Good Morning. My name is Amanda Williams, I’m the Executive Director of the Lilith Fund, which is an abortion fund that provides financial assistance to low-income people seeking abortion care services in central, south, west and east Texas. Today I am speaking in strong opposition to the proposed rules on fetal and embryonic tissue disposal. Lilith Fund clients make up the communities that are most impacted by abortion restrictions of any kind. They are primarily low-income women of color who have children already, who are working to make ends meet, often working multiple jobs and going to school, all while caring for their families. Abortion coverage is completely out of reach for them, whether it’s because they are underinsured; or because abortion coverage under Medicaid is banned by the federal Hyde Amendment and Texas refuses to use its own state funding to provide coverage for abortion. These barriers to coverage have pushed our callers into a dire health care gap that is both unacceptable and ethically unjust. These proposed rules requiring burial or cremation of fetal and embryonic tissue will not only further stigmatize abortion care patients, but they would undoubtedly increase costs by potentially thousands of dollars, further burdening low-income Texans who already need financial assistance to be able to access abortion care. For some of our clients, those increased costs could effectively prevent them from accessing safe, legal abortion care altogether. There is no discernible public health reason for these rules, but what does seem clear is that these attempts to interfere with a patient’s reproductive autonomy is part of a larger agenda to further disenfranchise marginalized communities seeking reproductive health care services, including abortion care. If public health or quote-unquote “respect for life” are the true motivation for these rules, as it should be when creating any mandates related to the provision of health care, then rules from this agency should encourage more access to comprehensive reproductive health care for low-income communities, not less. Instead of passing laws that force patients to consider burial services or death certificates, we should focus on making sure that all people have the power, resources, and community support they need to make their reproductive decisions a reality. People seeking abortion care services, regardless of economic status, should be treated with respect, dignity, and compassion. These rules would do nothing to improve reproductive health care in Texas, and will only act to further burden, and potentially prevent, those Texans in exercising their right to a safe and legal abortion. Thank you for your time.
Why I Testified in Texas
In Texas, people who have abortions have been silenced at almost every entry point of our governing process. When HB2 was in effect, the state legislature cut off storytellers who were sharing their abortion experiences in public testimony, changed timestamps to erase the impacts of our chants in the state Senate chambers, and even called special sessions to force through their political attacks on our rights. Now, anti-abortion Texas legislators are going through the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) to chip away at abortion access and spread misinformation, and once again, we’re showing up, fighting to make our voices heard. As a person who has had an abortion in Texas, I remember vividly the hoops I had to jump through to gain access to the care I needed. I was a 19-year-old college freshman in an unhealthy relationship, and I had to borrow money to pay for my procedure. I remember being subjected to a mandatory waiting period only to be greeted by angry anti-abortion protestors on the day of my actual appointment. These barriers were physically and emotionally trying for me. I felt isolated, ashamed, and alone. I knew abortion was the best decision for me, but aside from my compassionate doctor and nurses, I did not feel very supported in my decision. It was a truly difficult time in my life. On August 4th, I testified against DSHS’ proposed embryonic burial and cremation regulations because I know what it’s like for the state to interfere with my ability to make the decisions that are best for me. These proposed regulations, which would have forced me to essentially plan a funeral for my fetus, would have made all of the challenges I faced when getting an abortion even more difficult and traumatic. When I reflect on my own abortion, I know that I deserved a better experience, free from shame and stigma. Like all people, I deserved to feel respect, support, and compassion. This is why we continue to fight against anti-abortion legislation like that proposed by DSHS. In addition to testifying from my personal abortion experience, I proudly testified on behalf of Lilith Fund, because as an abortion fund, we hear firsthand from those most impacted by abortion restrictions of any kind. Our clients, most of whom are women of color with low-incomes, often struggle to secure basic needs and resources, and coming up with the funds needed to pay for their abortion can be near impossible without outside support. The proposed regulations would act to further stigmatize and burden those Texans who are most marginalized—who already face an array of challenges in their daily lives that are perpetuated by state sanctioned violence, racism, sexism, classism, xenophobia, and other forms of oppression. The additional financial burden that the proposed regulations pose could and will push abortion out of reach for the low-income families we serve. The state needs to know that these people exist, that they are demanding their rights, and that their experiences and struggles are real. We Testify creates a platform for our voices to become the new norm. State legislatures like Texas’s have made a habit of tossing us out and ignoring our voices, because the greater world we live in perpetuates the stigma that invalidates our stories. The more we work to change the way people understand abortion, the more we share our diverse stories, the more we can grow into the accepting and supportive society we all need to thrive. Until then—as long as the attacks keep coming, we’ll be here, and we’ll wear our own experiences as armor. Read Amanda’s testimony below: