Bringing Abortion Rights Advocacy to the Local Arena – en
Bringing Abortion Rights Advocacy to the Local Arena
We believe Houstonians deserve to live in a city with safe, timely and affordable access to comprehensive reproductive health care, including abortion, as well as the ability to live their lives and raise their families in the way they choose, with equal opportunity regardless of gender, race, income or immigration status. This agenda provides the people of Houston with a vision for creating a city that does just that.
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What We’re Up Against – en
What We’re Up Against
Across the state, Texans face vast — sometimes insurmountable — barriers to obtaining safe, timely, and affordable reproductive health care services. These statewide trends hold true in the greater Houston area, which is home to more than a million women of reproductive age.
In 2010, almost a third of Houston’s adult residents and 13% of children in the Houston area lacked health insurance coverage. Research has shown that Houstonians of color, especially those who are economically disadvantaged, have poorer health on average. Houston takes great pride in its thriving communities of immigrants, but immigrants often face additional obstacles to accessing health care, including inability to afford insurance and fear of deportation. Houston falls short of federal preventive cancer screening recommendations for both Pap screenings and mammograms. Additionally, in 2013, more than 40% of pregnant women in Harris County received no prenatal care during the first trimester.
The state of reproductive health care access in Houston has worsened significantly over the past decade. If HB 2, the abortion omnibus bill passed in 2013, is upheld in the Supreme Court case Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, Houston would be left with only two abortion clinics — and the clinics that remain would be under great strain as they take on patients from areas around Texas where clinics have been forced to shutter. Patients at these clinics are also regularly greeted by protesters with megaphones who may illegally attempt to block clinic entrances. Diminished access to reproductive health care threatens the health, safety, and well-being of Houston residents. We can do better.
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Access to Abortion and Contraception – en
Access to Abortion and Contraception
In recent years, anti-choice groups have begun using state-level regulations, commonly known as Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws, to drive abortion clinics out of business. Since the passage of Texas’s TRAP law, HB2, in 2013, over half of Texas’s abortion clinics have been forced to stop providing abortion care services or close their doors. Because the Supreme Court has temporarily blocked parts of the law, Houston currently has five abortion clinics. Should the entire law go into effect, the greater Houston area would be left with only two clinics. At the same time, nearly half of clinics across the state would shut down, causing more women in surrounding areas to seek abortion care at Houston’s two remaining clinics. This would increase the ratio of abortions per clinic performed in Houston annually from about 3,900 to over 11,000, according to a study by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project. The same study predicts that wait times will likely increase due to higher demand, resulting in an increase in the proportion of second trimester and later term abortions performed.
In addition to the damage caused by House Bill 2, the Texas Legislature has notoriously underfunded state women’s health care programs. Some of the most notable damage occurred in 2011, when the Legislature slashed the state’s family planning budget by two-thirds. Before these cuts, the programs were only meeting one-third of the need in Texas. The budget cuts have since resulted in the closures of dozens of women’s health and family planning clinics across the state. For low-income women, safe abortion and contraception can be so difficult to obtain, they are completely out of reach.
All restrictions on access to reproductive health care hurt Texas families. Houstonians who seek reproductive health care services deserve to be treated with fairness, respect, and dignity, regardless of income, gender identity, sexual orientation, immigration status, ability, age, or any other factor. Indeed, our communities agree. Research shows that large majorities of voters want a woman who has decided to have an abortion to have the experience be safe, legal, affordable, and available in her community, without roadblocks in terms of travel, expenses, or logistics. They also want the experience to be informed by medically accurate information, supportive, and without pressure or shame. The current climate in Houston, and across our state, does not support this type of experience.
- The Houston community deserves targeted programs to support reproductive health clinic access, and such programs should be properly implemented, with sufficient enforcement and adequate resources. The City of Houston should take necessary steps to ensure that patients and clinic staff are able to access an abortion clinic free of harassment, violence, and obstruction.
- Emergency contraception is a safe form of reproductive health care. It is available over the counter to all people without restriction. Accordingly, it should be available, affordable, and easily accessible to those who need it. The City of Houston should ensure that all Houston hospital emergency rooms that treat women after a sexual assault not only inform them about emergency contraception as part of this care, as required by Texas law, but also provide it on site upon request. The City of Houston should create programs promoting public awareness about emergency contraception and take steps to encourage all health care providers to inform their patients about this option. The City of Houston must take steps to ensure that all Houston pharmacies are sufficiently stocking emergency contraception on their shelves, and that all pharmacists are fully informed on regulations of sale (no ID required, no age limit, etc), so that emergency contraception is readily available to those who request it.
Because the cost of emergency contraception in a pharmacy can be prohibitive, and because Texas excludes emergency contraception from many state-funded programs, all City-funded health centers should provide emergency contraception free of charge or on a sliding fee schedule.
- No one should be denied access to safe abortion care services just because they can’t afford to pay.
The City of Houston should pass a resolution denouncing the federal Hyde Amendment and other state laws that ban public funding for abortion. Comprehensive information on available funding options, including local non-profit organizations providing financial assistance for abortion care (AKA abortion funds), should be available at county hospitals for low-income women.The Houston Health Department, in conjunction with local abortion funds, should conduct research to develop a strategy to ensure that low-income Houstonians are able to secure adequate funding for safe abortion care in Houston.
- Deceptive advertising by crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) should not be allowed in the City of Houston.
Crisis pregnancy centers often seek to prevent clients from having an abortion by fraudulently representing themselves as health care facilities and/or abortion providers. The Houston Health Department should support a city-wide CPC awareness campaign about their deceptive practices in order to keep them from manipulating pregnant people.
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All Houstonians should have the opportunity to raise their families in a healthy and safe environment. The City of Houston and surrounding municipalities should pass and enforce policies that allow for families to thrive by protecting access to health care, ensuring that new parents have job protections, and addressing discrimination in public places, housing, and the workforce.
- The City of Houston should enact a non-discrimination ordinance that protects residents from discrimination based on:
- Marital status
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity
- National origin
- Genetic information
- Veteran status
- Pregnancy status
- Familial status
The City of Houston should require all employers to provide 12 weeks of paid family leave at 100% of the employee’s salary following the birth or adoption of a child and to make necessary accommodations for pregnant and breastfeeding employees. Paid family leave has been proven to improve the health of infants and new parents, the duration of breastfeeding, the involvement of fathers in raising children, and economic opportunity for women.
- All Houstonians should have access to family planning, prenatal care, postpartum care, and other basic health care services regardless of economic or immigration status. The City of Houston Department of Health and Human Services should expand its Maternity/Prenatal Care program to ensure that all low-income Houston residents have access to comprehensive prenatal and postpartum care.The City of Houston and Harris County should make free or low-cost health care services available to undocumented immigrants and others who may not be able to access insurance on the state or federal health exchanges or through other means. Undocumented immigrants should be able to access health care without fear of their status being reported to the authorities.
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Supporting Teens and Young Parents – en
Supporting Teens and Young Parents
Texas has one of the highest teen birth rates and the highest repeat teen birth rate in the United States, owing in a large part to the lack of comprehensive sexuality education in most Texas schools. Research shows that comprehensive, age-appropriate sex education provides young people with the tools to protect themselves from unintended pregnancy and HIV/STI-related risk behaviors. Despite Texas having one of the highest teen birth rates in the United States, the state provides little support to teen parents who struggle to navigate the balance of raising a child and pursuing an education. Pregnant and parenting students need support and respect in order to succeed in school and graduate.
- All Houston-area public schools should provide age appropriate, evidence-based sex education from kindergarten through high school. Middle school students should receive tailored, age-appropriate sex education and young people should have access to contraception. Public schools should be encouraged to implement UT Health Science Center at Houston’s iCHAMPSS program, an interactive decision-support system for CHoosing And Maintaining Effective Programs for Sex Education in Schools.
- Houston-area high schools should empower pregnant and parenting students by providing excused absences and medical leave (protected under Title IX), childcare, breastfeeding and pumping rooms, staff training on providing non-judgmental support, and information about resources for young families.
- The Houston City Council should pass a resolution strongly condemning HB 3994, which has made abortion inaccessible for many Houston young women. HB 3994, which the Texas Legislature passed in 2015, created several onerous restrictions on judicial bypass, a court procedure designed as a safety net for pregnant minors who cannot obtain parental consent when considering an abortion.
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