One proposed bill would eliminate the tax on feminine-hygiene products.
By Anna Lassmann
With the Texas legislative session underway, hundreds of bills have already been filed for consideration. Here are eight filed bills that affect Texas women.
House Bill 60: Provide information to students about women’s health programs
Filed by state Rep. Lina Ortega, D-El Paso, HB 60 would require public higher-education institutions to provide information to students regarding women’s health programs. If passed, the bill, which was filed Nov. 12, would amend a portion of the Texas Education Code by adding language that requires these institutions to email all enrolled students during the fall semester, providing information regarding women’s health programs administered by the Health and Human Services Commission. This would include information about eligibility requirements and enrollment procedures for the programs. The intent of the bill is to increase the enrollment in state-run women’s health programs, which currently see low enrollment.
House Bill 170: Include diagnostic mammograms through health-care plans
If passed, HB 170 would amend a portion of the Texas Insurance Code. The bill, filed by state Rep. Diego Bernal, D-San Antonio, and Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, defines a diagnostic mammography as “a method of screening that is designed to evaluate an abnormality in a breast, including an abnormality seen or suspected on a screening mammogram.” The amendment would require a health benefit plan that provides coverage for a screening mammogram to also provide coverage for a diagnostic mammogram in an equal manner as the coverage for a screening mammogram. This bill would help patients with dense breast tissue, cancer survivors and people with a family history of breast cancer, all patients who need a diagnostic mammogram for accurate results.
House Bill 243: Promote the rights of breastfeeding mothers
Promoting breastfeeding and prohibiting the interference or restriction of the right to breastfeed is at the heart of HB 243, introduced by state Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston. The bill would create civil action to inform all people of the rights of a breastfeeding mother and child. A portion of the Texas Health and Safety Code would be amended to make all state agencies develop a policy supporting the practice of worksite breastfeeding and require the state comptroller to include information on a mother’s right to breastfeed at least annually in its e-newsletters.
House Bill 248: Change language surrounding abortion informational materials
Also filed by Rep. Farrar, HB 248 deals with the medical accuracy of informational materials given to women seeking abortions. The bill, which was filed Nov. 12, would amend a portion of the Texas Health and Safety Code, changing the wording of the definition of a sonogram to read “the use of ultrasonic waves for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes, specifically to monitor an embryo or fetus,” instead of “an unborn child.” Additionally, it would delete a portion of the code that speaks to the possibility of an increased risk of breast cancer following an induced abortion.
House Bill 253: Develop strategy to address postpartum depression
Rep. Farrar also submitted HB 253, which relates to developing a strategic plan to address postpartum depression. A section would be added to chapter 32 of the Texas Health and Safety Code to require a five-year strategic plan to be implemented to “improve access to postpartum depression screening, referral, treatment and support services.” This plan must increase awareness among state-administered program providers that may serve women about the prevalence and effects of postpartum depression, establish a referral network of mental-health providers and support services addressing postpartum depression and raise public awareness of postpartum depression, among several other requirements.
House Bill 311: Eliminate taxes on feminine-hygiene products
The elimination of taxes on certain feminine-hygiene products is the central issue of HB 311, proposed by state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin. This bill would amend a portion of the state tax code by adding a section that first defines a feminine-hygiene product to include a tampon, sanitary napkin, menstrual cup, menstrual sponge and menstrual pad or anything sold for the primary purpose of feminine hygiene during a menstrual cycle. Then it would go on to state that the “sale, use or consumption of a feminine-hygiene product is exempted” from sales and use tax.
House Bill 670: Add ovarian cancer testing to health-care coverage
State Rep. Ken King, R-Canadian, has introduced a bill to the Texas House of Representatives that would amend part of the Texas Insurance Code relating to health benefit-plan coverage for ovarian cancer testing. Currently, the code stipulates that coverage is required for a blood test and a pap-smear screening. The amendment King proposed would also require coverage of “any other test or screening” for ovarian cancer detection that is approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
House Bill 902: Increase penalty for assault of a pregnant woman
Filed Jan. 17 by state Rep. Brooks Landgraf, R-Odessa, HB 902 would increase the criminal penalty for the assault of a pregnant woman. If passed, this bill would alter the state penal code and make the penalty a third-degree felony if the perpetrator knew the woman was pregnant. A third-degree felony is punishable by as many as 10 years in prison. Currently, it is classified as a class A misdemeanor, punishable by as much as a year in county jail. Landgraf filed the bill to ensure to protection of pregnant women and to create a greater deterrent for these assaults.