Austin, TX — Today, State Rep. Ana-Maria Ramos (D-Richardson) filed the “Free Choice of Provider Act” (HB 3825) which is a critical step towards restoring patient access and repairing the reproductive health care safety net across the state following a decade of political attacks. State Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin), Texas Women’s Health Caucus Chair, State Rep. Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood) and State Rep. Shawn Thierry (D-Houston) will sign on to the House version of the bill as joint-authors. State Sen. Sarah Eckhardt (D-Austin) will soon file the Senate version of the bill.
Just yesterday, a state court ruled that Gov. Greg Abbott can ban Texans with low incomes who rely on Medicaid from receiving care at Planned Parenthood, putting one more hurdle in front of the same people who are struggling the most from COVID-19 and last month’s disastrous winter storm.
Trusted community health care providers like Planned Parenthood have been cut off from nearly all federal, state and local funding. This damaging political strategy has resulted in the closure of more than 80 family planning health centers across the state, putting affordable and accessible reproductive health care — including birth control, cancer screenings and STI testing and treatment — out of reach for tens of thousands of Texans.
The Free Choice of Provider Act would increase access to reproductive health care for people with low incomes, women and people of color through the following provisions:
Repealing limitations on federal and state family planning funding for reproductive health care providers,
Allowing for health centers that provide comprehensive reproductive health care to participate in the joint federal-state Healthy Texas Women Program,
And repealing the law that prohibits local governments from partnering with trusted community health care providers, such as Planned Parenthood.
Statement of Rep. Ana-Maria Ramos (D-Richardson)
“I know first-hand how access to reproductive health care can change the trajectory of your entire life and that is why I am introducing the Free Choice of Provider Act to make preventive and lifesaving health care more accessible across our state for people with low incomes, women and people of color.
“I was a teenage mother and utilized the health care services provided at Planned Parenthood to prevent a repeat teenage pregnancy. Although I was a high school drop-out and didn’t know what lay ahead in my future, access to Planned Parenthood empowered me to continue to fight for the little girl I had in my hands at 15. Every Texan deserves the same opportunity that I had — to go to the provider they know and trust to get the care they need, without political interference.
“The Free Choice of Provider Act is a critical step towards repairing 10 years worth of damage to our reproductive health care safety net that will save and improve the lives of people in our state who are in dire need of access to affordable health care.”
Statement of Sen. Sarah Eckhardt (D-Austin)
“When community health providers are shut out of our state healthcare system, our most vulnerable community members suffer. Texas has the highest uninsured rate in the nation, and we are currently facing a maternal mortality crisis that is affecting so many Black and Latinx mothers. The Texas Legislature should be doing all we can to expand access to life-saving, critical health care such as cancer screenings and HIV testing and prevention. This bill honors a patient’s right to choose their own medical provider, and restores access to affordable, essential healthcare for tens of thousands of Texans.”
Statement of Rep. Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood)
“When I was underinsured, I personally received screenings and treatment through Planned Parenthood, and I understand the difficulty people face in receiving reproductive health services. We need to do everything we can to restore access to these services for all Texans.”
Statement of Dyana Limon-Mercado, Executive Director, Planned Parenthood Texas Votes
“We have seen time and time again that when politicians dismantle sexual and reproductive health services people suffer, especially Black and Latinx communities who already struggle to get access to the health care they need because of racist legacies and health care practices.
“The Free Choice of Provider Act stands up for the people in our state, namely Black and Latinx women, who are too often overlooked by politicians. Access to vital reproductive health care has been under relentless political attack for the last decade, which is ten years too long. As we continue to struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic, this bill would increase health care access to qualified providers so that people can get the care they deserve. It is clear that this is a time when people need more access to health care, not less.”
Ten years of funding restrictions have forced too many Texans to put their health and their lives at risk. In fact, just five years after the state barred care at Planned Parenthood, nearly 45,000 fewer women were getting health care through the program — a 39 percent decrease. The number of women accessing birth control also dropped by 41 percent.
Texas has the highest proportion of residents who are uninsured in the country and for women of reproductive age. Additionally, publicly funded health centers in the state only meet 10 percent of the need for publicly funded family planning services in Texas.
Planned Parenthood Texas Votes (PPTV) is the nonpartisan policy, advocacy and political arm for the Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas.