 2016 after videos surfaced of Planned Parenthood staff discussing the sale of baby body parts, the Texas Office of Inspector General terminated Medicaid funds. According to the letter sent to Planned Parenthood, the reason “stems from an extensive undercover video obtained by the Center for Medical Progress at the Planned Parenthood Gulf Freeway facility in April 2015, which contains evidence that Planned Parenthood violated state and federal law.” [iv] This Planned Parenthood facility in question in Houston is considered to be one of the largest in the nation. The state also cut funding from Planned Parenthood and filed lawsuits against the organization for Medicaid fraud.

As the public has become aware and outraged by information about the awful practices of abortion providers like Planned Parenthood, state legislators in Texas have responded. The recently enacted law during the 2019 Texas Legislative Session, Senate Bill 22 (SB 22), the Taxpayer Protection from Abortion Providers Act, seeks to further this movement and respond to the concerns of local citizens and Texans statewide.

SB 22 protects local taxpayer dollars from funding the abortion providers and abortion affiliates. The law ensures taxpayer dollars are not used to fund, lease, or donate to abortion groups, like Planned Parenthood. The bill also ensures taxpayer dollars are not used to fund lobbying for abortion groups or their affiliates. 

SB 22 was authored by Texas Senator Donna Campbell and sponsored by freshman Texas House of Representative member Candy Noble.[v] The bill received bipartisan support from the Texas Senate, as Democratic Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. signed on as co-author and voted for SB 22.  In the Texas House, all Republicans, with the exception of Houston area Republican Rep. Sarah Davis, voted in favor of SB 22. This was not surprising as Rep. Sarah Davis has a long history of rejecting the will of Republican voters by voting against pro-life legislation.[vi] The legislative bill analysis for SB 22 states:

While the legislature largely removed state funding from Planned Parenthood and abortion providers in 2011, that decision did not impact transactions made by political subdivisions at the local level. This bill seeks to correct that by prohibiting taxpayer   dollars at both the state and local level from being used to fund abortion facilities and  affiliates. S.B. 22 prevents the state and political subdivisions from using taxpayer dollars to fund abortion providers and their affiliates, with exemptions for certain hospitals, physician offices, and residency programs. This bill allows the Texas attorney general to issue an injunction on transactions between non-compliant governmental    entities and abortion providers and affiliates and recover reasonable attorney’s fees and  costs incurred.[vii]

 The State of Texas Legislature meets every other year and the state legislative process has many steps. It is not uncommon for months, if not years, to be spent on the drafting of the language of the bill before it is ready to be filed.  Although legislative bill language often gets modified, deleted, or added during the process, the language the bill starts with is very important. Another important step in the state legislative process is the when the bill receives a public hearing in a committee in the Texas House and/or Senate. Legislation on life issues often have unique and personal testimony that is very valuable to the process.  There was outstanding testimony regarding SB 22 and the House companion of SB 22, HB 1929.

People of all ages testified in favor of SB 22/HB 1929, including millennials and young adults. Texas Values team members Nicole Hudgens and Mary Elizabeth Castle both presented testimony in support of the bill. [viii] Castle recently stated,

When testifying against SB 22, my focus was to bring the light to the myths Planned Parenthood spreads in order to get funding from the City of Austin. One myth is that Planned Parenthood is a needy nonprofit that needs the economic help from the local government. I told the committee members that this was false because the Eastside building wanted to spend $1.2 million on renovation. Another myth is that Planned Parenthood provides a lot of health care services that low income individuals cannot receive elsewhere. This is false also. Not only are there numerous healthcare facilities that provide sexual health and pregnancy testing for little or no cost, Planned Parenthood has lied about providing mammograms for women. At the end of the day, I  made it clear to the committee members that Planned Parenthood is an abortion provider, case in fact.

Sarah Zarr, the Texas Regional Coordinator for Students for Life of America, gave clear evidence of Planned Parenthood's motives and short comings. Zarr mentioned how most Planned Parenthood locations are within a few miles of college campuses. Many Planned Parenthood facilities fail health inspections and the sexual health services Planned Parenthood provides are declining while the abortions they perform are on the rise. It was also encouraging to see college students support the bill. Sadly, college students feel targeted by Planned Parenthood.

Testimony opposing SB 22 was surprisingly uninformed. The Director for the City of Austin Health Department admitted that there are federally qualified healthcare providers in East Austin who provide STD testing, cervical cancer screenings, and more- without providing abortions. Her testimony further showed lack of preparation in that committee members pointed out the testifier had not researched enough to know whether the Planned Parenthood in East Austin gave referrals for abortions. Texans showed strong support of SB 22 as evidenced by the number of testifiers as well as those who registered their names and organizations in favor of the bill.[ix]

Governor Greg Abbott signed SB 22 into law on June 7, 2019. But the road to Gov. Abbott writing his signature on SB 22 began long before the 2019 Texas Legislative session. While the concern and public opposition to taxpayer funding and government contracts with abortion providers by local government started many years ago, there was a surge of attention on this issue that took place in 2018 when the City of Austin sought to renew a long standing contract they had with Planned Parenthood. The contract renewal included the City of Austin renting their government building space, an approximately 3720 square foot of office building, to Planned Parenthood.[x]

It may not be a surprise that Planned Parenthood would be looking for a way out of having to rely solely on private fundraising for all of their expenses. They have been using the government and you, the taxpayer, to help them out for quite a while. But the new statewide and enforceable policy in SB 22 results in less government revenue streams for abortion providers, likely irritating the pro-abortion Austin City Council that is often trying to creatively find ways to ignore or express disagreement with state policy. 

One way abortion providers have received benefits from local governments that directly impact their financial standing is getting cheap rent from city-owned property. And when one thinks of which government entity in Texas is most likely to give Planned Parenthood such a benefit, Austin is likely the first city that comes to mind.

In late 2018, when the Austin City Council sought to renew the contract with Planned Parenthood, it appeared to be business as usual. While this type of “sweetheart deal” between Planned Parenthood and the City of Austin was not new, the contract renewal included giving Planned Parenthood rent for one dollar ($1) a year for twenty (20) years. [xi]  Yes, you read that correctly. The contract also included an option for the contract to be renewed for an additional twenty (20) years. Therefore, the grand total came to a sum of forty dollars ($40) for Planned Parenthood to rent a 3720 square foot building space for 40 years. Local governments are usually looking for any opportunity to get money from property, not give property away. But the City of Austin found a way to make Planned Parenthood a deal they could not refuse.

However, the contract renewal received more public pushback from City of Austin residents and Texas Values Senior Policy Analyst Nicole Hudgens.[xii] Her testimony highlighted the problem that the city showed unfair favoritism to Planned Parenthood by giving the organization outrageously cheap rent while citizens continue to be punished with continued increase of property taxes. Hudgens gave the example that it would take Planned Parenthood hundreds of years to pay the equivalent of what she and her roommate are paying in the monthly increase of property taxes alone. Hudgens also testified before the Texas Legislature on this issue during the hearings of SB 22 and HB 1929. Her testimony at the Austin City Council meeting received over 44,000 views on social media and attention from national and statewide media.

It was also very disturbing that the building rented by Planned Parenthood was located in East Austin, an area where the property values and cost of living is clearly increasing, while it appears the number of families in the area going down. In fact, one school, Metz Elementary, has been reported to be on the verge of closing due to declining student enrollment numbers.[xiii] What is more, the same month the City of Austin decided to give Planned Parenthood cheap rent is the same month the Austin American Statesman ran the headline, “Austin school district enrollment tumbles by 1,600 students, as adjacent districts grow.” [xi]

 

While citizens in East Austin are struggling to afford to live and send their kids to school, Planned Parenthood is getting essentially “free rent.” The rent deal clearly showed that the City of Austin cares more about the existence of one of its strongest political allies than it does for the local community that the council members are supposed to be serving. But Planned Parenthood’s reach into local governments does not end in city councils. Planned Parenthood’s agenda and revenue stream can be found in public school districts as well.

Many Texans are surprised to find that Planned Parenthood is present in schools. Former Planned Parenthood Director, Abby Johnson has stated that Planned Parenthood targets children in order to create future clients and revenue for their organization through sex education in schools. In an interview with Alliance Defending Freedom, Johnson states,

Planned Parenthood’s goal is to get into our elementary schools … the goal is to get in  with these children at a very young age to develop a positive report and a   positive  relationship with them so that as they get older, maybe in the junior high years, they  will literally tell these kids, “…when you start to have sexual feelings or when you  start thinking ‘this is something that I want to explore’ do not go to your parents, because     your parents will not understand, but you know us at Planned Parenthood. We’ve been   with you since kindergarten...The goal is to get them on contraception at a very young  age and to get them on contraception at a very high human failure rate...and that’s just  another way for them to sell abortion.” [xv]

 Senator Campbell’s staff was confident that SB 22 would not just affect property contracts for sweetheart rent deals. The bill was written with Austin Independent School District (AISD) in mind and school districts are considered a political subdivision, making them subject to the new law and prohibits them from coming into purchasing agreements with abortion providers and their affiliates. This is relevant because for the past couple of years, AISD has attempted to purchase sex education materials from Planned Parenthood. But now, AISD is currently being met with an obstacle in their liberal sex education curriculum since SB 22 has passed. 

           

After SB 22 was signed into law, AISD was still involved in an ongoing review and approval process of their Planned Parenthood connected sex education curriculum. Texas Values team member Mary Elizabeth Castle admonished the AISD school board at their June 17, 2019 meeting of the possible legal violations the school board could be guilty of if they continue with their plan to purchase sex education curriculum from Planned Parenthood. Texas Values also told the school board that the subjects Planned Parenthood wants to teach school children should not be taught in any form in the public schools. 

           

The sex education materials by Planned Parenthood included many topics that were inappropriate and dangerously indoctrinating.[xvi] Children would be taught that gender is fluid and that their gender is based upon what they feel and not their biological sex. In talking about different sexualities, children are encouraged to engage in sexual role-play in front of their peers as the teacher observes and assigns a grade based on their performance. Moreover, children are taught to explore masturbation, anal and oral sex, and romantic relationships with adults. 

           

The timing of SB 22 and the AISD sex education issue is striking as it is possible that AISD will vote on their new Planned Parenthood connected sex education curriculum before September 1, 2019, when SB 22 becomes an enforceable state law. It is very common for new state laws to go into effect on September 1st of the legislative year that a new law is passed and signed by the Governor.

           

The breadth of SB 22’s effectiveness as a law is far-reaching. Not only are taxpayers protected from funding the killing of the unborn, and the covering up of child sex abuse, but they are also protected from unknowingly supporting a dangerous sex education curriculum that will impact future generations of Texans. Until abortion becomes unthinkable, SB 22 is clearly moving the State of Texas in the right direction to end a most egregious poverty.

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[i] https://www.plannedparenthood.org/uploads/filer_public/80/d7/80d7d7c7-977c-4036-9c61-b3801741b441/190118-annualreport18-p01.pdf

[ii] https://www.heritage.org/marriage-and-family/commentary/new-report-shows-planned-parenthood-raked-15-billion-taxpayer-funds

[iii] https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/03/04/2019-03461/compliance-with-statutory-program-integrity-requirements

[iv] http://www.quorumreport.com/downloadit.cfm?DocID=10759

[v] https://capitol.texas.gov/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=86R&Bill=SB22

[vi] https://txvaluesaction.org/scorecard/

[vii] https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/86R/analysis/pdf/SB00022F.pdf#navpanes=0

[viii] https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/86R/witlistbill/pdf/SB00022S.pdf#navpanes=0

[ix] https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/86R/witlistbill/pdf/SB00022S.pdf#navpanes=0

[x] http://www.austintexas.gov/edims/document.cfm?id=309131

[xi] http://www.austintexas.gov/edims/document.cfm?id=309131

[xii] https://www.facebook.com/texasvalues/videos/1488822427927847/

[xiii] https://www.kvue.com/article/news/education/schools/group-protests-outside-of-east-austin-school-ahead-of-potential-closures-monday/269-604413258

[xiv] https://www.statesman.com/news/20181116/austin-school-district-enrollment-tumbles-by-1600-students-as-adjacent-districts-grow

[xv] https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=143&v=tfSby2CJSnE

[xvi] https://txvalues.org/2019/06/27/exposed-why-austin-isd-must-scrap-radical-sex-ed-targeted-at-young-children/

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Jonathan Saenz is a graduate of the University of Houston Law Center, a licensed attorney in Texas. Mr Saenz is also the founder and President of Texas Values, a faith-based nonprofit law and public policy organization. Nicole Hudgens and Mary Elizabeth Castle of Texas Values also contributed to the writing of this article.