Texas Votes To Cut Funds From Clean Air Programs & Redirect The Money To Anti-Abortion Initiatives

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On Thursday evening, the Texas State House of Representatives voted to take money from clean air initiatives and give it to the state’s Alternatives to Abortion (A2A) initiative, which, according to the Huffington Post, funds "faith-based, non-medical crisis pregnancy centers." The House voted 131-16 to cut $20 million from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) air quality assessment and planning program and use the money to instead further fund the A2A's controversial "crisis pregnancy centers."

The vote to divert funds from clean air initiatives to the state's Alternatives to Abortion initiative came during a hearing on the Texas House's proposed $218 billion budget. Republicans argued that the TCEQ's air quality initiative was overfunded, so the party sponsored (and passed) two bills transferring this so-called "surplus money" to A2A. According to the Texas Observer, many Texas House Democrats wholeheartedly disagreed that the TCEQ program was overfunded. They also lambasted Republicans for transferring the cut funds to A2A, noting both the initiative's questionable reputation and the fact that Republicans seemingly did not know whether or not A2A even had requested an increase in funds.

A2A's aforementioned questionable reputation exists because the program funds crisis pregnancy centers which essentially present themselves as bonafide medical centers, though they are not. According to the Texas Observer, these crisis pregnancy centers often provide women with flawed advice that is medically unsound. As the Observer put it,

Investigations have found these [centers] provide scientifically inaccurate information to pregnant women, including claims that having an abortion would increase risk of breast cancer, infertility, and psychological trauma — statements that have been debunked by the Texas Medical Association.

Thus, the Texas House of Representatives essentially voted to transfer funds from a program dedicated to providing clean air for all Texas to a program which seemingly aims to discourage women from having abortions by providing them with medically-inaccurate information that induces fear around the abortion procedure. NARAL Pro-Choice Texas Executive Director Heather Busby decried this decision in a statement she released on Thursday morning, as reported by the Huffington Post.

In her statement, Busby condemned the Texas legislature for its seemingly misguided priorities, saying,

It is shameful that the state continues to give millions of health care dollars to non-medical entities that lie to, shame and manipulate Texans considering an abortion... Especially at a time when vulnerable children are dying in foster care, public education remains chronically underfunded and cuts to Medicaid for disabled kids remain in place.

In addition to transferring funds to A2A, the Texas Observer reported that in the same budget hearing the Texas legislature also approved a proposal to ban federal funding from going to entities that perform abortions, like Planned Parenthood. The legislature also rejected a proposal to transfer $4 million from the A2A initiative to Texas family planning services, which have been repeatedly cut over the past several years.

Overall, in my opinion Thursday marked a significant step backwards for women's reproductive freedom, public health, and environmental preservation in Texas. While perhaps not surprising due to Texas' penchant for passing harsh anti-abortion legislation, it is nonetheless always disquieting to see such regressive policies come to fruition. Hopefully the Texas State Senate will reject these funding decisions and not allow them to become a part of the state's official budget.