Austin City Council votes to pay lobbyists for Planned Parenthood

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At Thursday’s meeting of the Austin City Council, councilmembers considered a controversial agenda item.  As reported earlier this week, Agenda Item 39 is a resolution that would force Austin taxpayers to foot the bill for de facto Planned Parenthood lobbyists at the state and federal levels.  The resolution went so far as to state explicitly that the city’s lobbying position would be to “support any legislation that would maintain or expand funding for Planned Parenthood” and “oppose any legislation that would reduce funding for Planned Parenthood.”

Not once during the meeting did anti-Life councilmembers mention that Planned Parenthood, an organization riddled with scandal and lagging public support, is already funded by the federal government with more than half a billion dollars and has their own lobbyists at the state and federal levels.  Nor did anyone mention the fact that Planned Parenthood is technically a private organization, whose public funding has taken up a significant amount of national debate and gridlocked the United States Congress.

Agenda Item 39, adding the support of Planned Parenthood funding to the city’s legislative agenda, was placed on the consent (or uncontested) agenda less than a week before the council meeting, not even going through a committee hearing process like most of the other agenda items.  Councilman Don Zimmerman successfully removed the item from the consent agenda, allowing public debate to take place on the item before a vote.

Several Pro-Life advocates testified against Item 39.  Texas Right to Life’s Legislative Director and Austin resident, John Seago, spoke against the resolution, pointing out that using city funds to promote Planned Parenthood was “unethical, imprudent, and misguided.”  Given Planned Parenthood’s disregard for the law caught on tape in the videos released this summer by the Center for Medical Progress and subsequent state and federal investigations, the public injustice of abortion, and the factual inaccuracies contained in the resolution in question, Seago asked the council to vote against the resolution.  

Nicole Hudgens of Texas Values also spoke against the resolution, enumerating the alternatives to Planned Parenthood for comprehensive women’s healthcare for low-income Austinites.  Federally qualified community health centers provide health services for women and their families without committing abortion.

Councilmembers Ellen Troxclair and Don Zimmerman argued against the resolution.  Troxclair highlighted the comprehensive health centers in Austin, which outnumber Planned Parenthood affiliates by far, and suggested that Item 39 was not concerned with expanding women’s access to healthcare but with funding a single organization – Planned Parenthood.  Zimmerman noted the inconsistency of Item 39’s emphasis on “reproductive rights” which was almost exclusively concerned with ending pregnancies rather than assisting women who wanted children but might have fertility difficulties. 

Councilmember Ora Houston rejected the commonsense Pro-Life opposition to the city council’s radical support of the nation’s largest abortion business.  She used the line that “nobody can tell me what to do with my body,” entirely ignoring the body of the abortion victim.

Planned Parenthood Greater Texas spokeswoman Sarah Wheat asked the council to approve the resolution immediately without amendments, mentioning that Planned Parenthood was under eight state and federal investigations in Texas.

The resolution passed 8-2, with Pro-Life councilmembers Don Zimmerman and Ellen Troxclair voting no.  We can expect to see lobbyists for the City of Austin walking the halls of the Texas Capitol in 2017 lobbying for Planned Parenthood with the tax dollars of Pro-Life Austinites.

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