Austin City Council Members Speak Out in Support of Federal Women’s Health Protection Act, Call for Repeal of Texas HB2

Center for Reproductive Rights President Nancy Northup calls the move “brave,” urges more elected officials to support women’s health and rights

(PRESS RELEASE) Three city council members in Austin, Texas have urged the U.S. Congress to immediately pass the federal Women Health Protection Act—an historic piece of legislation introduced in November 2013 and designed to enforce and protect the rights of every woman to decide for herself whether to continue or end a pregnancy, regardless of where she lives.

In a letter sent today to members of Congress and the Texas State Legislature, Council Member Bill Spelman, Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole, and Council Member Laura Morrison also call for the repeal of House Bill 2—a state law passed last summer that has already had a devastating impact on women’s ability to safely and legally end a pregnancy throughout Texas.

“As City Council Members, it is our duty to protect our constituents,” the letter states. “Austin residents and those who may come to Austin should have access to safe, legal reproductive health care.”

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“In the face of a Texas law that has shuttered clinics and imposed huge burdens on women, these three city council members have bravely stepped forward in support of a federal measure that actually would protect the health, safety, and rights of every woman by outlawing the kind of harmful measures enacted in Texas.

“Laws like those recently passed in Texas have relegated far too many women in the U.S. to a second class of citizens whose rights and access to essential health services are determined by where they happen to live.

“The Women’s Health Protection Act would put a stop to laws and regulations passed by politicians who feign concern for women while actually interfering in their personal decisions and their ability to get the health care they want from the medical professionals they trust.

“We call on elected officials all across the country to follow the lead of these Austin city council members and support women’s rights and health by urging Congress to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act.”

Just yesterday, the Center for Reproductive Rights argued before a panel of judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in the lawsuit to overturn HB2’s provision requiring all abortion providers obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital—a measure that has halted abortion services at approximately one-third of abortion clinics across Texas.

The Women’s Health Protection Act (S 1691/HR 3471)—which was introduced last fall by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Rep. Judy Chu, Rep. Lois Frankel and Rep. Marcia Fudge—currently has 34 Senate sponsors and 92 sponsors in the House.

The bill would create a new federal statute that would ban state restrictions that block women’s access to abortion services through unnecessary and unjustifiable regulations. Under the Women’s Health Protection Act, states could no longer impose oppressive restrictions on reproductive health care providers that apply to no similar medical professionals. Laws could not be enacted that would interfere with women’s personal, private decision making or their access to the full range of safe, legal care at the expense of their health. The strong system of regulations that governs the provision of reproductive health care and truly ensures the safety of women would be maintained. Dangerous regulations passed under pretext that stifle access to abortion care and endanger women’s lives would be prohibited. The individual constitutional rights of every woman would once again be robustly protected and promoted under the law, no matter where she lives.