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Pro-Choice Barriers

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Snap out of that auld-lang-syne reverie you latter-day Margaret Sangers. The luxury of hindsight is not accorded to the foes of anti-choice warriors, whose phalanxes are forever facing forward, lobbing the next round of restrictive legislation into the pre-filing bin. We will not therefore be reflecting on 2006’s gains and losses in this soundbite, but instead will sharpen our pens for Texas’s upcoming 80th Lege.

Anti-choice is an area in which San Antonio is a state leader (if you don’t include “accorded widespread respect” in your definition of “leader”), thanks to the efforts of Reproductive Rear Guard Frank Corte of House District 122. Undeterred by last session’s rejection, Corte has once again filed an “Informed Consent” bill that would require a physician to personally give women seeking an abortion the misleading “A Woman’s Right to Know” pamphlet that includes the unsubstantiated claim that an abortion can increase the risk of breast cancer. Under a 2003 law, a woman can choose to receive the information, and may get the info over the phone or on the Department of State Health Services website.

Corte also would like the state to require pharmacies that dispense emergency contraception to prominently display an 18-by-24-inch poster that announces: “If you believe that life begins at fertilization — the point where the sperm and egg unite — then you need to know that emergency contraception may either function as a contraceptive to prevent the egg and sperm from uniting or prevent the implantation of your already fertilized egg in your womb.” Under this law, pharmacies would also be required to keep a two-year record of customers who purchase EC.

Pampa rep Warren Chisum has been busy plotting to undercut women’s constitutionally guaranteed rights, too. On November 14, the first day lawmakers could pre-file for the 2007 session, he contributed a “trigger law” that would immediately make abortion illegal in the state if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. Right-wing radio crank Dan Patrick, newly elected to the state senate out of Harris County, is expected to file a companion bill as soon as he’s sworn in. Although Chisum’s bill follows a national mini-trend, Yvonne Gutierrez of the Planned Parenthood Trust of San Antonio and South Central Texas says any Lone Star initiatives may die in committee. “I do not see it reaching a full vote, because there are way too many legislators who don’t want to vote on this,” she says.

Gutierrez also notes that in addition to the six House seats that were picked up by pro-choice candidates this year, the House State Affairs Committee contains some reproductive-rights advocates, including San Antonio’s own Mike Villarreal. SA pharmacist Senator Leticia Van de Putte may also provide some protection from the other side of the aisle.

“Representative Corte and I agree on the reduction of abortion, but I just don’t think the way he’s trying to get at it is based on scientific evidence” says Van de Putte of Corte’s proposed EC pharmacy signs. She objects to the suggestion that EC interrupts a pregnancy that is already underway. “I think that women who show up with a prescription for the drug have already been over that fact with their physician, so they have already come to the decision that they want to prevent fertilization … Why not have signs that say, if you take Viagra this will cause an erection?”

Van de Putte adds that she is most concerned about the bill’s requirement that pharmacists collect the signatures of customers buying EC. “I think that’s probably a real invasion of privacy,” says the senator. “I would hope the purpose of the bill isn’t to intimidate or scare women who really want to prevent an unintended pregnancy.”


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