Texas passed a radical anti-health care law — but Austin found a way to fight back


Austin will fund access to abortion after the state passed a law banning taxpayer dollars from going to abortion providers.

On Sept. 1, it became illegal for cities in Texas to fund abortion facilities, even if that funding is used for services like pregnancy prevention. So Austin decided to take things into its own hands and fund abortion access instead.

It's a great way for Austin to get around a law that was in part directed at the city. Conservative state legislators have long been outraged that a Planned Parenthood location in East Austin has a $1-per-year rent deal with the city.

The law doesn't prohibit funding costs related to abortions, it simply prohibits taxpayer dollars from going to abortion providers. So Austin set aside $150,000 in next year's budget to provide money for "incidental expenses" including travel and lodging for people getting abortions. Since the city's money won't go toward the abortion itself, the law doesn't apply ⁠— therefore, the city isn't prohibited from working with organizations that help provide access.

Of course, those behind the state law are furious. State Sen. Donna Campbell, the primary author of the Senate bill, said that the city budget "defiantly violates the spirit" of her bill and that she would be "working with the Attorney General's Office on this issue." Another anti-choicer declared that if Austin wants to help women, they should lower taxes.

While Austin's move is a welcome reprieve for many, other Texas cities and counties are still subject to the state's restrictive new regulation.

In addition to abortion providers, the state law applies to provider affiliates, which means governments can't do business with Planned Parenthood even if those locations don't provide abortions. Some 30 local officials across Texas asked the House speaker to stop the bill because Planned Parenthood works with Texas cities on many non-abortion initiatives, including HIV testing, pregnancy prevention, and cancer screenings.

Under the state law, cities can't do that any longer.

Planned Parenthood also partners with local governments during public health crises. During the 2016 Zika outbreak, Harris County gave mosquito repellent to Planned Parenthood so they could give it to their patients. Today, under the new law, this is illegal.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.