Austin, Texas’ Travis County Ends Tax Funding of Abortion

State   Steven Ertelt   Aug 12, 2011   |   4:35PM    Austin, TX

In Texas, pro-life advocates are overjoyed by the decision by the Central Health board vote yesterday to unanimously agree to ending taxpayer financing of abortions in Travis County, the home of Austin, Texas.

The board voted to stop spending public funds on abortions as of September 12 in a vote that comes in response to a new state law Governor Rick Perry signed that revokes a considerable amount of taxpayer funds from the Planned Parenthood abortion business. The law also cuts off state funds to hospital districts that use tax funds to pay for abortions — and the Travis County district was the only one in the state to do so.

The Statesman newspaper indicates the board also voted 8-1 to redirect the $450,000 originally allocated for abortions to other legitimate medical services. Still, the board produced a resolution endorsing abortion access, saying it “continues to believe that all women in Travis County, regardless of income, should and will continue to have access to pregnancy termination services, it now must respond to Senate Bill 7 in light of the other objectives that the organization seeks to accomplish.”

Files with the hospital district board show 720 abortions were paid for at taxpayer expense during the last fiscal year and it has been funding abortions since 2005.

Joe Pojman, the director of Texas Alliance for Life, told LifeNews he was delighted by the vote.

“We are overjoyed,” he told LifeNews.com. “This represents a culmination of many years of efforts by a coalition of pro-life organizations based in central Texas, especially over the last 24 months, and a successful lobby effort in the state Capitol.”

“The organizations who worked in Travis County include Texas Alliance for Life, the Catholic Diocese of Austin, the Austin Area Pastors Council, the Heidi Group, Liberty Institute, and several pregnancy resource centers,” Pojman said. “Demonstrating that compassionate alternatives to abortion exist in Travis County was critical. Pro-life voters in Travis county have ultimate responsibility for the victory.”

Pojman said his group was able to alert 21,000 local families to the abortion funding to get them to respond to the county’s decision and the Catholic Diocese of Austin and other churches circulated a petition that generated more than 10,000 signatures. He also credited pro-life state lawmakers for the victory and Governor Perry.

“Major kudos are due to state Sen. Jane Nelson, Rep. John Zerwas, and Rep. Wayne Christian, who authored the bill and the specific amendment to prohibit state funds to Central Health if it pays for elective abortions with local tax dollars,” he said. “We are extremely grateful to pro-life Gov. Rick Perry, who signed this bill into law, as well as Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Speaker Joe Straus, both of whom were very supportive. If the new policy is approved by the Travis County Commissioners, we believe that hundreds of lives will we saved from the tragedy of abortion every year.”

Jonathan Saenz, legislative director for Liberty Institute, also commented on the vote.

“Thursday afternoon, board members of Central Health (formerly Travis County Healthcare District) voted unanimously to end using $450,000 of taxpayer money annually to fund abortion. Travis County was the first Texas county to use taxpayer money for abortion, which it distributed to abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood,” he said. “A law passed during the Texas Legislative Session ends state funding for healthcare districts that use taxpayer money to pay for abortions.”

“Existing law prevented federal and state-level taxpayer funding for abortion, but this law closes the loophole to make sure that no taxpayer money in the State of Texas funds abortion. While this is a great step forward for life in Austin, the war continues nationwide as the Obama administration continues to expand abortion services covered under insurance, including several controversial birth control medications,” Saenz continued.

ACTION: Send a message to the commissioners about their vote for taxpayer funded abortions at https://www.co.travis.tx.us/commissioners_court/default.asp