Sebastian's Point

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Texas Cares for the Life and Livelihood of Women and Babies with $100 million dollars to

Alternatives to Abortion Program

Mary Elizabeth Castle, J.D.  |  03 February 2022

The Texas Heartbeat Law has proven continued success as it has survived three challenges at the U.S Supreme Court and is still in effect today. This means nearly 22,000 babies’ lives have been saved. Abortion advocates argue differently. To them, the continuation of the Heartbeat Law means the end to women’s healthcare, prosperity, and well-being. However, their arguments are remiss, as Texas passed important measures to financially help pregnant women as they have continually done for over a decade. In the same legislative session that Texas lawmakers passed the Texas Heartbeat Law, $100 million dollars was attributed to a program run by the Texas Department of Health and Human Services (DSHS) called the Alternatives to Abortion(A2A) program. The program has been around since 2006, but the funding the program received last year is even more important now that more women will have the opportunity to choose life for their child.

 

The Alternatives to Abortion Program in Texas has been available since 2006. The program provides a network of services to help encourage a woman to give birth to her child and make sure that she has access to a range of services that will not only help her during pregnancy, but also with raising her child. Some of the services include: counseling, mentoring, classes on life skills and employment readiness, adoption, car seats, clothing, diapers, referrals to government assistance programs and social service programs, and housing support through access to maternity homes. Texas has hundreds of pregnancy resource centers in the state. However, the main contractor with DSHS is the Texas Pregnancy Care Network (TPCN). According to their website, TPCN has served 422,198 clients and adoptive parents through August 2021 in 243 of the 254 counties in the state of Texas.[1]

 

The A2A program has proven to be tremendously helpful to women in Texas and the recent $100 million budget contribution is a success. Keeping the program well-funded does not come without a fight from abortion advocates who have influence on some Texas legislators. For context, it is important to understand how the budget process works in the Texas legislature. Once the general appropriations bill makes it to the Texas House in the regular session, there is an opportunity to add amendments to the appropriations bill to give funding to different programs that often serve a special interest, like women’s healthcare or school choice. Last year, the budget was approved in April, which was an entire month before the Texas Heartbeat Law passed. Many groups, including Texas Values Action, lobby to make sure legislators vote in favor and pass budget amendments that give funding to programs that support life. Every year abortion advocates do the same and influence legislators to present amendments that will defund the A2A program. This past session was no different, when Rep. Ann Johnson(D-Harris) presented an amendment to reduce the A2A program funding by $10 million.[2] Johnson’s amendment would use the $10 million taken from A2A to increase the funding for a criminal justice initiative in the governor’s office to fight human trafficking. While her tactic was not new in the Texas legislature, Johnson’s comments were surprisingly disturbing. Johnson said that she heard “the deep passion for life, but human trafficking affects the living.”[3] Repeatedly during her presentation, she referenced that the criminal justice program affects the “actual living,” seeming to suggest that the baby in a mother’s womb is not a living person. Johnson’s amendment failed by a vote of 62-81. However, Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, who is known as the author of the Human Life Protection Act that passed in the same session, approached the microphone with counter evidence of statistics of how the A2A program has served women throughout the years. Thankfully, the amendment presented later that night by Rep. Matt Krause to increase the A2A funding by a total of $20 million (bringing the total to $100 million) was passed by a vote of 88-58.[4]

 

Thanks to the passage of the Texas Heartbeat Law, the $100 million will not go to waste. Pregnancy resource centers (PRCs) in Texas have already seen a 41 percent increase in clients. The St. John Paul II Life Center in Austin, Texas is expected to have a 37 percent projected growth. From the effective date of the Texas Heartbeat Law on September 1 until October of 2021, the St. John Paul II Life Center served 91 clients when they typically only serve 38-55 women per month. The St. John Paul II Life Center offers many services for women including sonograms, pregnancy tests, counseling, parenting classes, and any materials mothers need for their baby. The Trotter House, which is located near the UT- Austin college campus, has become known for its wide range of services that include financial literacy classes, job application help, classes on how men can become good fathers, and counseling for women who seek healing after having an abortion they regret.

 

The most important factor that does not show up in facts and data, is the truth that the people working at pregnancy resource centers really care about women. I witnessed this first hand in 2020 when many PRC directors reached out to Texas Values concerned about not being able to serve women during the government shutdown. What started as a legal memo[5] that helped PRCs stay open in Austin ended up being weekly drives to a PRC in northeast Austin, gloved, masked, and sanitized to help the full time PRC employees give diapers, clothes, toys, and food to mothers and mothers to be. Those employees’ concerns were not political or financial— it was about helping women and babies.

 

Texas has always been there for women and babies in the crucial moment when a woman must decide what is next after she finds out she is pregnant. The argument that women in Texas will be lost, broke, or alone unless she has access to an abortion is no longer true. Texas has provided a true alternative to abortion with its $100 million program and so much more. More information can be found at https://texasheartbeatlaw.com/ .

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[1] https://www.texaspregnancy.org/about/program-data/

[2] https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/87R/amendments/pdf/SB00001H246.PDF

[3] Floor debate on amendment start at 5:00:03 https://tlchouse.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=47&clip_id=20489

[4] https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/87R/amendments/pdf/SB00001H247.PDF

[5] https://txvalues.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Legal-memo-on-pregancy-resource-centers-and-shelter-in-place.pdf.

Mary Elizabeth Castle, J.D.

Senior Policy Advisor

Texas Values