(Austin, TX)Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) today released the following statement regarding the SB 5, omnibus legislation dramatically reducing reproductive freedom in Texas.
“I am voting against suspending any rule to bring up for debate SB 5, because I oppose this unprecedented, unreasonable and unconscionable attack on women’s health. Once it is eligible for debate, I will stand shoulder to shoulder with any and every one opposed to this draconian legislation.
“There are 254 counties in Texas; under SB 5, women would have access to these critical services in exactly four of them. The clear goal of this legislation is to eradicate Texas women’s ability to receive health care services they are constitutionally protected to receive. Opponents of reproductive freedom want to make it virtually impossible for Texas women to seek safe, legal health care without facing the political consequences of trying to ban all abortions. It is a cynical, destructive but, sadly, effective strategy.
“Rather than taking up issues that hard-working Texans want us to address, we are instead continuing the war on women by decreasing Texas women’s access to health care. Senate Bill 5 would enact some of the most restrictive limitations on reproductive freedom in the nation. They bring Big Government into what should be a very personal and private matter between a woman, her doctor and her faith, all under the Orwellian talking point of ‘protecting women’s health.’
“Texas women deserve better.
“As the father of three daughters, these are not the types of private, personal decisions I want the Legislature making for them. All of these bills are masked in the cover of making women safer and healthier, when in reality these are political issues that seek to take away a woman’s choice. They restrict the practice of medicine and weaken standards of care and patient safety, which will have devastating consequences when a woman is experiencing medical complications.
“During the debate in the Senate, members in favor of this legislation spoke eloquently about caring for the unborn, noting that these measures will increase the quality and standard of care. They, somewhat incredulously, argued that this anti-choice legislation has nothing to do with restricting a Texas woman’s right to control her own body. But let’s suspend disbelief for a moment and give proponents of further erosion of reproductive rights the benefit of the doubt and say they truly are concerned about women’s health. If that is sincerely the case, then the answer is shockingly simple: expand access to health insurance under Obamacare.
“Yet they refused to accept an amendment that I offered which would truly improve the quality of life and health of Texas women and families.
“This amendment would have made these anti-choice bills effective only if Texas expands Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. With approximately one in four Texans lacking insurance and about 16 percent of Texas children uninsured, this amendment could have provided health insurance to approximately 1.5 million additional Texans, including resources to improve access to quality care for women, infants and children.
“Lack of adequate health insurance coverage makes it hard for Texas families to get the health care they need, and if and when they do it leaves them with large medical bills. In fact, study after study has shown that one of the best ways to protect and improve the health of women and babies – born and unborn — is by expanding access to quality health insurance. Having health insurance contributes to healthier mothers, healthier children, and significantly reduces infant mortality. In fact, women who lack insurance are more likely to have inadequate care, receive a significantly lower standard of care and are more likely to postpone or skip entirely needed care because they lack the money to pay for it. This has a serious impact on all Texans, especially our children.
“According to the 2012 Texas KIDS COUNT report, almost 40 percent of Texas mothers received little or no prenatal care and one in seven babies were born premature. It also noted that only 58 percent of kids without insurance are considered healthy, while 90 percent of insured kids are healthy. Patients with health insurance are more likely to visit a doctor regularly and obtain routine exams that lead to early detection and treatment.
“Too many hard-working Texans fall into the current gap where they make too much money to qualify for the current Medicaid system but too little to be able to purchase insurance in the private market. For these individuals eligible for the expansion, Medicaid will mean the opportunity to have a primary doctor and continuity in care thereby reducing their reliance on the expensive care currently provided in emergency rooms.
“This expansion will also give previously uninsured women access to the tools necessary to make them healthier, including family planning services and contraception, which will reduce unintended pregnancies, improve birth outcomes, and reduce infant mortality.
“If proponents of draconian anti-choice laws are serious about helping Texas women, they should be fighting equally hard to expand access to health insurance, not trying to pass bills that will decrease access, increase complications and harm women. They should fight for measures that will truly protect our most vulnerable and increase access to quality care for women and families, not do all they can to obstruct those efforts.
“The sad truth is that Texas is failing our mothers, failing our children and failing to focus on solutions that help all Texans, rather than narrow partisan interests. Texas women and families deserve better.”