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Austin City Council Continues to Champion Reproductive Justice, Calls on Congress to Do the Same

by: Genevieve Cato

Thu Jan 09, 2014 at 04:30 PM CST

On Tuesday, three members of the Austin City Council called upon Congress and the Texas Legislature to stand up for women's health. Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole and Council Members Bill Spelman and Laura Morrison wrote a letter to Congress and the Legislature urging the passage of the Women's Health Protection Act and the repeal of House Bill 2. The letter states:

Austin residents and those who may come to Austin should have access to safe, legal reproductive health care. We urge Congress and the Texas Legislature to act to protect the health of our constituents by passing the WHPA and repealing House Bill 2.

Austin City Council has a history of fighting for reproductive justice, and this letter is a continuation of their commitment to women's health.

More on the letter, the support of other Council Members, and the past work of the Council below the jump.

In the letter, the full text of which is available here, the Council speaks to their "duty to protect our constituents," and how that duty sometimes leads them to lend their input on matters at the state and federal level. For legislation with such direct impact on women's health, the need to act was clear.

We believe that the WHPA is necessary to protect Austin residents and those who may come to Austin to receive health care. We urge Congress and the Legislature of the State of Texas to protect each woman's health, her right to determine whether and when to bear a child, and her ability to exercise that right.

The Council Members also point to the importance of health care services available in Austin after the passage of House Bill 2, which leaves Austin as one of a handful of cities where women can access abortion services. The Women's Health Protection Act seeks to limit the abilities of state legislatures to enact unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive healthcare, and to limit the passage of TRAP laws such as House Bill 2 at the state and local level. For the Austin City Council, these two pieces of legislation both stand to impact the city's ability to provide reproductive healthcare services to everyone who needs them within the city.

The Open Meetings Act doesn't allow for more than three Council Members to work on a particular issue, which is why the letter was limited to coming from Spelman, Cole, and Morrison. Council Member Mike Martinez has issued a statement in support of the letter, saying,

I believe firmly that Roe v. Wade clearly establishes the constitutional right for a woman to determine her own destiny. In the past three years, we've seen more laws pass around the country restricting access to reproductive healthcare than in the past decade. The passage of HB2 last summer showed us how far lawmakers will go to play politics with women's healthcare for the sake of their own professional gain. Those of us working on the local level see firsthand the negative effects these laws have on the everyday lives of our residents in our communities. It's time we protect the safety and health of our constituents-I also urge our Congress and the Texas Legislature to pass the WHPA and repeal HB2.

This is not the first time that the Council has sought to address reproductive health issues. In 2010, the Council passed an ordinance that required Crisis Pregnancy Centers to display signs stating that they did not provide or refer for abortion or FDA approved methods of contraception. Following a lawsuit, the Council passed a new ordinance in 2012 requiring CPCs to display a sign stating whether a licensed medical provider is on site. The suit is still pending, and so is the enforcement of the ordinance.  

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