Losing My Lege is a weekly column about the goings-on in and around the Austin capitol building during the 84th Texas Legislature
This week, I had the incredible experience of seeing Texas activists’ new “Trust. Respect. Access.” campaign in action, as dozens of people from around the state—the Valley, El Paso, Denton, and many other places—braved icy conditions and chilly winds (sorry-not-sorry, I’m gonna complain about 45-degree weather here in Austin, as is my wont) to talk with often hostile legislators about increasing access to reproductive health-care services and information.
It is the first time in my five or so years covering the state legislature that I’ve seen a deliberately organized coalition of left-leaning and progressive groups unite to tackle shared issues and causes in a proactive way, with the understanding that the fight will take years. And from my conversations with folks who’ve been tooling around Austin for even longer, it may actually be the first time in decades this has happened.
I really think the word “unprecedented” is in order.
Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.
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Particularly when our right-wing state lawmakers are so proudly hateful that they actually celebrated banning marriage equality by cutting a cake. In public. In front of the news media. On purpose.
My mind might have time to boggle, except that’s far from the only recent example of conservative elected officials demonstrating awful behavior. They’ve already filed a slate of oppressive and unnecessary legislation this session, and that list is growing. Here’s the worst of the most recent batch:
- Somehow I doubt these two bills are going to be used to round up cisgender women tired of waiting in line for the ladies’ room at Cowboys Stadium who try to use the men’s instead. HB 1747 and HB 1748, two bills from Debbie “Anchor Babies” Riddle—you may also remember her from such hits as Breastfeeding Moms Are Ruining America With Their Immodesty—would criminalize the use of a bathroom that doesn’t either (in HB 1747) match the gender assignment on a person’s driver’s license or (in HB 1748) correlate with gender as “established by the individual’s chromosomes,” whatever noted not-geneticist Debbie Riddle thinks that means. Basically, Riddle’s bill would make using a bathroom that doesn’t correlate to the gender you were assigned at birth a crime of the same magnitude as fighting or discharging a firearm in a public place. There is literally no reason—well, besides outright transphobia, which is a shitty reason—to do this. Cis people being able to use the bathrooms of their choice safely is not a problem anywhere. What is a problem, however, is the harassment and abuse of trans, genderqueer, and other non-binary and gender nonconforming folks, which Riddle’s bill writes into law.
- Because nothing says “freedom” like denying pregnant people carrying fetuses with fatal anomalies the ability to end their pregnancies on their own terms, with the advice of their doctors and the support of their families, Rep. Matt Schaefer—self-described “liberty-loving conservative“—would remove the exception for severe fetal abnormalities in Texas’ 20-week abortion ban. Schaefer’s bill is nothing short of appalling; families in these heartbreaking circumstances deserve the full range of care available to them. Furthermore, nothing is stopping those who don’t want to terminate these kinds of pregnancies from deciding not to do so, which, again, seriously calls the whole “freedom” thing into question.
- Both Rep. Molly White—she of loyalty-oaths-for-Muslims fame—and state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst have proposed unnecessary restrictions that further burden abortion providers to report on their patients to the state government, ostensibly to prevent coercion in abortion care. White’s bill is based on a 1986 survey of 252 abortion patients, about half of whom said they had been coerced into getting abortions. Keep in mind that the total number of reported abortions in the U.S. that year was around 1.3 million; 252 isn’t anything close to a representative sample. No one should ever be coerced into getting an abortion, and every abortion provider I’ve ever spoken to in Texas already screens patients to ensure this doesn’t happen—not because the law makes them, but because it’s best practice.
- Rep. Ron Simmons wants to go public with the names of the few judges in Texas who grant judicial bypasses to minors seeking abortion care. Minors who need judicial bypasses to get abortion care without their parents’ consent are often already in dire straits: Their parents are frequently abusive, absent, or even incarcerated. Simmons’ bill would make it easier for anti-choice folks to harass judges. As it’s written, it could also potentially tie the location of a judge to the location of the minor they’re ruling for, perhaps putting the minor themselves up for identification.
These bills will all need to make it through committee hearings before they’re brought to the larger legislature for a vote, so if you want to keep an eye on their progress (or, rather, their backwardness), they’re easy to track through the lege’s online portal.
And if you’re looking for a pastime that doesn’t lend itself to installing an IV-drip of Jack Daniels, I recommend signing on to the Trust. Respect. Access. campaign’s action statement to find out what you can do about how damn mad you are—how mad we all are—about lawmakers who don’t trust Texans with their own bodies.