Nobody likes abortions – even those who believe that women should have access to them.
But some Texas leaders and lawmakers seem determined to force women to bring pregnancies to term, even if they don't want to.
Pro-choice advocates say that many of those same lawmakers seem unwilling to commit the tax dollars to adequately provide services for children from those unplanned pregnancies -- in education, health care, and general welfare.
While efforts to block abortion access continue, family planning advocates say Texas officials discourage schools from providing young Texans realistic information to help avoid unplanned pregnancies.
Senate Health and Human Services Committee members recently heard testimony on three abortion-related bills by Republican senators:
- SB 8, to prohibit sale of fetal remains from an elective abortion, by the committee's chair, Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown;
- SB 258, to require the cremation or burial of fetal remains after an abortion, by Sen. Don Huffines of Dallas; and
- SB 415, to prohibit dilation and evacuation abortions unless the fetus is dead, by Sen. Charles Perry of Lubbock.
Federal law already prohibits the sale of fetal tissue. And the fetal remains disposal bill would write into law a health department rule currently enjoined by a federal court.
All three Republicans were pressed during the hearing by Democratic Sen. Kirk Watson of Austin to explain how their bills would improve reproductive health, rather than just provide more barriers to a woman's right to have an abortion.
“Can you point me to anything in this bill that enhances the pregnant women's health and safety?” Watson asked.
Reproductive rights activists said the bills didn't address access to sexual health services, but were aimed at punishing women seeking abortions.
Meanwhile, one piece of good news about sex education is that school districts that provide information beyond "abstinence" have grown from 3.6 percent in 2008 to 16.6 percent.
And while Texas was fifth highest among the states in teen birth rates in 2015, with 41 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19, that rate had steadily declined from 63 per 1,000 in 2011.
The bad news for those who think students should learn about birth control and sexually transmitted diseases is that 58.3 percent of Texas school districts still teach "abstinence-only" programs.
That's down from 94 percent in 2008, according to a study released by the Texas Freedom Network (TFN) at a capitol press conference Feb. 14, called "Conspiracy of Silence: Sexuality Education in Texas Public Schools in 2015-16."
In 2009, the Texas Legislature voted to remove high school health classes, where sex education has typically taken place, as a requirement for graduation.
The percentage of districts teaching no sex education increased from 2.3 percent in the 2007-08 school year to more than 25 percent in 2015-16.
“Our state has become the poster child for abstinence-only-until-marriage sex education,” TFN president Kathy Miller said at the press conference.
At the Legislature, "It sometimes seems that sex education is a four-letter word to only be muttered in adult company," Miller said.
The report's executive summary says "Fear- and shame-based instruction is extremely common in Texas sex education classes, particularly in classrooms relying on abstinence-only curricula."
The summary said the "tone and content of most abstinence-only materials we reviewed are predominantly negative, (and) often describe human sexuality in terms of dangerous or shameful consequences (and those are regularly exaggerated)."
One school program tells students sexual activity can lead to suicide, and that "sex before marriage will doom them to failed relationships later in life," the summary said.
"Moreover, sexually active teens are portrayed as impure, dirty, and uncaring about their future," the summary continued. "The problem with this fear- and shame-based approach – beyond the lack of evidence that it is at all effective in changing behaviors – is that it is rarely accompanied by information about prevention strategies."
State Rep. Mary González, D-Clint, who also spoke at the news conference, said “Our students deserve far better than the myths and misinformation they learn in many sex education classes.”
She said it's hypocritical for Republican lawmakers to push to restrict access to abortion while not educating Texas students about sexual health and pregnancy prevention in the first place.
González has filed HB 1547, which would require sex education classes to include age-appropriate, evidence-based and medically accurate information on birth control as well as abstinence. She hopes that may help bring about a bipartisan conversation on the subject.
“For years polling has shown that the vast majority of Texans support teaching sex education that includes information on birth control," González said.
"More districts are doing that, but this Legislature should act to ensure that all sex education classes are fact-based and give students this critical information.”
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