By: Sydney Greene

Thousands of anti-abortion Texans are expected to rally on the steps of the state Capitol on Saturday for the Texas Rally for Life, an event recognizing the 45th anniversary of what they consider the “tragic” Roe v. Wade decision.

But as attendees mourn the U.S. Supreme Court case that ensured a right to a legal abortion, they’ll also celebrate. This past year, they say, has brought “sensational” gains for their movement.

Those gains have come at both the federal and state level. President Donald Trump named a conservative justice to the Supreme Court and many conservatives to lower federal courts across the country. And in his first week in office, Trump’s administration re-established the Reagan-era Mexico City Policy, stopping international nongovernmental organizations that promote or provide abortions from receiving federal funding.

Meanwhile, the Republican-led Texas Legislature approved a slew of anti-abortion bills that were signed into law by GOP Gov. Greg Abbott, the keynote speaker at Saturday’s event. Those bills include measures requiring a woman to pay a separate health insurance premium to get coverage for non-emergency abortions and banning second trimester dilation and evacuation abortions. A bill requiring health providers to bury or cremate remains from abortions remains tied up in court.

The website publicizing the weekend rally sums up the excitement. “Your presence will reaffirm recent sensational pro-life gains accomplished the state legislative sessions in 2017,” it says.

Several abortion rights groups decd to comment for this story. But they have argued that Texas leaders have made the state less safe for women.

“Texas women deserve access to the health care that is best for them and their personal circumstances — not abortion restrictions pushed by extreme anti-abortion organizations,” said Amanda Allen, senior state legislative counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights, after one sweeping abortion measure passed through the Texas Legislature this year.

But attempts by lawmakers to fight abortion in Texas are nothing new. The biggest changes for anti-abortion activists have come at the federal level. During the 45th Annual March for Life in Washington this month, Trump became the first sitting president to address the annual rally live via video, a move that excited anti-abortion Texans. That kind of attention has made Trump’s presidency especially popular in the anti-abortion movement.

“He has nominated judges who respect the Constitution as it’s written,” said Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life. “We are very pleased with the work the president and the vice president have been doing.”

By: Ryan Poppe

Gov. Greg Abbott appealed to the Trump administration Tuesday for federal money to help fund the state’s Healthy Texas Women’s program. The Obama administration in 2013 withheld the money when the state blocked abortion facilities like Planned Parenthood from those funds.

Abbott’s office submitted what’s known as a federal 1115 waiver, which, if approved, would allow the state — through a 90-10 matching grant — to receive and re-distribute federal Medicaid dollars to facilities that do not provide abortion services.

The Healthy Texas Women program was created in 2013 as a way for the governor’s office to fund obstetric and gynecological clinics that did not provide abortion care, like the Institute for Women’s Health in San Antonio, which provide OB-GYN exams and screenings.

The program’s chief operations officer Susan Griffith said the program allows low-income women to not only afford these services but also have follow-up care.

“You know the lower income population won’t seek health care because they cannot afford it,” Griffith said. “… With women, this can lead to lots of issues, including prenatal problems. … So with this program, we are able to offer those services and make sure they are staying on top of their health needs”.

The Trump administration decided that the “freedom of choice” provision under Medicaid would not be permitted, allowing states like Texas to exclude Planned Parenthood and other facilities providing abortion services from receiving federal Medicaid funding.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, a national organization that advocates for women’s access to abortion services, estimates that Texas serves 44,000 fewer women since Planned Parenthood was excluded from the program.

Yvonne Gutierrez, the executive director for the advocacy group Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, said the change had negative health consequences for Texas women.

“We have seen what has happened in Texas when you are banning Planned Parenthood from being able to provide care: Women are losing access to care,” Gutierrez said.

But Joe Pojman, executive director for the Texas Alliance for Life, said the state’s taxpayers should not be forced to fund facilities that perform abortions.

“We don’t think that they should be funded through tens of millions of our tax dollars, and they should not be the ambassadors of that program and promote abortion to low-income women,” Pojman said.

Abortion rights advocates believe if the Trump administration approves the governor’s request, it will likely result in a federal lawsuit.

By: Ashley Lopez

But Joe Pojman, the executive director of Texas Alliance for Life, said the new reporting requirements are inadequate. Along with the governor, he wants to see that data-collection system expanded to include reporting for complications during an abortion.

“This bill would simply require hospitals who treat a woman for an abortion complication or … the physician who performs an abortion and causes a complication … to report that to the state,” he said.

Pojman said he suspects that abortion complications are being underreported and this would allow the state to get a sense of whether there are problems.

“It may be that the number of complications is sufficient to increase the safety standards of abortion facilities,” he said. “If so, this law should tell us that.”

By: Ashley Lopez

“The Hyde Amendment is not adequate,” said Joe Pojman, executive director for Texas Alliance for Life, referring to a law Congress passed in the 1970s that prohibits federal taxpayer dollars for paying for abortions.

Pojman said he wants to see stronger legislation.

“It is possible under current law for certain cities or counties to make contracts with abortion providers – even for abortions themselves – and for affiliates of abortion providers,” he said. “And we think that’s essentially funding the abortion industry.”