Austin Democrat Lawmakers Propose Taxpayer-Funded Abortions to the Legislature

Two Austin lawmakers have proposed taxpayer-funded abortions to the Texas legislature.

The bills, filed in the Texas Senate by Sen. Sarah Eckhardt (D-Austin) and in the Texas House by Rep. Sheryl Cole (D-Austin), would make Texas provide abortion services through state funds. Dubbed “Rosie’s Law,” they would also overturn a 2017 law that requires insurance companies to separate abortion coverage from regular plans.

“The Texas Legislature should be actively seeking to restore women’s access to health care, including abortion, after decades of attacks on these fundamental rights,” Eckhardt stated in a press release.

“I’m proud to carry Rosie’s Law, an important first step towards restoring Texans’ right to access life saving care.”

“Abortion is healthcare,” Cole echoed, “And healthcare should not be reserved only for the wealthy and the privileged few.”

The proposals’ namesake is Rosie Jiménez, a McAllen woman who died after an illegal abortion procedure in 1977. Jiménez is believed to be the first woman to die from an illegal abortion since the passage of the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for abortion. Overturning the Hyde Amendment has become a fledgling goal of the Biden administration and would allow for Medicaid to fund abortion services. Until then, “Rosie’s Law” would make use of the system Texas currently has in place to mete out medical assistance programs like Medicaid.

“[The Health and Human Services Commission] shall provide abortion services regardless of whether federal matching funds are available to pay for the cost of those services,” the bill text reads.

The Health and Human Services Commission handles Medicaid, and current law says the state parcels out Medicaid money only with matching federal funds. The text of “Rosie’s Law” does not include the same restriction, making it legal under the embattled federal Hyde Amendment.

The legislation also would prune away a law meant to ensure Texans do not have to pay for abortions through their insurance plans. Occasionally misrepresented as a total ban on insurance for abortions, the law mandates that insurance companies in Texas cannot cover abortion except through an optional additional rider. State Rep. John Smithee (R-Amarillo) and Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-The Woodlands) introduced the bill in the 2017 special session.

Though Governor Greg Abbott originally convened the special session to discuss the fate of a number of state agencies, he listed the end of taxpayer-funded abortions as one of his supplemental priorities.

The 2017 bill wrote four key sections of code into Texas law. The first and second, in the Health and Safety Code and the Human Resources Code, outlaw the use of government aid for abortion; the third and fourth in the Insurance Code forbid insurance companies from covering abortions except for emergencies in their regular plans.

Eckhardt’s and Cole’s bills would snip or reshape these four sections to subsidize abortions and allow insurance companies to cover them with their regular plans again.

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