AUSTIN (KXAN) — Many laws kicked in with the New Year. So now, all of the new abortion laws passed in 2015 should be reality. The year 2016 is starting off with two new laws covering abortion. The new measures hope to help women in trouble. Critics say there is politics at play.
Toni McKinley paints now, to deal with a painful past. She ran away from home at the age of 15 and fell in love with a 30-year-old man. Drugs and alcohol followed. Then she got pregnant.
“It was my source of hope. Maybe there was something good I could do in this world, to raise a child. That was taken away from me,” she says.
She says her boyfriend tricked her to go to a clinic, where she says she was drugged and when she woke up, she wasn’t pregnant anymore. “I just started balling crying,” said McKinley. “I just turned 18.”
She testified at the capitol for one of the new laws, meant to make it harder for someone to get forced or tricked into an abortion. She now has a family: four kids.
She says she has found healing and now works to advocate for trafficked women in Texas.
“They’re angry that their brother, or their sibling has been taken away from them. And it’s hard. You know I’m not one hundred percent innocent. I was in a very abusive situation in my life. If a warning, or a sign, and education could’ve helped. It maybe might have not helped save my child, but it would have saved others a lot sooner,” said McKinley.
These laws impact abortion providers and people wanting an abortion, causing some we spoke with to feel the state singles them out for political reasons.
Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, Heather Busby, says the state didn’t require more training for nurses, doctors or EMS workers, only abortion providers. She says abortion providers are normally safe environments and these restrictions lead people to unsafe actions.
“They’re always passed under a guise, a sham, such as for health and safety. But it actually does the opposite. It puts people’s health at risk because they cannot access the type of healthcare that they need. There are fewer providers, costs are higher,” said Busby.
There are both pro-choice and pro-life rallies scheduled near the capitol in late January for the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that started this whole thing.
Here are some specifics. Lawmakers reformed the judicial bypass process performed on minor girls with HB 3994 by Rep. Geanie Morrison, R – Victoria, and Sen. Charles Perry, R – Lubbock. A judge now has five days to rule on a case — and if they don’t, the request for an abortion is denied. That differs from the past law which said if no ruling, the abortion would be approved. It also forces the minor to be ruled on in her home county. Lawmakers wanted to prevent “venue shopping” – hopping around to find a judge that will rule in the minor’s favor.
Opponents say this would be humiliating as the minor would be closer to a possible abuser if it’s in her home county.
Another law requires training for workers at abortion clinics on how to spot women who are there against their will. HB 416 by Rep. Debbie Riddle, R – Tomball, and Sen. Donna Campbell, R – New Braunfels, was overwhelmingly passed but drew criticism for only requiring the additional training for abortion providers – not all medical professionals.
Riddell’s support for HB 416 focused on women who may have been trafficked into the country and forced to undergo an abortion.
These new laws are separate from strict abortion restrictions passed in 2013 — currently being reviewed by the U-S Supreme Court. Arguments are set for March. A decision is expected late June. The restrictions, which would force most clinics to close, gained national attention after former State Senator Wendy Davis filibustered on the Senate floor, speaking for nearly 13 hours. But the bill passed. Governor Perry signed it into law days later.
Since the law passed, the number of abortion clinics in Texas has dropped from 42 to 19. That number could fall to ten if the Supreme Court upholds the law. Their decision is expected by the end of June.