Detente on abortion amendments could speed House budget debate

Austin American-StatesmanApril 4, 2013Articles

A brokered agreement will remove about a dozen family planning and abortion-related amendments from the state budget debate under way Thursday in the Texas House. Removing the volatile amendments from consideration, agreed to by Democrats and Republicans, will protect an additional $100 million set aside for primary care for low-income women, including contraceptives.

“I didn’t think we needed another floor fight on abortion and family planning,” said Rep. Sarah Davis, R-Houston, who brokered the agreement. “Hopefully, I saved us about six hours (of debate). “

Many of the proposed Democratic amendments targeted pregnancy resource centers, which strive to counsel pregnant women to consider alternatives to abortion.

Democrats agreed to pull down those amendments in return for a promise that the $100 million in women’s health funds would not be targeted for cuts. In 2011, Republican amendments cut $61 million from the family planning budget in an attempt to starve Planned Parenthood of money. The cuts led to the closure of more than 50 family planning clinics statewide, most of them not affiliated with Planned Parenthood.

Republicans were comfortable restoring women’s health funding because the 2014-15 budget specifies that the money cannot go to abortion providers or their affiliates, said. Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola. Hughes helped coordinate the floor fight to cut family planning spending in 2011.

The agreement also will lead Rep. Dwayne Bohac, R-Houston, to pull down his amendment to increase funding for pregnancy resource centers, Hughes said.

“Now we have it iron clad in the law that this money cannot go to abortion providers and their affiliates,” Hughes said.

Davis said she hoped the $100 million would allow many of the closed clinics to reopen, noting that state health officials estimate that 170,000 additional low-income women will receive screenings for cancer, hypertension, diabetes and other preventive care in addition to contraceptives.

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