Don’t Let Women’s Rights Get Left Behind

by Melissa Davila, intern in the office of Representative Jessica Farrar

It has been almost 140 days since the 85th Legislative Session started, but it feels like it just started yesterday. I remember the day I spoke to my family about applying to this unique opportunity and whether the experience was worth putting my life on hold for. The experience has definitely been worth it. However, as much as I have enjoyed and learned this session, the last three weeks have been very hard. My office was striving to survive the long hours, and most importantly, we were striving to survive the disappointment of watching good bills that were filed fail to be passed, and bad bills end up passing despite fear and opposition from constituents and legislative members.

Although I felt that nothing was going to affect me as much as SB 4 – the anti-sanctuary city law signed by Gov. Abbott last week – I was wrong. The passage of SB 8 was very hard, as I felt so connected with this issue. So, what is SB8? This legislation relates to prohibiting certain abortions and the treatment and disposition of a human fetus, human fetal tissue, and embryonic and fetal tissue remains. It creates a civil cause of action, imposes a civil penalty, and creates criminal offenses. Now, let’s be clear, I personally would not suggest to a woman or a couple to have an abortion, but I would also never question anyone’s decision to have one.

I chose to study social work due to my previous employment. I worked at Texas Children’s Hospital in the department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation where I was able to learn about different diagnoses and the many medications and treatment that children with diseases and illnesses need to survive. This has led me to have so many mixed emotions as I have witnessed this issue myself. I have seen how much a woman suffers from an unplanned pregnancy. Having a child from an unplanned pregnancy is impactful enough on a woman’s life, but can be especially difficult if the father chooses not to be part of the pregnancy. I was already struggling trying to digest this type of legislation when Rep. Matt Schaefer, who was also one of the authors of the House’s version of SB 4’s “Papers Please” provision, proposed an amendment on the floor. He was attempting to revive HB 87, a bill that had previously died in the State Affairs committee, which sought to remove the current exception for women to receive abortion care after 20 weeks if the fetus has severe fetal abnormalities.

Thankfully, State Affairs Chairman Byron Cook spoke against the amendment. He shared the testimony of many parents and physicians who went through a pregnancy where the fetus had a severe fetal abnormality and the anguish the family goes through in those situations. He asked for the House to vote no on the amendment. The amendment was eventually defeated 71-65, which was still too close.  The debate around the bill and the amendments filed on the bill were emotional and tense. However, the best moment of the night was when Representative Donna Howard gave an amazing and heartfelt speech and pointed out several issues with the legislation.

After all of the grief, emotions, and passionate pleas, I was left with several thoughts. Why doesn’t the Legislature try to stop abortion by preventing the need for an abortion in the first place rather than making abortions illegal? Why doesn’t the Legislature ensure schools provide accurate and adequate sexual education to our students? Why doesn’t the Legislature make birth control affordable for women? I believe that SB 8 will not prevent abortions, SB 8 will just make abortions unsafe.

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About GCSW Legislative Interns

This blog is brought to you courtesy of The Graduate College of Social Work's Austin Legislative Internship Program. The College selects graduate MSW students to intern at the Texas Legislature during its legislative session every two years. Student interns work as full-time staffers in the Legislature, either as policy analysts with the Legislative Study Group, a Caucus of the Texas House of Representatives, or in legislators’ offices. Here, they will share their unique experiences!
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