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In Letter, Texas Department of Health Accused by Ten Democratic Legislators of Subverting Democratic Process

11:37 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Texas Has Oil, Cattle, Cotton & More

(photo: Calsidyrose/flickr)

Written by Andrea Grimes for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

In opposition to new proposed abortion reporting restrictions in Texas, ten Democratic legislators have sent an open letter to Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Tom Suehs urging him to not to move forward with the new rules, which would increase the amount of information gathered on abortion-seeking people and require doctors to report vaguely defined “complications” from abortion.

“The proposed rule does not represent the will of the legislative body and, if implemented through rulemaking, would serve to circumvent the legislative process,” wrote the legislators.

The new rules are being proposed after anti-choice, Tea Party-endorsed legislator Rep. Bill Zedler and his past colleagues were repeatedly unable to enact them through democratic means in the Texas Legislature over the past several years. Texas health officials have agreed to look into adopting the failed legislation by rule rather than law. In their letter, the Democratic legislators say this sets a “terrible precedent.”

“If this rule is published and adopted, it sets a terrible precedent and will have serious ramifications for years to come,” write the legislators.

But Texas health officials seem anxious to appease Zedler, though they are increasingly backtracking on initial openness about cooperating with the legislator.

As originally reported by RH Reality Check, at the first public meeting discussing the new requirements in April 2012, Department of State Health Services regulatory unit manager Renee Clack said the meeting was called to discuss “some amendments the department has included that specifically relate to a request by Representative Zedler.”

DSHS’ openness about the origins of their new rule are also illustrated in documents obtained by the Austin Chronicle and shared with RH Reality Check this week. They include a March 21, 2012 memo sent from Department of State Health Services Commissioner David Lakey to Executive Commissioner Suehs “to discuss possible reporting requirements that relate to an amendment by Representative William Zedler.” The memo describes the rules’ background thusly: Read the rest of this entry →

Unnecessary Restrictions on Abortion Care: How Democracy Side-Stepping Sausage Is Made, Texas-Style

11:53 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Andrea Grimes for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

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Next week, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission Council will consider whether to adopt new abortion reporting requirements in the state–requirements that are being proposed at the behest of a Republican politician who failed to get his desired requirements passed through democratic means in the state legislature last year.

Tea Party-endorsed Rep. Bill Zedler wants the state to collect more personal information about abortion-seeking women and increase vague “complication” reporting requirements for abortion providers. The Texas HHSC is considering the new requirements as a kind of consolation prize to Zedler, who tried and failed to pass the requirements as an amendment to the Texas law that bars Planned Parenthood (and other “abortion affiliates”) from participating in the Medicaid Women’s Health Program in the state.

The amendment wasn’t added,” Department of State Health Services press officer Carrie Williams told RH Reality Check in April, “but at the time HHSC and DSHS agreed to look at the additional requirements and determine what elements could possibly be adopted by rule.”

RH Reality Check filed a public information request for correspondence between Rep. Zedler’s office and the DSHS to find out how the department came to be catering to one anti-choice Republican’s demands. Documents show the answer is simple: mighty politely, in true friendly Texan style. Zedler’s office asked for what it wanted, and DSHS did its best to comply with their requests.

The original version of Zedler’s amendment is farther reaching than the new requirements proposed by HHSC. Zedler originally wanted to find out, as reported by the Dallas Observer, the abortion-seeker’s:

Read the rest of this entry →

Forced Ultrasound, “Informed Consent,” and Women’s Health in Texas: The Sad State of the State

1:05 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

(photo: ee382, photobucket)

(photo: ee382, photobucket)

Written by Andrea Grimes for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Last month, when news spread that Virginia legislators were considering a forced trans-vaginal ultrasound bill, the uproar was loud, clear and immediate: women would never stand for this invasive and unnecessary law. Politicos and pop-culture icons alike spoke out against the Republican-lead legislation. What kind of world are we living in, reasonable people wondered, when “informed consent” is tantamount to state-sanctioned rape?

Here’s what kind of world: the kind wherein a mandatory ultrasound law scads worse than the proposed Virginia bill has already been in place for five months. In Texas.

“Texas has the most extreme law that’s being enforced right now,” says the Center For Reproductive Rights’ Julie Rikelman, the lead attorney on the CRR’s lawsuit filed against the Texas legislation. Despite the sympathetic leanings of a federal district judge who initially ruled on the case, the suit has more or less been stalled by a vehemently anti-choice Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which denied the CRR’s requested injunction against enforcement last month. Now, that means that all aspects of the law–mandated ultrasounds, 24-hour waiting periods, and forced speech–are now in full force in Texas.

Intially the CRR was able to gain an injunction against enforcing the parts of the law they argued in court violated doctors’ First Amendment rights. But twenty-five days ago, they lost that injunction and doctors began being legally required to verbally describe the sonogram image, make heartbeat audio available if possible, and offer women the opportunity to view the image.

And while the mandatory trans-vaginal ultrasound requirement has garnered a great deal of interest and outrage, Texas providers tell RHRealityCheck that the “most onerous” part of the law, for both providers and abortion-seeking women, has been the mandatory 24-hour wait period between the required ultrasound and the abortion itself. Read the rest of this entry →