On Monday, March 15th, Senate State Affairs committee is hearing SB 650, a bill that will ban local governments from supporting people seeking abortion access. Because the Senate rejected calls to make public hearings COVID safe, our executive director Rosann Mariappuram dropped off written testimony OPPOSING SB 650. 

My name is Rosann Mariappuram, and I am the executive director of Jane’s Due Process, a nonprofit organization that helps young people in Texas navigate parental consent laws and confidentially access abortion, birth control and other reproductive healthcare. 

I am testifying in opposition of Senate Bill 650. SB 650 will prohibit governments from budgeting their own funds to provide practical support services for people seeking abortion care. Funding practical support for accessing healthcare services does not violate any existing abortion restrictions in Texas. SB 650 is unnecessary state interference into the purview of local public health officials.

Jane’s Due Process is a grantee of the 2019 budget funding approved by Austin City Council to provide practical assistance for people seeking abortion care. We see everyday first-hand the ways in which a lack of resources can push abortion out of reach for people already struggling to get by. This funding has been a critical support for people seeking abortion care, even more so in 2020 and 2021 with the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the young people Jane’s Due Process serves, a major barrier to abortion care is having to navigate the legal system because of Texas’ parental consent requirement for abortion. While the majority of young people involve a parent in their pregnancy decisions if it is safe to do so, some teens risk getting kicked out of their homes, being forced to carry a pregnancy against their will, or abuse.  Many young people we serve  have no living parent or guardian who can provide consent required by the law. In those instances, young people under the age of 18 must seek a court order from a  judge (known as a judicial bypass) to be allowed to consent to their own abortion care. Jane’s Due Process provides practical support through the judicial bypass process. This includes legal support, 1-on-1 case management, travel, and emotional support so that young people are not alone as they seek medical care.

Practical support services like travel, lodging, and covering costs for meals or childcare are critical for communities that have already been marginalized by institutionalized, systemic oppression.  Black, Indigenous, and people of color, LGBTQ+ people, young people and undocumented individuals are disproporationately impacted by economic inequality.  They are more likely to live further away from an abortion provider and need to travel longer distances for care. They are more likely to be in jobs in which they lose wages for taking time off for healthcare.  BIPOC and LGBTQ+ people also struggle to find reproductive healthcare environments free from racism and affirming of their full identities. Our clients often go unseen in lawmakers’ conversations about healthcare access and equity. But we cannot remain silent as the state of Texas attempts to attack services they so critically need. 

Legislative attacks on healthcare during a global pandemic is misguided priority. In a state like Texas where we have some of the highest COVID rates in the United States, our lawmakers would rather attack the right to abortion access rather than seriously addressing one of the biggest crises our state has ever faced. 

For all these reasons, it is essential that government funding for practical support of abortion care be allowed to exist. We write in strong opposition to Senate Bill 650.