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Austin’s New Abortion Contract Undermines the Spirit of State Law

By TCCRI Staff. June 30, 2020

Even with yesterday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision to strike down Louisiana’s abortion law, in Austin there is a reminder that the fight to protect unborn life goes on at the local level. In the most recent Legislative Session, the Legislature enacted Senate Bill 22, by Senator Donna Campbell, which generally prohibits state or local governments from entering into a transaction with an abortion provider or its affiliate if doing so would allow the provider or its affiliate to benefit from taxpayer dollars. This law was passed in response to local governmental bodies entering into sweetheart deals with abortion providers- like the City of Austin’s long-term lease of a city-owned building to Planned Parenthood for $1 a year.

While some may argue that such deals are simply local government leaders representing their respective electorates, polling has repeatedly shown that voters oppose taxpayer funding of abortions. For example, a 2018 PRRI poll found that Americans, by a 51% to 36% margin- opposed government health insurance covering abortions. A 2020 survey conducted by MaristPoll found that 60% of respondents (which included Republicans, Democrats, and Independents) oppose using taxpayer dollars to fund abortions, while another poll by Quinnipiac University (also across party lines) found that more than 60% of those questioned supported ending all federal funding to Planned Parenthood, not just funding for abortion services.

These results should not be surprising; while a pregnant woman currently has the right to obtain an abortion under certain circumstances, the question of whether there should be a right to abortion is entirely different than the question of whether taxpayers should be subsidizing the exercise of that right. To illustrate the same point in a different context, most Americans would presumably object to their taxes being used to fund other Americans’ purchase of guns, even if ownership of those guns is a clear Second Amendment right.

After defending the Planned Parenthood lease and celebrating its continuance because it was entered into prior to the passage of SB 22, Austin city leaders are again defying all reason and logic by becoming the first city in the Unites States to fund “abortion access services.” At their June 11th meeting the City Council approved a one-year contract with an organization “to provide logistical support services for abortion access...”

While city leaders could attempt to hide behind Planned Parenthood’s other women’s health services, such as well-woman exams and STI testing, in defending the $1 a year lease, this latest contract provides no such protection. The purpose is to unapologetically aide women in accessing elective abortions using taxpayer funds.

And for any Austinites interested in what kind of organization their tax dollars will be supporting, they can head to the Jane’s Due Process homepage that reads, “Under 18 and need an abortion? We know getting your parents’ permission isn’t always an option…” That’s right- the entity that Austin chose to contract with for these services specializes in helping minors receive abortions without their parents’ knowledge or consent.

While the Austin contract is relatively small in terms of dollars, it represents a much larger issue. Citizens may debate whether to fund a new transportation project or school bond but using public dollars to provide access to abortions is fundamentally different and far more dangerous. This latest move by Austin flies in the face of decades of precedent that prevents public funds from paying for elective abortions, beginning with the passage of the federal Hyde Amendment in 1976.

Texans, regardless of their city or county of residence, deserve to know that their hard-earned dollars are not spent to provide or support services that many deem to be morally unconscionable. When local leaders ignore the most basic rights of their constituencies and exceed the boundaries of common sense and decency, the state must step in and protect the rights of its citizens. Expanding on the work of SB 22, the Legislature should pass legislation to prohibit the use of any public dollars, be they state or local, that help support or provide access to any direct or indirect abortion-related services. This legislation should apply to any new contracts and all existing contracts that come up for renewal after the legislation is passed. This does not prohibit any individual who is so inclined from donating personal funds to support the work of pro-abortion groups in providing such services. But it does prevent members of local government from using taxpayer dollars to promote their own out-of-touch radical agendas.

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©2020 by Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute.