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Reps. Howard and Davis Start Bipartisan Effort to Address Women's Health Services

On Jan. 22, the Texas Tribune will host a discussion featuring Reps. Donna Howard (D - Austin) and Sarah Davis (R - Houston).  Reps. Howard and Davis are heading a discussion about the future of family planning and women’s reproductive health services/policies in Texas. This is a shockingly impressive bipartisan effort.

The timing of the event could not be more perfect in its ability to create a stirring in the Austin community. First, this much needed discussion falls on the 40th anniversary of the groundbreaking Roe v. Wade decision. Second, Planned Parenthood just lost an appeal to temporarily rejoin the Texas Women’s Health Program. Finally, there have been many shocking reports concerning providers listed in the reformed WHP website that either do not provide women’s health services or were not actually participants.

In retrospect, those findings should not be that surprising. Despite Perry’s supersonic haste to exclude Planned Parenthood, alternatives to how the state would provide the $56 million needed to cover the loss of federal funding for the WHP were not sufficiently provided. Basically, the math did not add up.  

On Sept. 4, 2012, the two representatives both testified at the hearing concerning the unprecedented changes to the Texas Women’s Health Program hosted by the Texas Department of State Health Services. It will be very interesting to see such a bipartisan effort to address the state’s attack on women’s health considering the differences between the two representatives.

Rep. Howard has always been a champion in advocacy for women’s health services during her tenure as a representative. She is an open supporter of Planned Parenthood while her passionate opposition to Gov. Perry’s ridiculous one man agenda to dismantle women’s healthcare services is wonderful.  Just scroll through her Twitter to find her criticism of our esteemed governor and his ludicrous attempt to rid Texas of abortion providers.

On the other hand, Rep. Davis has an almost paradoxical relationship with women’s health legislation. Keep in mind that Rep. Davis voted in support of banning Planned Parenthood from the WHP because she opposes abortion yet she voted against the utterly offensive sonogram bill citing personal liberty as her reasoning. Davis seems to have reconsidered her opinion now that she sees the effects Perry’s ridiculous conditions upon the Texas Women’s Health Program. Maybe she realizes that Planned Parenthood does a variety of services. Hopefully, her turnaround will do good.

This commendable stab at true bipartisan cooperation will hopefully be a catalyst for proactive legislative attempts to protect women’s reproductive health services in Texas. Since the Legislature's attack on women’s health has been widely supported by conservative lawmakers, Davis’ support is crucial if the WHP has any chance for reform and future re-inclusion of Planned Parenthood.

Women and their families across the state have already suffered at the anti-abortion legislation. Now it seems that conservatives lawmakers are paying attention. As more and more conservative lawmakers see the negative effects of the new rules to WHP, maybe they will properly represent their constituents by demanding an end to the impositions and regulations on the WHP. The health of women should not be a partisan issue.

The discussion will take place at the Austin Club from 7:30-9 am. Though it is open to the public, everyone must RSVP to the event through the Texas Tribune’s event webpage.