Texas legislature takes aim at Planned Parenthood in East Austin

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Monday, a bill that would ban cities and counties from contracting, leasing or donating to standalone abortion providers passed through the Senate Committee on State Affairs 7 to 0 — putting the Planned Parenthood location on East Seventh Street in danger.

The Planned Parenthood on East Seventh has drawn the ire of conservative state lawmakers. The City of Austin owns the property and leases it to the healthcare provider for $1 a year — and has since the 1970s. The arrangement would have to end if the bill passes all the way through the two chambers of the legislature. 

Senate Bill 22 now heads to full Senate and must pass the Texas House as well by the end of May to become state law.

While New Braunfels Republican Donna Campbell’s Senate Bill 22 would ban any government in Texas from contracting, leasing, or donating to abortion providers, hospitals and university protections would remain in place.

“Knowing that taxpayer dollars can be collected and used to support the abortion industry in Texas is unjust. As a state, we must take a stand for what is right,” Campbell wrote in a statement to KXAN.

A group of city and county elected officials teamed with women’s health advocates to respond to the action by the Texas legislature. Austin Mayor Steve Adler and City Council members Pio Renteria, Jimmy Flannigan, Paige Ellis, and Greg Casar joined Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt at the press conference. 

“The idea of contracting basic healthcare, particularly to women, is so troubling,” said Eckhardt.

Mireya Trevino studies public health at UT-Austin and says many students come to this East Austin Planned Parenthood for basic health services: STD tests, birth control, cancer screenings. Trevino added:

“When you’re uninsured, your budget tends to be low or no cost and that’s exactly what Planned Parenthood has here.”

“This is not just about Planned Parenthood. It’s not. it’s actually about people. It’s about people who use these services so they can have a life,” said Rev. Deneed Robinson from The Afiya Center at a press conference Monday, organized by the Planned Parenthood.

Nicole Hudgens from Texas Values spoke in favor of the bill Monday because while the city of Austin supports organizations like Planned Parenthood, she says many taxpayers do not.

“You’re seeing low-income families, how are they able to afford this area but yet Planned Parenthood is getting a dollar rent. That’s not fair to taxpayers,” said Hudgens. “Planned Parenthood is getting to rent for a dollar a year while residents in that area and citizens that are paying taxes are seeing their taxes increase by hundreds of dollars.”

The City of Dallas, the City of El Paso, and Tarrant County also contract with Planned Parenthood for different services. 

In 2011, the Texas Legislature removed state funding from Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.

SB 22 would be enforced by the Texas Attorney General, issuing an injunction and recovering fees. 

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