Texas and its local governments would no longer be able to partner with abortion providers or their affiliates — even for services like sexual health education and pregnancy prevention initiatives — under a bill the Texas House passed in a preliminary vote late Friday after hours of emotional debate.
Senate Bill 22, which critics call the biggest threat to Planned Parenthood this legislative session, would forbid a government entity from transferring money to an abortion provider, even for services not related to the procedure. It would also bar a transfer of goods or services and any transaction that offers the provider “something of value derived from state or local tax revenue.” Abortion rights advocates fear that the bill could even prohibit privately funded programs held on government property, like pop-up sexual health education booths at community colleges.
The controversial bill dominated the lower chamber’s agenda Friday for more than seven hours and tentatively passed in an 81-65 vote.
“This is a taxpayer protection bill,” said Rep. Candy Noble, R-Allen. “Taxpayers who oppose abortion should not have to see their tax dollars subsidizing the abortion industry.”
The bill needs one more vote in the lower chamber before it heads back to the Republican-controlled Senate. State Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, added an amendment that clarifies the bill would not restrict a city or county from banning abortions. If the upper chamber agrees with that change, the bill will then head to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott‘s desk.
The bill would also apply to an affiliate of an abortion provider, so no Planned Parenthood clinics could partner with a local government — even clinics that don’t provide abortions. That would include programs like one in Dallas County where Planned Parenthood staffers have provided sexual health education, including information on how to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, at juvenile detention centers.
Abortion-rights advocates and several Democrats lambasted the bill.
“Senate Bill 22 has nothing to do with impacting abortion services,” state Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, said at a press conference. “What Senate Bill 22 does is take aim at the routine and lifesaving health care services offered by Planned Parenthood.”
There were several attempts by Democrats to amend the bill — but the endeavors ultimately failed. Of the 23 attempted amendments, only Stickland’s was successful.