The Texas Department of State Health Services wants to change the rules for what exactly must be reported about patients who get abortions in Texas and any procedures that have “complications.” They have gone around the Texas legislature, which did NOT pass the bill which would have made this new language the law (and if you can’t get the uber-conservative Texas legislature to pass an anti-choice bill, that is saying something about how extreme it is). The DSHS has now approved these regulations and the final step in the process is for Texas Health Human Services Commission to approve and adopt the new language.
The 30-day period where citizens of Texas could voice their opinions to the TX HHSC about the changes to the rules language for abortion facility licensing ended last weekend.
And so, on Friday, September 7, I spent a good chunk of my day driving around town trying to figure out exactly where I needed to go to drop off the print outs of 2 Change.org petitions (which had a combined total of 2500 signatures), 73 postcard petitions, a write-up I did on Keep Your BS Out of My Uterus about my dislike of the new regulations, as well as multiple articles by my friend and intrepid reporter, Andrea Grimes, who has covered this for RH Reality Check. Turns out, the DSHS has multiple locations scattered all over Austin. In the end, I located the right place and put all of this into the hands of Ellen Cooper.
Below is the letter I included on top of all of this when I turned it over to Ms. Cooper.
I do not believe that this will make a difference in the end. I imagine the HHSC will change these regulations without nary a concern about their impact on the lives of everyday Texans who just want to access the medical care they need.
Yet, I couldn’t simply do nothing. Sometimes, even in spite of inevitable failure, this type of everyday activism at least allows us to say, “We’re here, we’re unhappy, and we will let you know that every single step of the way.” There is something to be gained simply in the act of speaking up. At least, that is what I have to tell myself when the odds against us are stacked so high.
September 7, 2012
Texas Department of State Health Services
Texas Health and Human Services Commission
4900 N. Lamar Blvd.
Austin, TX 78751-2316
Manager, Facility Licensing Group, Regulatory Licensing Unit
Division of Regulatory Services
Department of State Health Services
P.O. Box 149347
Mail Code 2835
Austin, TX 78714-9347
To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing today to ask you to not formally adopt the new preamble and proposed rules language for abortion facility licensing that were recently approved for publication in the Texas Register.
As a citizen of this state, a woman, and a mother, I am extremely concerned about these new rules for two reasons.
First, Rep. Bill Zedler attempted to get similar language adopted democratically through the state legislature and he failed to so. As Andrea Grimes has reported (and is enclosed with this letter), Zedler’s office, fearing his amendments would fail, was in contact with the DSHS before the vote even took place in the legislature. DSHS was happy to comply and provide a work-around for Rep. Zedler. When Ms. Grimes contacted the DSHS in April 2012, they were unable to provide any substantial or pressing reason that these changes needed to happen now.
To this citizen of Texas, it is unclear why these new abortion facility licensing rules are needed, especially since the DSHS cannot articulate the reasons for them either.
Also, it is very concerning that the DSHS and now the HHSC are willing to assist Rep. Zedler in going around the democratic process.
Second, these new rules serve one main purpose: to intimidate abortion providers. In 139.5, “Additional Reporting Requirements for Physicians,” the language of the new rules reads, “physicians shall comply with this section when…abortion complications occur.” It goes on to say that “within 30 days after the date the complication is discovered, a physician shall submit an abortion complication report on a form provided by the department.” The report will include “date of abortion, type of abortion that cause or may have caused the complication, description of complications, number of weeks of gestation at which the abortion was performed, and the number of previous live births of the patient.” The language is vague, to say the least. What is a complication? How is a physician to know what exactly must be reported and when? Why do the new rules not make this much more clear?
I do not understand why the DSHS and HHSC would adopt this language unless they are trying to confuse physicians and catch them having not reported a “complication.” No doubt the result of the adoption of these rules will be to make physicians more nervous to perform what is a safe, legal medical procedure that many people in Texas want and need.
If this is the point of these rules, I am incredibly saddened and angered that the DSHS and HHSC would put the desires of a single male legislator over and above my reproductive health care.
Enclosed with my letter you will find these materials.
1) Two online petitions.
- One was collected before the DSHS hearing about these rules. It contains 1,831 signatures.
- The second I’ve collected over the last 2 months. It contains 738 total signatures, 253 from Texans.
On the second petition, there are signatures from people all over the state of Texas. Cities and towns represented on the petition are:
- Corpus Christi
- The Woodlands
- Round Rock
- Fort Worth
- Farmers Branch
- New Braunfels
- Sugar Land
- San Antonio
- San Juan
- Red Oak
- Rancho Viejo
- College Station
- El Paso
- Universal City
- Texas City
- Missouri City
- Point Comfort
- Cedar Hill
- Little Elm
- Flower Mound
While I am a lone voice, it is clear that this is a concern for Texans throughout the state. They are aware of what is happening with the DSHS, HHSC , Rep. Zedler, and the new abortion facility licensing rules.
These voices, these Texans, matter, too.
2) 73 postcard petitions with the names and signatures of patients and caregivers from Whole Women’s Health.
4) Multiple reports from Andrea Grimes on the subterfuge and silence surrounding these new rules.
[The five I included are:
- Texas Rep, Having Failed to Pass Anti-Choice Law, Orders Department of Health to Do His Bidding Anyway
- What’s Behind Texas’ Proposed New Abortion Reporting Requirements? No One Knows
- Unnecessary Restrictions on Abortion Care: How Democracy Side-Stepping Sausage Is Made, Texas-Style
- Texas Bureaucrats Listen To, But Do Not *Hear,* Concerns of Providers on Unnecessary Regulations
- In Letter, Texas Department of Health Accused by Ten Democratic Legislators of Subverting Democratic Process]
The comment period process exists for a reason, so that citizens of this state can weigh in on important changes that the DSHS and HHSC are going to make.
Since you have already gone around my voice once by choosing to do what the democratically-elected state legislature would not, I can only hope (even if it is a small one) that you will listen to me and my fellow citizens now.
Please do not formally adopt the new abortion facility licensing rules.