Among the 20 items Gov. Greg Abbott has asked legislators to tackle during the upcoming special session is a push to block all taxpayer funds from being sent to abortion providers.
Right now, both federal and state policies prohibit the use of taxpayer money for abortions, but anti-abortion activists want lawmakers to go further.
“The Hyde Amendment is not adequate,” said Joe Pojman, executive director for Texas Alliance for Life, referring to a law Congress passed in the 1970s that prohibits federal taxpayer dollars for paying for abortions.
Pojman said he wants to see stronger legislation.
“It is possible under current law for certain cities or counties to make contracts with abortion providers – even for abortions themselves – and for affiliates of abortion providers,” he said. “And we think that’s essentially funding the abortion industry.”
For example, Pojman said, Austin has contracts with Planned Parenthood, which he’s not happy about.
Amanda Williams, executive director of the Lilith Fund, said the fight isn't about funding for abortions; it’s about blocking localities from contracting with groups like Planned Parenthood for anything.
In Austin, Williams said, that includes contracts for things like sex education.
“So it doesn’t really have anything to do with abortion funding at all," she said, "but of course it does target local providers and would really be a disservice to communities who depend on local providers for education and resources that are really valuable."
Blake Rocap, legislative counsel for NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, said this is yet another example of the state trying to limit local control.
He said the state is telling local governments who they can work with, "which is the exact antithesis of small government – no interference in private transactions."
Anti-abortion advocates said the state does have a right to step in on this issue, however.
Even if the contracts are for services other than abortions, Pojman said, he takes issue with taxpayer funding going to Planned Parenthood in general.
“That means the taxpayers of Austin or anyone who comes to Austin and purchases any kind of item and pays sales tax is essentially funding Planned Parenthood, which is the largest provider of abortions in Texas,” he said.
Canceling Austin's contract with Planned Parenthood could lead to more health problems, opponents argue. One of the current contracts between the city and the nonprofit pays for a program that teaches teenage women how to reduce their risk of getting HIV or STDs – and avoid unintended pregnancies.