Councilmembers support bill to overturn abortion laws


by KRIS BETTS / KVUE News and photojournalist DATHAN HULL

Bio | Email | Follow: @KrisB_KVUE

Posted on January 8, 2014 at 11:18 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 8 at 11:21 PM

AUSTIN -- This week, three Austin City Council members announced their support for a federal bill that, if passed, would override state abortion restrictions, specifically House Bill 2 in Texas.

House Bill 2 is a sweeping abortion regulations bill that passed into law in 2013 despite an 11-hour filibuster and months of debate and protest.

Austin Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole said the new law restricts a woman's right to chose.

“I think it's very important that the women in Austin have full access to safe and legal reproductive services, and HB2 limits that," Cole said.

Now Cole, along with city council members Bill Spelman and Laura Morrison, is publically supporting a new bill called the Women’s Health Protection Act, and they’re taking their fight to U.S. Congress.

The Women’s Health Protection Act is a federal statute that would ban any state restrictions on abortion services, essentially rendering House Bill 2 null and void.

“We thought we needed to take an affirmative act to say that we did not support what the legislature had done,” said Cole.

In the council members' letter to Congress, they wrote, “It is our duty to protect constituents. Austin residents and those who may come to Austin should have access to safe, legal reproductive health care. We urge Congress and the Texas legislature to act to protect the health of our constituents by passing the Women's Health Protection Act and repealing HB2.”

The bill bans abortions after five months. Dr. Joe Pojman with Texas Alliance for Life said the current law doesn't block access to abortions, it just makes them safer.

“All four abortion facilities in the City of Austin continue to operate and provide abortions under HB2,” he said.

Pojman said Austin City Council's support of a federal bill to override state law is offensive.

“They have got to know that in practical terms, this bill would do no good, because one, it has no chance of passing in congress,” said Pojman, who said he also believes that undoing the bill’s safety standards is harmful to Texas women.

A national organization called the Center for Reproductive Rights went before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals this week to try and overturn parts of House Bill 2.

So far, the judges have not returned a decision.