After 15 hours of debate, the House of the Representatives in the Texas Legislature passed their version of the state’s two-year budget (C.S.S.B. 1). The House draft included multiple Pro-Life measures, including the two top priorities for Texas Right to Life. While the state’s general appropriations bills may not immediately seem like a Pro-Life battleground, history has shown how important the budget is to the Pro-Life movement. This sessions, Texas Right to Life spearheaded critical efforts to adopt a budget-wide rider prohibiting abortion providers and their affiliates from receiving state funding and to fully fund the Alternatives to Abortion (A2A) program.
Unsurprisingly, anti-Life Democrats opposed adopting a budget-wide Pro-Life rider prohibiting abortion providers and their affiliates from receiving state funding. In recent years, protecting the abortion giant Planned Parenthood has become the Democrat party’s sacrosanct duty. The budget needed stronger language to bar Planned Parenthood and their ilk from receiving state funds. For years, Texas has played a big game of whack-a-mole, ousting abortion businesses from one program only to find them in another. Of course, Democrats were outraged by this budget rider that cut the more than $517,000 paycheck being sent to the culture of death each fiscal year in Texas.
However, why the anti-Life Democrats would oppose the second Pro-Life goal for the budget is perplexing. Why would the usual big-spenders on government programs oppose increasing funding to an award-winning social services network of adoption agencies, maternity homes, and pregnancy centers. Texas Right to Life showed elected officials the critical need of expanding the underfunded statewide program that seeks to support expectant and new parents who choose Life. Since the establishment of A2A in 2005, this program has offered services like counseling and parenting classes and provided diapers, formula, and job-skill training.
This year we’ve seen unprecedented bipartisanship and collegiality in the Capitol when some Republicans announced the need to spend more money on CPS and Pre-Kindergarten. However, the same pro-abortion Democrats were absolutely silent when, earlier this session, Governor Greg Abbott called for a substantial increase to funding the Alternatives to Abortion appropriation for the 2018-2019 biennium.
Perhaps, tax-and-spend liberals oppose this budget item simply because they will not support anything that undermines abortion. After all, the name Alternatives to Abortion reveals the purpose of the program. This session, the anti-Life lobby has touted “Abortion is healthcare”; the Democrats have donned T-shirts that proclaim, “I love abortion”; and anti-Life legislators have even filed crude, satirical bills equating taking innocent human life to masturbation. By supporting A2A, anti-Life Democrats would be conceding that Texans should have alternatives. Refusing to support women who do not choose abortion, Democrats reveal that they are not pro-choice; they are pro-abortion.
The fact that Texas Right to Life and Pro-Life legislators created and are the sole defenders of A2A is a sharp rebuke to the erroneous claim that our movement is merely ‘pro-birth,’ neither caring for nor working to support women after they choose to have their babies. In fact, conservative elected officials routinely fight riders, bills, and budget amendments, like the five filed this session, that seek to undermine, cut, or completely eliminate A2A, a supportive lifeline for low-income families in Texas.
This session, Pro-Life champions Representatives Matt Krause and Mike Schofield (two Representatives not known to advocate for any growth of government) laid out the amendment to increase the funding of A2A on the House floor. In an odd moment of role reversal, tax-and-spend Democrats, who were simultaneously cheerleading raiding the Rainy Day Fund, started lecturing the Pro-Life legislators on “truth in budgeting” and warned about “diverting funding from its original purpose.”
In a brilliant strategy, Representatives Schofield and Krause proposed diverting money to the Pro-Life program from the “Air Quality and Assessment Planning” strategy in the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s budget. Anti-Life Democrats bemoaned “pro-birthers” who only care about the babies before they’re born and neglect children who need clear air. This whining fell flat, however, when Representative Krause pointed out that Democrats had voted to divert that very same funding earlier in the day. The Air Quality program was budgeted to receive $25 million more than the agency requested, and anti-Life Democrats were eager to use that funding elsewhere as long as the money did not go to a life-affirming program.
Even Pro-Life legislators known for very conservative fiscal views, including Representatives Matt Rinaldi, Jonathan Stickland, and Tony Tinderholt, voted for the funding increase. And so, after fighting the indignant anti-Life Democrats and apathetic moderate Republicans, the $20 million increase to A2A was passed, totaling an appropriation of $38.3 million dollars for the 2018-2019 biennium.
Texas Right to Life is proud to work closely with some of the most passionate and savvy conservatives in the House of Representatives, who overcame the fake outrage and malicious attacks on budget night. Because of the hard work of committed Pro-Life Representatives, the House adopted two Pro-Life provisions. However, the fight is not over. Neither the increase to the Alternatives to Abortion program nor the strong budget-wide rider are final. After one last vote in the House, the budget will move into conference. 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.