Four things to work on now that the omnibus anti-abortion bill is reality

1. Organize, organize, organize. Maintain the energy and sense of urgency that originated with the #StandWithWendy filibuster. This is a good way to draw people in while the iron is hot.

Progressives and Planned Parenthood took their opposition to the abortion-restricting bill winding its way through the Texas Legislature on the road to Houston Tuesday with the orange-tinged “Stand with Texas Women” tour.

Hundreds gathered in a sea of tangerine, apricot and melon at Discovery Green to welcome the motorcoach carrying state Sen. Wendy Davis, several other Democratic state legislators and Planned Parenthood Action Fund president Cecile Richards.

After a debut rally in Austin on Tuesday morning, the carrot-colored bus made an evening stop in Houston to oppose the bill’s anticipated effect on access to preventive health services and abortions. Rallies also are planned Wednesday in Dallas and Fort Worth.


“It’s time to get the Texas Legislature out of our exam rooms,” said Richards, daughter of former Democratic Gov. Ann Richards. “It’s wasn’t just that Gov. Perry and some of his allies in the Legislature ended the women’s health program and cut more than 130,000 women in Texas off of preventive care, but now the Legislature is considering a bill that would force dozens more health centers in this state to close down – close their doors – making it even harder for women to get care and ending access to safe and legal abortion.”

Don’t forget the veto of the Lilly Ledbetter bill, too. Democrats have underperformed with Anglo women in Texas compared to the country as a whole. The last two sessions have been very hard on women in Texas. These past few weeks I’ve seen a ton of stuff on Facebook from people I don’t normally think of as being politically oriented, some of whom I had no idea were on my side of this. We need to build on this. Stace, Egberto Willies, and Texas Leftist have more on the Houston event, and the Press has a photo slideshow.

2. Remind people who have aligned with the GOP in the past because of certain specific issues that they’re not dealing with the same party now. I’m thinking specifically of doctors and other medical professionals, who loved the GOP ten years ago when tort “reform” was on the agenda. BOR has an open letter from a couple of docs who’d like the Lege to stay out of their exam rooms.

While we can agree to disagree about abortion on ideological grounds, we must draw a hard line against insidious legislation that threatens women’s health like Texas HB2 (House Bill 2) and SB1 (Senate Bill 1).

That’s why we’re speaking to the false and misleading underlying assumptions of this and other legislation like it: These bills are as much about interfering with the practice of medicine and the relationship a patient has with her physician as they are about restricting women’s access to abortion. The fact is that these bills will not help protect the health of any woman in Texas. Instead, these bills will harm women’s health in very clear ways.

We’re setting the record straight, loudly and unequivocally, with these simple messages to all politicians: Get out of our Exam Rooms.

I would submit to the members of The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Texas Medical Association, and other organizations that formally opposed SB1 and HB2 that if they want legislators that won’t interfere with the doctor/patient relationship, they need to vote against legislators that do interfere with the doctor/patient relationship, and that includes everyone who voted for these bills, including the handful of Dems who did so. Do it in March and do it again in November as needed. Nothing will change until the leadership changes.

3. Prepare for the inevitable litigation.

The Guttmacher Institute reported earlier this week that more new abortion restrictions were enacted in the first half of 2013 than in all of 2012; 2013 now ranks second to 2011 as a landmark year for antichoice legislation.

Now from a superficial point of view, the latest batch of state antichoice actions have focused on the relatively safe ground (politically and to a lesser extent constitutionally) of late-term abortions, where the Supreme Court has allowed some leeway in the past. But since most of the “fetal pain” laws have been accompanied by what Guttmacher calls “TRAP” measures—Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers—they are clearly intended to restrict access to all clinical abortions at any stage of pregnancy, and certainly have that effect.

Since the current constitutional standard for abortion restrictions remains Casey v. Planned Parenthood’s ban on measures that place an “undue burden” on the right to choose, most of these new state laws are clearly in the “danger area” constitutionally. Just yesterday, a federal district court judge in Wisconsin temporarily blocked implementation of that state’s new regulations on abortion providers pending a showing that it did not violate Casey. Federal court challenges are likely in other states as well.

So the long-awaited day of a fresh SCOTUS review of the constitutional law of abortion (last visited by the Court in the 2007 Carhart v. Gonzales decision upholding a federal “partial-birth abortion” ban) may soon be upon us. It could even happen sooner that expected: at the end of the recently concluded term, SCOTUS agreed to hear an appeal of a case involving a Oklahoma restriction on the use of RU-486 that could involve a reinterpretation of Casey. And in any event, the shrewd adoption by antichoicers of the strategy of justifying restrictions as “health and safety regulations” seems designed to exploit the loophole opened up in Carhart by Justice Kennedy that invited policymakers to make their own determinations of women’s health interests.

Litigation is hardly risk-free, as there are four solid votes to overturn Roe and Casey, and who knows what bee will be in Anthony Kennedy’s bonnet by the time the appeals make their way to SCOTUS. The best thing that could happen between now and then would be for Kennedy and/or Scalia to retire, but of course we can’t count on that. But what other choice is there? Let’s bring our A games and keep our eyes open about what could happen when we go down this road.

4. Fight back with reason and with ridicule. In my post about Tuesday’s action in the House, I included a link to Baptist Standard editorial about all the things that the state of Texas and its Republican leadership is not doing for the post-born. Many Democratic legislators filed and fought for amendments to HB2 that would have tried to address some of these things, but of course the Republicans and the “no one is more pro-life than me” author of HB2 rejected them all. That needs to be a campaign issue – really, it needs to be THE campaign issue – in 2014. But it’s also time for our legislative Democrats, who have fought the good fight with honor and perseverance, to not always be so high-minded. A little snark can go a long way, as Lisa Falkenberg demonstrated.

Women will always bear the brunt of the responsibility for family planning and pregnancy, which is why the folks in Austin are back at it again this week, trying to help the little women in this endeavor by protecting their health with unnecessary regulations and restricting access to constitutionally protected medical options.

Still, I can’t help but think the men of this state are worthy of some Texas-style reproductive protection as well. The Legislature’s compelling interest in restricting the reproductive rights of Texans shouldn’t stop at lady parts.

Gentlemen of Texas, it’s with sincere concern for your health and safety – and a hat tip to legislation pioneered in Oklahoma, Georgia, Illinois, Virginia and Ohio – that I hereby propose the following pro-life omnibus bill to regulate your man parts.

The bill is already written, someone just needs to file it at the next opportunity. File it for what’s left of this session. Of course it won’t go anywhere. That’s not the point. Someone needs to do this.

UPDATE: “I want you to be angry and remember,” Wendy Davis says at the Fort Worth rally. That’s what I’m talking about.

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4 Responses to Four things to work on now that the omnibus anti-abortion bill is reality

  1. PDiddie says:

    That’s a battle plan if ever I read one.

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