Texas State Legislature Blows Hole In Budget To Deny Women’s Reproductive Rights


Texas wants women to have babies so much that lawmakers are willing to spend part of the state’s very limited budget to reward companies that deny insured reproductive healthcare to women.

Last week, tea party-backed GOP Texas state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, a self-proclaimed Baptist, filed House Bill 649, which would stroke “religiously based” companies, like craft store Hobby Lobby (???), by giving them tax breaks if they choose to deny their female employees contraception coverage.

The Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) addressed the growing costs of contraception, dwindling access to it, and increasing need for coverage by making it mandatory for some companies to provide that insurance coverage or else pay a federal fine.

But apparently oblivious to the problem of affordable access to contraception coverage, Texas is considering the proposed bill that would reimburse companies that pay the fine the lesser of either how much they were fined or the total of their state taxes. According to the text of the bill, companies qualifying for the tax breaks include every business that:

“[R]efuses to make available as part of the health benefit plan coverage for emergency contraception [defined as any medication that “is used postcoitally and prevents pregnancy by preventing fertilization of an egg or preventing implantation of an egg in a uterus”] based solely on the religious convictions of the owners of the business.”

Hear that, proud women of Texas? Your lawmakers want your right to this insurance coverage to be based on the religious convictions of your boss, rather than your own needs, and they’re willing to spend your tax dollars to do it. Pony up, ladies.

Texas ranks lowest in per capita spending, meaning that only the state’s bare necessities are covered by taxes. So when cuts need to be made, those necessities, such as education and healthcare, suffer.

But denying women healthcare coverage is a top priority in Texas, worth spending those precious budget dollars on. It’s obviously more important than, say, education, which suffered deep cuts – more than $5 billion’s worth – a couple years ago when lawmakers had to figure out how to trim the $27 billion budget shortfall. According to Austin’s local CBS affiliate, that $5 billion plus is not being restored to public schools and universities, because it’s more important to deny women contraceptive coverage.

And it’s more important to cut Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to the 3 million+ children in Texas who are enrolled in those programs (almost half of all children in Texas, according to the 2010 U.S. Census). The Star Telegram reports that payments to children’s hospitals were cut by more than $100 million, despite the fact that the number of children needing medical care in Texas is increasing. And again, it’s unlikely that funding will be restored, as Medicaid services for the 2013 fiscal year were not fully funded, and an additional $4.7 billion will need to be appropriated in order to do so. But you can be sure that revenue will not be coming from Texas businesses with religious convictions, because it’s more important to deny women contraceptive coverage.

And Texas can wave goodbye to its state parks – according to Dallas News, the park system is facing closures if the initial House and Senate spending plans hold, because it’s more important to deny women contraceptive coverage.

According to a 2011 study titled “The Public Costs of Births Resulting from Unintended Pregnancies,” (Sonfield, A., Kost, K., Gold, R.B., & Finer, L.B. (2011), 43(2), 94-102), unplanned pregnancies cost Texas almost $1.3 billion. But regardless of how much these unplanned pregnancies are costing Texas taxpayers, it’s more important to deny women contraceptive coverage.

And speaking of family planning (or the prevention thereof), Texas recently reduced its family planning funding by two-thirds – from $111 million to $37 million, greatly limiting access, which will probably result in even more unplanned pregnancies (and likely more abortions).

I have just one question for the proud women of Texas: How much longer are y’all going to stand for this?