By John Seago
Early Friday morning, the House of the Representatives in the Texas Legislature preliminarily adopted a C.S.S.B. 1, after 15 hours of debate. The adopted House two-year budget bill included multiple Pro-Life measures including the two top priorities for Texas Right to Life.
While many Pro-Life topics and policies were debated, Texas Right to Life spearheaded efforts to fully fund the Alternatives to Abortion program and to adopt a budget-wide rider prohibiting abortion providers and affiliates from receiving state funding.
In the earlier drafts of the 2018-2019 state budget, the social services network of adoption agencies, maternity homes, and pregnancy centers was underfunded. Since the Alternatives to Abortion program was established in 2005, the program has substantially grown into a robust, statewide life-affirming resource offering pregnant and new parents support. This program offers services like counseling and parenting classes, and provides diapers, formula, and job skill training.
The budget from the 84th Session of the Texas Legislature appropriated $18.3 million, which fostered expansion of the number of service providers and geographical areas served. However, the current shortfall during this fiscal year leaves invoices unpaid plus a waiting list of qualified providers wishing to serve Texas women.
Insufficient funds limit the program. At the beginning of this Legislative Session, Governor Abbott called for a substantial increase to fund the Alternatives to Abortion appropriation for the 2018-2019 biennium. Texas Right to Life worked closely with Pro-Life champions like Representatives Matt Krause, Mike Lang, Mike Schofield, and Matt Shaheen to increase the funding on the floor.
After fighting anti-Life democrats as well as moderate Republicans, the $20 million dollar increase was passed, totaling an appropriation of $38.3 million dollars for the 2018-2019 biennium. This was a hard fought victory for these Pro-Life Representatives, Texas Right to Life, and Texas parents.
Secondly, the preliminary draft of the budget approved by the Texas House last night includes a much-needed budget-wide Pro-Life rider prohibiting abortion providers and their affiliates from receiving state funding. Until now the state of Texas has been playing a big game of whack-a-mole with Planned Parenthood; only adopting narrow Pro-Life riders to keep abortion providers and their affiliates out of specific programs.
Last year, Texas Right to Life discovered that despite the Legislature’s Pro-Life efforts, Texas taxpayers were still sending more than $517,000 to Planned Parenthood. This funding was not in one specific program or even one specific state agency, but scattered through the budget. This is why Texas Right to Life worked closely with legislators in both chambers to end to the whack-a-mole game and adopt broad language barring the abortion industry from any program, in any section of the budget. Representatives Matt Rinaldi, Matt Schaefer, and Drew Springer led the effort to attach the protection to the budget.
Thankfully these two provisions were adopted. However, neither the increase to the Alternatives to Abortion program nor the strong budget-wide rider are final yet. After one last vote in the House later today, the budget will move into conference where ten legislators will negotiate and write the final version of the budget, which could include a reduction of the funding for the Alternatives to Abortion and strip the budget-wide rider from the budget before the bill is sent to the Governor’s desk.
Texas Right to Life will continue to closely follow C.S.S.B. 1 and work hard to ensure no ground is lost in the backroom deals and clandestine meetings of the budget conference committee.