This week, our Texas Thorn is Rep. Steve Toth, one of the members of the Texas Freedom Caucus, which has less to do with “freedom” and more to do with controlling people’s bodies and lives regarding reproductive health and gender identity.
One of the most extreme bills Toth authored this legislative session is House Bill 2690 (HB 2690), which would require internet providers to block access to all websites providing information intended to assist or facilitate access to abortions or abortion drugs within or outside of Texas. The bill had broad and unclear provisions that could lead internet providers to ban nearly all websites with information about abortion to shield themselves from potential liability. Restricting people’s access to information is a threat to our fundamental rights. Though the bill died unceremoniously, we strongly suggest the Texas Freedom Caucus members read up on the First Amendment in their next meeting.
During this legislative session, Toth has been extremely vocal about his opposition to gender-affirming care and even participated in the anti-gender-affirming care lobby day. He has also authored over 20 anti-LGBTQ+ bills, including HB 1686 – the House companion to the recently passed SB 14, which prohibits physicians from providing evidence-based, life-saving care for transgender youth.
So much for belonging to the party of “small government”. It seems like Representative Toth has no problem meddling in Texans’ personal lives as long as it meets his political agenda and ideological preferences.
This week’s Legislative Star is none other than Chairwoman Donna Howard! Chair Howard is the Chair of the Texas Women's Health Caucus in the House and is one of Planned Parenthood’s fiercest Champions. She is the House author of C.A.R.E No Matter What Act (HB 3606/SB 1314). HB 3606 would've restored state and federal funding to providers like Planned Parenthood and make essential reproductive health care more affordable and accessible for Texans, especially people with low incomes, women, people in rural areas, and communities of color. Despite the tremendous impact it could've had, the bill died in committee without ever receiving a hearing.
Rep. Howard is also the author of HB 300, which would eliminate the sales tax on essential family care items and menstruation products such as diapers, tampons, wipes, and breast pumps, making them more affordable for all Texans. This is a great step towards period equity and minimizing the staggering costs of baby and children’s products. Rep. Howard is also a joint author of HB 12, which intends to expand Medicaid coverage for new moms to 12 months postpartum to reduce Texas’ dangerous maternal mortality and morbidity rates.
Thank you, Chair Howard, for being at the forefront of the fight for reproductive freedom and for your unwavering support of Planned Parenthood. Texans appreciate your commitment to quality healthcare for all!