This year, we’re celebrating a Women’s History Month like no other.
Since 1987, Women’s History Month has been celebrated across the country to honor the role of women in history and the present day. In 2021, Women’s History Month falls during a historic pandemic — and a Texas legislative session.
From Ann Richards to Barbara Jordan, from Wendy Davis to Lina Hidalgo, Texas has a long history of strong women fighting for a better future for all. Today, women in the Texas legislature spend each day advocating for important issues that directly affect women across the state.
There’s no denying that the Texas Legislature isn’t a very friendly place for women’s rights. But while the Republican Party tries to eliminate abortion and sustain sexist inequalities, these are the people making positive change.
Here’s how progressive legislators at the Texas Capitol are fighting for women’s issues during the 87th legislative session.
Texas Women’s Health Caucus
It’s impossible to write about women’s issues at the Texas Legislature without acknowledging the amazing work being done by the Texas House Women’s Health Caucus. Made up of female and male legislators, the WHC helps ensure that women’s issues don’t get overlooked at the state Capitol. Their main goals include promoting women’s healthcare and educating both legislators and Texans on the necessity of these services.
Members of the Women’s Health Caucus have identified important priorities for this year’s legislative session, including eliminating systemic disparities in women’s health, protecting reproductive rights, and expanding access to contraception. Give them a follow, and be sure to support their vital and necessary work!
Bills that support Texas women
In a legislature that is still dominated by men, women’s issues can go overlooked and unheard. These bills would address issues affecting women across our state, and passing them would make a big impact in reducing inequalities.
Four different bills at the Texas legislature aim to eliminate the tampon tax, the state tax placed on feminine hygiene products. Although the State of Texas exempts a variety of sanitary items from the state sales tax, menstrual products aren't included, placing a greater burden on low-income women as well as trans folks and nonbinary Texans in our state. HB 321 (Rep. Howard), HB 388 (Rep. Pacheco), HB 490 (Rep. Wu), and SB 148 (Sen. Powell) get rid of the tampon tax for good.
HB 1953, also filed by Rep. Howard, removes any liability for Texans donating feminine hygiene products to those in need. This bill makes it easier for Texans to access necessary menstrual products.
It’s an unfortunate fact that women in Texas still face discrimination, harrassment, and unequal opportunities in the workplace. These bills would help change that. SB 578 by Sen. Eckhardt would prohibit businesses from discriminating against an employee’s reproductive decisions. SB 45 by Sen. Zaffirini would prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace.
Reproductive healthcare is one of the most important issues at the State Capitol, as Republicans file bills each year to prohibit abortion care. Thankfully, women’s rights advocates fight back, and anti-choice Republicans have been unsuccessful. Take a look at a few bills that would benefit womens’ reproductive rights this year.
SB 448 (Sen. Eckardt) and HB 1362 (Rep. Cole) both expand healthcare coverage for abortions. HB 2651 (Rep. J. González) expands healthcare coverage for contraceptive drugs, and HB 835 (Rep. Howard) adds contraception to the child health plan. HB 2679 (Rep. M. González) establishes a comprehensive sex education program that covers important women’s health issues.
Texas has a maternal mortality crisis, and Black and Hispanic mothers are more likely to die after childbirth in our state. In percentage of women insured at childbirth, Texas ranks dead last.
A number of bills have been filed to expand Medicaid coverage for women for up to a year after their pregnancy. These bills include HB 98 (Rep. Ortega), HB 107 (Rep. S. Thompson), HB 133 (Rep. Rose), HB 146 (Rep. Thierry), HB 414 (Rep. Walle), SB 141 (Sen. Johnson) and SB 1187 (Sen. Alvarado).
Rep. Talarico has also filed HB 331, a bill to offer maternal home-visiting programs, which can help reduce negative health outcomes for mothers after childbirth.
How you can help
If you see a bill that you’re interested in fighting for, you can contact your representative to tell them to vote in favor. You can also ask your representative about testifying at the State Capitol, where you can share your story and show support for crucial legislation.
You can also take small steps everyday to fight sexism and discrimination. If you hear a sexist joke or remark, call it out! If there’s a female candidate running for office in your area, take some time to volunteer.
This month may be Women’s History Month, but together, we can fight for Texas women all year round.
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