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Faith leaders, doctors speak out against Texas abortion bills

Opponents are taking a stand against Senate Bill 8 and House Bill 1515.

AUSTIN, Texas — Tuesday was a busy day for opponents of the bills introduced in Texas that would ban certain abortion procedures.

Faith leaders from across the state, as well as the organization Just Texas, met at the Capitol Tuesday morning to hold a prayer circle and press conference opposing bills they claim are "anti-women and anti-health," which are currently under consideration in the 87th Texas Legislature. 

Measures such as Senate Bill 8 and House Bill 1515, if signed into law, would ban certain health and abortion procedures at six weeks, before some women could even become aware that they are pregnant. Bills such as these have been called "heartbeat bills," because at six weeks is generally when a heartbeat can be detected in a fetus.

"Faith leaders of all backgrounds are united in their opposition to these draconian restrictions on bodily autonomy and moral agency," Just Texas wrote in a press release Tuesday. "Texas already is one of the most restrictive states in terms of abortion access. These measures are nothing more than politically motivated attacks, designed to distract from Texas leadership’s failure to address important issues like fixing the Texas power grid and ending the COVID pandemic."

Also on Tuesday, more than 200 doctors – including obstetrician gynecologists, family physicians, pediatricians, internists, emergency room physicians, psychiatrists, dermatologists and radiologists – signed an open letter to Speaker Dade Phelan and members of the House showing their opposition to SB 8, which is scheduled to be considered by the House on Wednesday.

SB 8 would ban abortion at six weeks and allow "any person" to sue any Texas physician who chooses to provide or refer a person for abortion care. Opponents say that because the cause of action of this bill is so broad, it would allow physicians, nurses, counselors, clinic staff, or family members of rape survivors to be sued by rapists and recover a minimum of $10,000 if successful.

"Bills like SB 8 create a chilling effect that might prevent physicians from providing information on all pregnancy options to patients out of fear of being sued," wrote the Trust Respect Access coalition. "Texans and their healthcare providers deserve the protection of doctor and patient confidentiality while discussing medical decisions, not further interference by the state."

The open letter can be read in full below:

Speaker Phelan and Members of the Texas House of Representatives, 

We write as licensed physicians caring for the diverse communities across Texas in strong opposition to Senate Bill 8 and House Bill 1515. We are deeply concerned by the provisions in these bills that create an unprecedented cause of action for the enforcement of healthcare regulations. In addition to placing medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion, these bills will place physicians at risk of frivolous lawsuits that threaten our ability to provide healthcare in Texas. 

We are specifically concerned that SB 8/HB 1515 grants “any person” the right to sue physicians and medical staff who may provide information or referrals for abortion care. This right to sue includes individuals who do not reside in Texas or have any connection to our patients. 

The language of SB 8/HB 1515 is written so broadly that the private cause of action could apply to all specialties, regardless of the type of medical care we provide. This includes pediatrics, primary care, emergency medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, surgery and internal medicine, to name just a few. It would impact all types of healthcare facilities, from private practices to community health centers and hospitals. 

Patients facing difficult medical decisions should be able to openly consult with their physicians about every option available to them in order to make an informed choice. When the state interferes in the doctor-patient relationship by enacting medically unnecessary restrictions or preventing us from making appropriate referrals for healthcare that a patient has decided to receive, it impedes open communication and can cause confusion and mistrust. 

SB 8/HB 1515 also worsens the stigma surrounding reproductive healthcare. These bills create a chilling effect that might prevent physicians from providing information on all pregnancy options to patients out of fear of being sued. The Texas legislature has no right to cause this type of grievous harm to Texas physicians or the people we serve. 

As physicians, we support every effort to make healthcare safer, but these bills do not do that. Regardless of our personal beliefs about abortion, as licensed physicians in Texas, we implore you to not weaponize the judicial branch against us to make a political point. As Texas physicians, we strongly oppose SB 8/ HB 1515 and urge you to stop these bills from becoming law.

To view the full list of signees, click here.

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