A poll released Tuesday by the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune found that 31 percent of Texans believe abortion should be permitted in cases of rape, incest or when the woman’s life is in imminent danger.

Thirteen percent said abortion shouldn’t be permitted in any case whatsoever, while 38 percent said “a woman should always be able to obtain an abortion as a matter of personal choice.”

“Those numbers tell you that most Texans don’t see abortion as a great Plan A,” said State Sen. Angela Paxton, a Republican whose district covers McKinney, Allen, Frisco and Plano. “The fact of the matter is that an abortion ends a life. If you start with that premise, I don’t really understand how you land anywhere other than, ‘This is not good.’”

Paxton’s staunch, pro-life stance has been the impetus behind two Senate bills she filed within the span of one week: the Every Mother Matters Act and the Human Life Protection Act of 2021.

The latter legislation is straightforward in its aim. As Paxton explained, “Basically, it simply sets up the mechanism that should the United States Supreme Court significantly alter or overturn Roe v. Wade, then it will immediately become effective in Texas.”

More specifically, it mandates in such a scenario that “a person may not knowingly perform, induce or attempt an abortion,” with very limited exceptions including major risk of death or fatal injury for the pregnant female.

Conversely, the Every Mother Matters Act attempts to give pregnant people disincentive to get an abortion by linking them with resources to mitigate socioeconomic impediments and make paternity easier.

Paxton said the pending legislation “doesn’t restrict abortion” and further claimed “it provides tangible, compassionate, practical care to women in a difficult situation,” but pro-choice activists such as Texas Equal Access Fund (a Dallas-based pro-choice advocacy group) director Kamyon Conner beg to differ.

“Around half of [the people we serve] are already parents,” she said. “’[Every Mother Matters]’ includes both parents and mothers who want to have abortions.”

Such a bill would impede abortion rights and fail to adequately help pregnant mothers overcome systemic barriers, Conner said.

She said, “It talks about linking people to resources and it says stuff like, ‘The reason why people have abortions is because they’re underemployed and they have lack of access to basic resources that people need to have throughout their lives,’ but it doesn’t talk about how they’re supposed to end those issues.”

The issues Conner is referring to include those of socioeconomic status, health, parity, age and marital status. A 2013 study from BMC Woman’s Health found that 40 percent of women seeking abortions cited financial reasons, while 36% cited timing, 31 percent cited partner-related reasons and 29 percent cited the need to focus on other children. 64 percent of these respondents said more than one of these reasons factored into their decision.

Paxton cited a different study with similar findings in a press release announcing the filing of EMMA.

“If you knew that three out of four people wanted A over B, then certainly, you would try to figure out a way to help them connect with that,” she said. “The saddest thing would be for a woman to actually have options, but not know about them.” 

Paxton’s bill attempts to link pregnant mothers to state and local resources via the Texas Health and Human Services’ Alternatives to Abortion program, whose services include counseling, care coordination, education on pregnancy, motherhood and life skills, referrals to county services and maternity support groups.

Started in 2006, Alternatives to Abortion has been a recipient of $170 million since its founding. In a Monday tweet, Planned Parenthood of Texas called it a “failed” program and said it “has zero taxpayer accountability and funnels money into deceptive and harmful fake clinics, referred to by anti-choice politicians as ‘crisis pregnancy centers.’”

Conner agreed, “The issues we’re dealing with are large and systemic and need to be changed … No matter what, people are going to need abortion. With all the family planning there is, people will need abortions.”

Despite Paxton’s fervent pro-life activism, she contends that a decision to opt for an abortion is not one that patients take lightly. An adopted child, Paxton said her biological mother “didn’t have a lot of support around her” upon her pregnancy. Paxton herself had an unplanned pregnancy with her daughter, the youngest of four.

“I remember just adjusting to that knowledge, and I was in a supported family situation,” she said. “You look at women who are not in a supported situation for any number of reasons, and many times, they’re making this decision all by themselves.”

To Conner and her organization, giving ample support to pregnant mothers includes guaranteeing abortion access. The TEA Fund has coordinated with State Rep. Sheryl Cole and State Sen. Sarah Eckhardt, both Democrats representing the Austin-Round Rock area, in filing a bill referred to as “Rosie’s Law,” which is aimed to restore public and private abortion coverage by lifting the state’s Medicaid ban and allowing private health insurance companies to cover the procedure.

The legislation is named after Rosie Jimenez, a 27-year-old college student from McAllen who died in 1977 from complications stemming from a uterus infection as a result of a “back alley” abortion. She was a single mother of a five-year-old daughter.

“No one should be denied abortion care because of how much money they make or how they get their health insurance,” TEA said in a statement.

Paxton and other proponents of her legislation have a limited window to pass the bills, as the state’s legislative session is slated to expire on May 31. By that point, the Legislature will be out of session until 2023.

With a 6-3 conservative majority in the United States Supreme Court, experts predict that this session will be one of considerable victory for pro-life activists, with some even feeling that the repeal of Roe v. Wade may be imminent. Until that happens, Paxton’s camp will continue trying to expedite that process, while Conner’s will continue helping abortion patients navigate the present and future regulations supported by the former.

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